SOC 401 Internship/SOC 550 Voluntarism Information

The Department of Sociology offers a voluntarism course (SOC 550) and internship course (SOC 401), both of which are excellent means by which students can apply their formal education in sociology and gain "real world" experience in the areas of social service, social change, and/or social research by working with scholars and specialists in the field before they graduate.

Sociology majors earning a BS are required to take either SOC 401 or SOC 550.  Sociology majors earning the BA have the option of taking SOC 401 as an elective within the major.

SOC 550 Voluntarism

The voluntarism course introduces students to issues and topics related to voluntary and nonprofit activity.  In addition to class material and course assignments, each student is required to serve an internship with an organization that is at least partially dependent on voluntary contributions of time and/or funds. Internship experiences should familiarize students with the daily operations of an organization, as well as providing information to be analyzed sociologically and allow them to apply their skills to an applied setting.  It is an opportunity to explore a potential career and/or contribute to an organization that students see as serving an important function in society.  Students are to serve an internship at an organization of their choosing, with the approval of the organization and the instructor.  In the past, students have been involved in this service learning opportunity at a wide array of organizations.  The voluntarism course meets as a regular class each week but also has, as one its requirements, 80 hours of volunteer work at a local organization.

Students wishing to register for the voluntarism course do so as they would any other course, keeping in mind the prerequisites of SOC 201, 320, and 323. For more information, email Dr. Mark Austin or call him at (502) 852-8005).

SOC 401 Internship

The internship course (SOC 401) requires students to conduct an internship over the course of the semester.  (Students may begin work on the first day of the semester and must complete their internship hours by the last day of the semester.)  Students taking the internship course during the fall or spring semesters must work a minimum of 100 hours at the internship site, while students taking the course over the summer (during the second and third summer terms) must work at minimum of 80 hours at the site.

Although the internship course does not meet as a class during the semester, students are required to submit biweekly time reports and summaries, an interview with someone who works at the site, an annotated bibliography of scholarly sociological references that will be the foundation of the literature review portion of the final report, and a final report (which critically analyzes the organization and the internship itself) -- all of which is detailed in the syllabus.

Eligibility requirements

The SOC 401 course is restricted to senior sociology majors (those having earned 90 credit hours or more) and who have already taken SOC 201 and SOC 323.  (Note:  For sociology majors who fall under curriculum requirements established prior to 06F, you must have at least 18 hours in sociology; at least 9 hours in the core classes (SOC 201, 301, 303, 320, 323); and a 2.75 GPA overall.

Benefits of conducting an internship

An internship benefits students in several ways:  They gain experience in the field, which helps build their resume; they meet and network with others, and, ultimately, explore a possible career avenue.  Several previous interns have secured full-time employment with the organization once their internship concluded.  While not every internship leads to employment with the same organization, the internship experience can offer insight into what students want - or don't want - as they seek employment after graduation.

Choosing an internship site

Students are expected to secure their own internship sites, one which, ideally, relates to their professional and/or personal interests.  While the instructor will provide guidance, students are not placed by the Department of Sociology into internships.  By requiring students to place a "cold call" to a prospective internship site, set up an interview, and proceed with the application and/or training process, we hope to foster improved job-hunting skills and facilitate an easier transition into the workplace upon graduation.

Interns are not "gophers," and students should seek internship placements which will afford them opportunities to understand the organization's mission, services, and structure - all of which are critical as students write their final internship report.  Previous internships (which have included paid internships) have been conducted at numerous sites, including Adoption Bridges of Kentucky, Americana Community Center, Bellewood, Bright Horizons, Brooklawn Child and Family Services, Cabbage Patch Settlement House, Center for Women and Families, Department of Community Based Services, Down Syndrome of Louisville, Fairness Campaign, Family Scholar House, Home of the Innocents, Kentucky State Capital, Maryhurst, Office for Women (Louisville Metro Government), Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Operation Care, PEACC Program at UofL, Red Cross, St. Joseph’s Children’s House, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, UofL Learning Campus, the Urban Government Center, and Wayside Christian Mission - to name just a few.  Students needing guidance on selecting a site should contact the instructor.

While not an exhaustive list, following are areas in which internships may be found:

  • Social Services (Centers related to alcohol and drug abuse centers, battered women and/or children, crisis or teen pregnancies, the homeless, community development, the elderly, victims' advocacy, animals)
  • Social Research (Demography, family studies, applied survey research)
  • Government/Law/Law Enforcement (Political offices, state enforcement agencies, supervision and corrections, juvenile justice, law firms)
  • Medical/Public Health (Hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, mental health facilities)
  • Education, Mentoring (Schools, after-school or summer youth programs, museums)
  • Other  (Organizations related to environmental issues; marketing/media/public relations (television, radio, hotels and restaurants); centers devoted to the arts; and sports organizations)


Not all eligible internship possibilities are titled internships, and not all internship students are identified by the organization as interns.  When inquiring about possible internship possibilities, be sure to focus on the experience the position will offer you -- not necessarily the title even if the position is labeled as an internship.  Some internship students have taken positions as volunteers, etc.  The goal is to secure a position within the organization which will afford you the opportunity to conduct a sociological analysis.  Bottom-line:  your title is irrelevant; your experience is not.

When talking with a prospective internship site supervisor, be prepared to answer questions, such as:  Tell me about yourself.  Why are you interested in our organization?  What do you hope to gain from this experience?  What skills and/or experience would you bring to the internship?  What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Students should also be prepared to ask questions of the site supervisor (if appropriate and if they have not already been answered during the course of the interview), such as:  What are you looking for in an intern?  What are the skills and/or strengths an intern in this position would need?  What kind of orientation and/or training will be provided, if any?  What would be a typical day for the intern? (What are the required days/hours?)  With whom will I be working?  Is there any financial compensation? (This should be asked at the end.)  When will a decision be made?

Finally, be sure to thank the person with whom you speak/interview.

Course Registration

Students who have chosen their internship site must gain approval from the instructor before registering for the course and/or beginning the internship. To gain approval, students must email the instructor a couple of paragraphs detailing how the internship site chosen: (a) relates to sociology and applies to their degree, and (b) fosters their academic, professional, and/or personal goals.  Once approved, the student's UofL ID number will be entered into the registration system under SOC 401 for the appropriate term/semester, thus allowing the student to register for the course.


Students with questions about the internship course should email the course instructor, Dr. Robin Högnäs (or call her at (502) 852-8022).