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What is an Internship?


San Diego State University recognizes the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) internship definition. 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.

Internships are high impact practices that allow students to develop professionalism and learn how to apply the knowledge needed to transition successfully into the workplace. Internships are hands-on, experiential opportunities that bridge your academic work with an industry or field in the professional world.  

Difference between a Part-Time Job and an Internship

The difference between a part-time job and an internship is that an internship allows you to use your academic knowledge to complete a specific project and/or task. For example, if I am a Marketing major and I work in the SDSU Bookstore as a cashier, I am not specifically using my academic knowledge in that job.

However, if I am working part-time in the SDSU Bookstore with the Marketing Director to develop a social media campaign or design the window display, then I am applying my academic knowledge. Both of these could be part time jobs, but only the second example would be considered an internship since I am applying my academic knowledge in a professional setting. 

Why Get an Internship? 

• Explore your interests and gain valuable experience before graduating

• Apply academic knowledge to a work setting

• Meet people and practice networking with employers and professionals

• Learn what you like and do not like about a job and/or career

• Facilitate a successful transition from college to the working world

• Investigate potential employers’ organizations

• Develop self-confidence time management, critical thinking, communication teamwork, and decision-making skills

• Demonstrate experience that will attract future employers

• Build your resume 

Characteristics of an Internship 

Internships vary according to tasks, work time, and compensation. Standard internships usually require 10 to 20 hours weekly during the semester (10-16 weeks), and up to 40 hours per week in the summer (6-12 weeks).

Compensation is commonly minimum wage (varies by location) to $15 per hour for undergraduate students and $18-$25 per hour for graduate students based on experience and industry/field.

*Please note that all unpaid internships require a student to enroll in an internship course to receive academic credit. Speak with your Department Internship Contact to find the course for your major:

To qualify as an internship, an experience must include professional experience, and therefore internships are not primarily unskilled or clerical in nature. An internship experience needs to relate to your academic work and have learning outcomes that are set by and achieved under the guidance of a supervisor.

Types of Internships

Academic Credit Internships

• Students completing an academic internship are enrolled in an internship course and may be paid or unpaid**

**Unpaid MUST be taken for academic credit if the organization is a FOR-PROFIT. Only unpaid internships at recognized 501-c3 NON-PROFIT organizations can be completed without an academic course, as this is considered volunteering.**

• Paid and unpaid internships qualify for academic credit. For more information on academic credit for internships, contact your Department Internship Contact by going to

Paid Internships

• An internship is considered paid when an intern earns at least minimum wage per hour worked or a stipend that is equivalent

• Students completing a paid internship can also receive academic credit. For more information on academic credit for internships, contact your Department:

International Internships

• Go to Aztecs Abroad:

• Use the search programs tab to view a list of the approved internship abroad programs available through SDSU. Select program type “internships” for the full list

• Going Global via Aztec Career Connection is a resource for international job/internships and country specific information:

What to Expect from Internship Sites? 

• Internship sites provide interns with opportunities to develop Career Readiness Competencies. Career Readiness is the attainment and demonstration of requisite competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for a successful transition into the workplace

The Career Readiness Competencies are:

1) Critical Thinking/Problem Solving

2) Oral/Written Communication


4) Information Technology Application

5) Leadership

6) Professionalism/Work Ethic

7) Career Management

8) Global/Intercultural Fluency 

• Internship sites provide job shadowing opportunities that allow the intern to learn certain functions of the organization and/or industry

• The internship has a clear start and end date agreed on prior to the start date

• Employer provides student with a clear position description

• Student is provided with specific learning outcomes

• Employer provides the intern with an opportunity to make professional connections

• Student meets with Site Supervisor regularly and receives feedback on performance

• Full time (12+ units) students should intern 10-15 hours per week and it is recommended to not exceed 20 hours per week

SDSU Internship Resources

Aztec Career Connection

• Go to: and click Students to get to the red login box

• Use the Aztec Career Connection Student Account How-To-Guide: (see page 10)

• Visit the Career Services Resource Room (SSE 1200) to get help searching for internships

Contact Your Major Department

• View the Department Internship Contact list at


• GoinGlobal is available through your Aztec Career Connection account and allows you to find internships both internationally and domestically

Do Your Research

• Visit company websites that interest you (Glassdoor is recommended)

• Find a list of internship search websites at

Don’t Forget the Importance of Preparation!

• Attend workshops and events, network with employers, staff, and your peers at Career Fairs, Information Sessions, and Workshops

• Check out the Workshops & Events Schedule at (see page 7 for an internship checklist) 

Use Your Network

• Mentors, professors, friends and family are all part of your network that can help you find an intern ship and/or be a reference (LinkedIn is recommended:

Get Started with an Internship Checklist

Resume Development

• Meet with a Career Services counselor and get help developing your resume by coming in for a Fast 15 Walk-In (Monday-Thursday 1-2:45pm and Friday 10-11:45am)

• Career Services offers Effective Resumes Upgrading your Resume Workshop (see schedule at

• Attend Resumania to have your resume reviewed by employeers and Career Services staff before Career Fairs

Interview Skills

• Career Services offers Interview with Confidence Workshops (see schedule at

• Use Big Interview to perfect your interview skills. Access this mock interview system through your Aztec Career Connection The computer records and gives you feedback.

• Career Counselors can provide mock interviews at Career Services. Contact Career Services to make an appointment (SSE 1200 or 619-594-6851)


• Career Fairs and Information Sessions both provide students the opportunity to meet with employers and find out about open positions

• Attend Professional workshops hosted by student organizations to meet professionals in your field of interest

• For a full list of student organizations on campus visit:

Internship Etiquette: How to have a Successful Internship

Be On Time

• Display your enthusiasm for the position by showing up on time and preferably a few minutes early every day

Practice Good Social Skills

• Make immediate eye contact and smile when introduced

• Avoid engaging in conversation on topics that may lead to conflict or bein appropriate such as politics, gossip, religion, etc.

• Don’t text or use your social media when you are on the job

Practice Good Email Etiquette

• Respond promptly

• Begin by addressing the person, use full name and Mr. and Mrs.

• Be concise and use spellcheck

• Finish with a email signature

Practice Good Phone Etiquette

• When leaving messages, be clear and don’t forget to leave your name and call back the number

Be Proactive in Your Role as a Learner

• Ask questions (take a notepad and pen to write down notes)

• Engage with co-workers

• Take time to learn what the company does and how they operate

Be Flexible and Manage Your Own Expectations

• As priorities change, so might your job also!

• Don’t expect to be given lots of responsibility on day one

• Do expect to be given additional tasks and responsibility gradually

Be Respectful of the Privacy of Clients

• Never share client information or discuss outside of the work place

Communicate with Your Supervisor

• Get regular feedback and meet with your supervisor weekly

• Do let him/her know if you have any concerns

Dress for Success!

• Dress professional the first few days until you learn the office culture

• Keep your hair, makeup and jewelry conservative

Show Gratitude and Give Thanks

At the end of your internship send a Thank you note to show your appreciation.

How to: Professionally Complete an Internship

• Set goals with your Site Supervisor 

• Follow-up with your Site Supervisor about a project you worked on while interning 

• Give your Site Supervisor updates on your academics and professional development

• Reflect on your Experiences

• Create a Portfolio of your experiences

• Continue to develop your professional networking

• Update your resume, social media profile and LinkedIn 

• Send a thank you note within a week after your last day at the site, preferably handwritten

• Keep in touch with the professional connections you made through email or LinkedIn