Internship Guidelines

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. Interns can be both current students and recent alumni.

Writing an Internship Position Description

  • Clearly outline all internship tasks, duties, responsibilities and potential projects.
  • Describe the training and mentorship that will be offered and what skills/experience will be gained.
  • Describe how the skills/experience will be valuable across your industry and what career it will prepare the intern for.
  • Describe the professional background of the supervisor/mentor and what they have to offer.
  • List the types of staff member/clients/people the intern will come into contact with and the potential for building relationships/networking.
  • Describe the specific skills/qualifications/abilities you are seeking. Keep in mind qualifications should be in the realm of the student's year level. Interns typically would not have much prior professional experience.
  • Limit the hours to 10-20 during the academic year and offer flexibility if possible.
  • Additional ideas: Offer an internship orientation at your company, offer job shadowing opportunities in various in-house departments, offer opportunities to conduct informational interviews with other staff members, offer guidance on professional development within your industry.

To Pay or Not to Pay?

A common question asked by employers is whether the employer must pay an intern for his/her work. Be mindful that although unpaid internships are a possibility, a paid internship of at least minimum wage per hour will generate a larger and more talented candidate pool. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has developed six criteria for identifying a learner/trainee who may be unpaid. The criteria are:

  • The training, even though it includes actual operation of the employer’s facilities, is similar to training that would be given in a vocational school.
  • The training is for the benefit of the student.
  • The student does not displace regular employees, but works under the close observation of a regular employee.
  • The employer provides the training and derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the student. Occasionally, the training may actually impede the operations.
  • The student is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period.
  • The employer and the student understand that the student is not entitled to wages for the time spent training.

All six factors do not necessarily have to be present for an individual to be considered a trainee, however the experience must ultimately look more like a training/learning experience than a job. If the position does not meet trainee criteria, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay employees at least minimum wage for all hours of work performed.

How to Establish an Internship for Credit

Students are eligible to receive credit for internships that have been documented through The Center for Life and Work. A student interning for credit can also be paid by the host organization. Again, the position must meet the criteria of an intern/trainee and not an employee.

For example, if a company is looking to hire a graphic design intern, the intern must work under the supervision of a staff member that holds a graphic designer title within the company.

CalArts Internship Contract

Once formally offered the position, the student will provide the contract to the employer for verification and signature. The contract outlines the basic work agreement between the intern and the host. That is, what duties the intern will have, what they will learn, and the hours and days the intern will work. At the end of the internship, both the student and the host supervisor will evaluate the experience on the supplied evaluation forms. The forms are turned in to the Internship Coordinator and the student’s faculty supervisor before grades are issued.

If the Host requires a separate contract for the intern to sign, a blank copy must be given to the Internship Coordinator to keep on file.

In the event the intern submits original material to be considered for development by the organization, or any of its affiliates or subsidiaries, the organization must negotiate with the intern in good faith for the acquisition of rights in and to the original material.

Employers are encouraged to post opportunities on Compass, our online job board. Once the profile is submitted, an email will be sent with an access link.

The on-site supervisor should contact The Center for Life and Work at (661) 291-3419 or with questions and concerns regarding CalArts interns.