Until recently, there was no universally accepted definition for internships or criteria for what constitutes a valid, legitimate internship. In July 2011, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) published a document that brought some clarity to this topic. To review the NACE Position Statement on U.S. Internships in its entirety, please click here. The NACE definition and criteria for an internship are below.
According to the NACE Definition:
An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.
NACE Criteria for an Experience to Be Defined as an Internship
To ensure that an experience—whether it is a traditional internship or one conducted remotely or virtually—is educational, and thus eligible to be considered a legitimate internship by the NACE definition, all the following criteria must be met:
- The experience must be an extension of the classroom: a learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom. It must not be simply to advance the operations of the employer or be the work that a regular employee would routinely perform.
- The skills or knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings.
- The experience has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications.
- There are clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework.
- There is supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience.
- There is routine feedback by the experienced supervisor.
- There are resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals.
If these criteria are followed, it is the opinion of NACE that the experience can be considered a legitimate internship.
Additional Criteria We Use to Evaluate Internships
While the NACE definition and criteria are exceptionally helpful, they are also necessarily light on details and specifics, because the details and specifics vary so much across professions, fields and industries. Read 7 Things to Consider When Posting an Internship to learn the addtional criteria Communication Career Services at UT Austin considers when reviewing internships and deciding whether not we will allow them to be posted to our systems.