Developing an Internship Program

Set Goals

  • Identify what your organization hopes to gain from developing an internship program
  • Are you a non-profit company that cannot afford to pay, but has lots of experience to offer students?
  • Are you a small, local organization that needs additional help on specific projects?
  • Are you interested in creating a new pool of potential employees?

Make sure that management participates in this process. Create goals that can be agreed upon by everyone involved in the internship program. Management must support the internship program in order for it to be highly successful.

Plan Out the Specifics

  • Create a job description for each separate internship position you want to fill.
  • Do you have specific projects you want an intern to work on?
  • Do you need an intern for general office support functions?
  • Will you pay the intern? If so, how much?
  • Where will you have the intern located? Do you have an appropriate workspace for them? Will they need help with parking or living arrangements?
  • What specific major/academic background do specific internship positions require?
  • Is previous experience required? If so, how much and in what areas?
  • Who will be the contact person for your organization?
  • Who will be the intern’s primary supervisor? Will it be a mentor, manager, or experienced employee in that department?
  • Do you want to provide additional service to interns such as training, meetings with executives, social events, etc?
  • Will you pay the intern? Wages vary widely from field to field; be sure yours are competitive.
  • Where will you put the intern? Do you have adequate workspace for them? Will you help make parking arrangements, living arrangements, etc.?
  • What sort of academic background and experience do you want in an intern? Decide on standards for quality beforehand — it’ll help you narrow down the choices and find the best candidates.
  • Who will have the primary responsibility for the intern? Will that person be a mentor or merely a supervisor?
  • What will the intern be doing? Be as specific as possible. Interns, like others in the process of learning, need structure so they don’t become lost, confused or bored.
  • Do you want to plan a program beyond the work you give your interns?
  • Will there be special training programs, performance reviews, lunches with executives, social events?

Keep in mind that your interns are walking advertisements for your company. If they have a good experience working for you, they’re likely to tell their friends — word gets around. A bad internship, by contrast, can only hurt your chances of attracting good students. These are just some of the questions to consider. Your organization’s approach will depend on your specific resources and needs.

A very important part of your plan should be the assignment of a mentor or supervisor — that is, someone from the intern’s department who will be in charge of the intern. This person doesn’t have to be a teacher per se, but should be selected because he or she likes to teach or train and has the resources to do it. If the person you select has never mentored an intern before, give him or her some basic training in mentoring.

Recruit an Intern

Start looking early, this is the best advice we can give you. The sooner you give us your internship opportunities, the sooner we can try to help you fill them. In addition, the sooner you start recruiting, the more likely you are to get the most qualified and motivated students. A good amount of time to start searching before you need a position filled in 3-4 months. Also, the longer you accept applications, the better your chances for getting the best interns.

Promote your organization to local recruitment sources. Attend internship and job fairs, send all your information to our office. Once we have the required information, we can help market your company and your internships to our students.

Choose your interns carefully. Treat them in the same way you would hire a new employee. After all, they could possibly end up being permanent employees someday. Conduct interviews with potential interns to find out what they are looking for and what they hope to gain from an internship.

Academic Credit Internships

Every department at Radford University has its own policies governing the granting of credit for internship hours. The Academic Departments at Radford University possess approval authority for students seeking an internship for academic credit.

Guidelines for Paid/Non-paid Internships: Fair Labor Standards Act


Internships may be paid or unpaid, but MUST follow the U.S. Department of Labor's Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under the Fair Labor Standards Act. We strongly encourage employers to arrange, at minimum, some kind of stipend for an unpaid internship to cover students travel and lunch expenses. This will help increase your applicant pool.

The average hourly intern wage for bachelor's degree-level interns during the 2015-16 academic year was $17.69 according to the NACE 2016 Internship & Co-op Survey.

Professional association resources for employers: