Learn How to Develop an Effective Internship Program

If you are creating or revamping your internship program, please consider the following components:

An internship should offer students with:

  • A practical work experience or project, given by a designated supervisor
  • An opportunity to observe, contribute, and rotate through the different parts of the department/organization
  • Career connections, mentorship, and networking opportunities within the organization/industry
  • Training, either “formal” or on-the-job along with constructive, on-going feedback for personal and professional development

Typical Internship Program Characteristics


  • Completed during an academic semester or summer; at least 6 weeks


  • 8 – 15 hours/week during the fall, spring, or summer semesters
  • Paid, full-time internships may be offered during the summer


  • Starting at minimum wage – $25+/hour based on experience and industry/field

Guidelines for an Internship Program

Goal Setting

  • Assess the organizational needs and determine what you hope to gain from an internship program
  • Define the aspects to make an internship an educational, interesting, and rewarding experience
  • Develop individual expectations, goals, and learning objectives for the intern
  • Communicate program goals with your team to ensure organization’s commitment

Initial Preparation

  • Draft a job description that clearly explains the duties of the intern
  • Review the organization’s ability to provide assignments, equipment, and compensation
  • Build a pipeline of student candidates to potentially convert to full-time employees
  • Invest time in interns through selection, training, supervision, and evaluation
  • Identify a staff member who would enjoy and benefit from mentoring an intern, who is committed to and capable of providing structure and insight in addition to constructive feedback
  • Discuss upcoming intern projects and activities in addition to time commitment

During an Internship

  • Orient the intern to your organization; acquaint the intern to the mission, vision, and policies of your company (un/written and un/spoken) along with team introductions
  • Set specific professional and career goals for the internship
  • Teach the intern about the working world and consider serving as a mentor
  • Explain the organizational structure and illustrate the company culture
  • Schedule a formal meeting to discuss progress and expectations for your projects
  • Provide other colleagues with background information about the intern’s projects, responsibilities, and schedule
  • Discuss projects regularly and expected outcomes (decide on start and end dates, in advance)
  • Schedule a mid-semester evaluation and an exit interview with the intern to provide a forum for constructive feedback and questions

The USC Career Center also asks that employers abide by our Non-Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Guidelines when interacting with USC students before, during, and after their internship experiences.

General Resources

The following resources are provided by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE):

Virtual Resources

When establishing a virtual internship, consider these GitLab and Forefront suggestions.

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