Internships and Co-ops
Providing internship and co-operative education experiences allows you to involve students in meaningful, productive work while energizing your organization with fresh ideas. Internships and co-ops allow students to gain career-related experience while in school and can be a powerful recruiting tool, allowing you to see a student's on-the-job performance before extending a full-time employment offer.
What is an Internship?
An internship is a supervised work experience directly related to an academic discipline. The internship may be full or part time and may or may not be a paid work experience. An internship typically lasts for one semester. Internships are available in most GVSU majors.
What is a co-op?
A co-op is a work training program for specified GVSU majors including Engineering and Hospitality & Tourism Management. Co-ops are a specific type of work training experience in which students have at least two full- or part-time supervised paid work experiences related to their major, each lasting at least one semester. The co-op programs are specifically designated as such by the academic department.
Posting an Internship/Co-op
Offering an internship or co-op at your organization doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. Posting your opportunities through our online recruiting system, Handshake, makes your listing immediately accessible to all GVSU students – and it’s fast, easy and free!
Starting an Internship Program
If you are interested in building an internship program at your organization, the following information can help you with general considerations. Or, download our Employer Internship Guide for more details.
More than a part-time job or volunteer experience, internships and co-ops must include intentional learning objectives related to increasing student knowledge, training to develop additional skills, and quality supervision to guide and mentor the student. In order to qualify as this type of experience, the following criteria must be met (note some academic departments may have additional criteria):
- The work experience takes place outside the classroom.
- The work setting provides an opportunity for learning which is relevant to the academic field of the intern.
- The employer provides a field supervisor to direct the experience, and the academic department provides a faculty member who will evaluate the student and issue his/her grade.
- There are resources, equipment and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals.
- Field supervisors evaluate the student prior to completion of the work experience.
- Students complete an internship/cooperative education form from the academic department and/or the Career Center prior to beginning the internship/co-op experience.
- Students complete all academic departmental requirements for internship/cooperative education experiences, including final reports.
- Students are required to comply with academic department requirements regarding GPA for internships or co-ops.
- (Internships only): Internships are approximately one semester in length and may be paid.
- (Cooperative Education only): Students are paid and participate in more than one work experience of at least a semester in length (per experience).
Academic Requirements and Credit
- Academic entrance requirements - In order to ensure adequate academic preparation, students are typically required to complete 60 academic credits before signing up for internships or co-op experiences. Academic prerequisites vary by program.
- Non-credit experiences - There are no requirements or restrictions for taking an internship for no credit. Students can have as many non-credit internships as they wish at as many locations as they like. There are no grades or faculty associated with this type of internship.
- For-credit experiences - If a student wants to take an internship for credit, the responsibility lies with the student to pursue credit by approval of their academic unit. Students must register and pay for credits just like any other course. Not all programs require for-credit experiences. Search faculty internship coordinators by department.
- Work hours - While there is no hard-and-fast rule, generally students pursuing a for-credit experience will seek three credits. This roughly equates to 150 hours per semester (or a minimum of 10 hours/week for a 15-week term). Students may not receive more than 9 total credits for internship/co-op experiences.
Intern/Co-op students should be contributing valuable and productive work to your organization and should be fairly compensated. Evaluate the intern’s level of responsibility, experience, and skill sets when deciding on an appropriate wage. You may choose to pay the intern hourly or in a lump sum (stipend) at the end of their experience.
If you cannot “pay” your intern, consider additional ways in which you may provide compensation or benefits:
- Provide networking opportunities (through professional association memberships, sponsoring attendance at networking events, offering participation in workplace or vendor-provided training, etc.)
- Reimburse tuition for internship credit
- Cover housing costs/offer housing
- Cover out-of-pocket transportation costs; give them a gas card
- Offer discounts on products or merchandise
- Take them to lunch
The U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) severely restricts an employer’s ability to use unpaid interns or trainees; however, employers do not have to pay interns who qualify as leaders/trainees. The U.S. Department of Labor has outlined 6 criteria for determining trainee status:
- Interns cannot displace regular employees.
- Interns are not guaranteed a job at the end of the internship (though you may decide to hire them at the conclusion of the experience).
- Interns are not entitled to wages during the internship.
- Interns must receive training from your organization, even if it somewhat impedes the work.
- Interns must get hands-on experience with equipment and processes used in your industry.
- Interns’ training must primarily benefit them, not the organization.