What Is an Internship?

The National Society of Experiential Education describes internships as carefully monitored work or service experiences in which students pursue clearly identified educational goals and reflect actively on what they are learning. The purpose is to promote critical thinking, skill development, and personal and professional growth. The Society estimates that one-third of all college students in the United States complete an internship prior to graduating.

There are many types of experiences that may be considered internships. Some are highly structured; others, loosely structured. Some impart skills specific to a particular career; others promote the development of more general skills. Some encourage "hands on" or "observational" involvement.

Vishnu Tirumala, a junior political science and philosophy double major, was recently elected the 2017-2018 Student Government Association president.  Interning at the World Affairs Council.

Unlike jobs, which primarily involve work in exchange for pay, internships involve work in exchange for training. Some internships provide monetary compensation; many do not. Compensation more often comes in the form of academic credit.

Students completing internships (paid or unpaid) in the Department of Political Science earn credit hours toward their graduation requirements if their internships combine sustained experience at a work site with structured, supervised academic activities. The credits are counted as elective hours in Political Science.

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Political Science majors like Ronica Hutchinson put their skills to work through internships.  Ronica served as a summer legislative intern in Washington D.C., researching policies affecting Kentucky and leading tours of the U.S. Capitol for visiting constituents.

Why Do an Internship?

An internship provides a variety of benefits to students, including:

  • Applying classroom learning to the outside world
  • Developing intellectually by testing theories and learning new information
  • Experiencing independent learning styles
  • Achieving personal growth and building self-confidence by meeting new challenges
  • Practicing interviewing skills and going through the hiring process
  • Providing the opportunity to "try out" a career before committing to it
  • Gaining the experience employers seek when hiring full-time employees
  • Learning the interpersonal skills and professional behaviors essential to working in public or private sector environments
  • Bridging the gap between college life and post-graduate employment
  • Building a network of contacts in a field where you might be seeking employment

Many organizations today hire full-time employees only if they have out-of-classroom experience in their field. You can dramatically boost your chances of finding satisfying post-graduate employment by completing an internship before graduation.

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