Internship Advantage-Definition and Policy

Internship Definition

The Career Development Center supports the following definition of an internship. Please note that this may be different from other academic departments on campus.  

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. Additionally, in a formal, structured program with faculty supervision, there is the opportunity to improve the curriculum and impact academic research.

This definition closely mirrors the definition by the National Association of Colleges and Employers published in their Position Statement on U.S. Internships.  


Paid vs. Unpaid

In April 2010 the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, redefined its standing on unpaid internships with specific regard to for-profit organizations. There was a 6-part test in which all conditions had to be met in order for it to be unpaid with a for-profit organization.  This resulted in numerous lawsuits.

In January 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division updated its policy with a 7-part "primary benificiary test". The DOL states, "Courts have described the 'primary beneficiary test' as a flexible test, and no single factor is determinative. Accordingly, whether an intern or student is an employee under the FLSA necessarily depends on the unique circumstances of each case."

Additional Information:


Policy on Unpaid Internships

This change in interpretation by the DOL does not impact the Career Development Center's policy of not posting unpaid internships with for-profit organizations (regardless of whether for credit or not). We will post unpaid positions with not-for-profit organizations although we strongly encourage at least minimum wage. 

Rationale:
The Career Development Center is not an academic department and therefore does not grant credit for any internships. Our primary role is the posting of internship opportunities.  Because of the "flexibility" of the new "primary beneficiary test", to post unpaid internships with for-profit organizations would require our staff to be uniquely involved in each internship assignment.  Furthermore, having students work without pay puts lower socio-economic students at a disadvantage.  Also, changes to federal financial aid require that each class be directly related to a student's required coursework.  If internship credit is not required for the major or could not be included in electives, it would not be covered by financial aid.  


Cooperative Education Definition

What is the definition of Cooperative Education (Co-ops) and how are they different from internships?
Cooperative Education is similar in definition to internships in that both are a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Both 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.Additionally, in a formal, structured program with faculty supervision, there is the opportunity to improve the curriculum and impact academic research.

How Are Co-ops Different from Internships?
A co-op position:

  • Is always paid.
  • Always involves multiple semesters - minimum of two, usually three semesters.
  • Is always for academic credit. The credit is given for the learning, not the work. Thus experience must be related to the student's major of study and future career goals. Future terms must build on experience gained from the first term with increased responsibilities and increased opportunity for learning.
  • May be alternating or parallel.
    • Alternating - Student alternates semesters of full-time work with full-time study. Alternating students maintain their full-time student status while working. Students may take classes during their working term if their work schedule allows.
    • Parallel - Student works part-time while enrolled in classes full-time.

Does MTSU Offer Co-ops?
The University has co-op credit courses.  The Career Development Center will post co-op positions.  The awarding of academic credit is arranged between the student and the academic department. The CDC does not award credit. MTSU does not have a separate Co-op Office.

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