Develop an Effective Internship Program

Key Components of an Internship Program

  • Purpose
  • Characteristics
  • Guidelines:
    • Goal Setting
    • Initial Preparation
    • Intern Training
  • General Resources
  • Virtual Resources

An internship should offer students with:

  • Practical work experience or a 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,” on-the-job or virtual/remote along with constructive, on-going feedback for personal and professional development

Typical Internship Program Characteristics


  • Completed during an academic semester or summer; at least six 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 the organization’s commitment

Initial Preparation

  • Draft a job description that clearly explains the duties required 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 the 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 to provide a forum for constructive feedback and questions

The USC Career Center expects our employers to abide by our Non-Discrimination Policy and Anti-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 suggestions.

Review the USC Career Center’s COVID Internship Guidelines for guidance.