Internships Guidelines

The Career Center’s internship program acts as a resource for employers who may be developing or listing new internships and or other experiential learning programs. Internships are preprofessional career training experiences with intentional learning goals. They provide students with an opportunity to explore careers and apply academic theory in the professional world. Internships offer employers an opportunity to test out potential candidates for employment and develop a pipeline to future talent.

Internship Benefits

Employer benefits

  • Introduce fresh ideas and talent
  • Promote workforce diversity
  • Develop connections with potential employees
  • Gain office, project and department support
  • Reduce recruitment and on-site training costs by hiring interns for full-time positions
  • Increase job satisfaction and retention rate for potential future employees

Student benefits

  • Gain marketable experience in anticipated career field
  • Clarify goals and learning objectives
  • Apply academic knowledge to the workplace
  • Improve communication skills
  • Learn about general work functions
  • Experience organizational culture
  • Establish connections for a future career 

Are you ready for an intern?

  • Are your internship duties appropriate for a college student?
  • How will the work apply to the intern's coursework?
  • Are the duties and responsibilities for the intern challenging and of value?
  • Will you provide appropriate resources (computer, phone, desk, etc.) for the intern?
  • Will you provide adequate supervision for the intern?
  • Have you researched and established compensation for the intern?


Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act


The FLSA requires “for-profit” employers to pay employees for their work. Interns and students, however, may not be “employees” under the FLSA—in which case the FLSA does not require compensation for their work. 

The Test for Unpaid Interns and Students

Courts have used the “primary beneficiary test” to determine whether an intern or student is, in fact, an employee under the FLSA.  In short, this test allows courts to examine the “economic reality” of the internemployer relationship to determine which party is the “primary beneficiary” of the relationship. Courts have identified the following seven factors as part of the test: 

1. The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee—and vice versa. 

2. The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions. 

3. The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit. 

4. The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar. 

5. The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning. 

6. The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern. 

7. The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.

Listed below are several options for internship compensation. 

Hourly pay

Interns can be paid by the hour as regular employees. Generally, the hourly wage for an intern ranges from $12-$30 per hour.


Stipend is typically a lump sum, not related to work performed. Stipends are usually granted in non-profit and government agencies. Typically, stipends are not paid to interns in for-profit companies. Wage and hour law does not use the term "stipend." If the person is entitled to be paid, then the stipend must equate to at least minimum wage.

Scholarship awards

Scholarship awards may be given to students at the end of their internship to cover expenses for tuition and books.

Academic credit

Academic credit is assigned only through a CSUN faculty member. Students must contact academic departments for information on this process. It is solely the responsibility of the student to obtain preapproval for academic credit. Neither the Career Center nor employers can grant academic credit. In order to receive academic credit, the internship must apply to the student's course of study.

Compensation notes
  • Your position is more likely to be filled if a fair wage is offered.
  • Most students cannot afford to accept unpaid internships without taking another paid position.
  • Interns must be provided with fair compensation and a safe environment.
  • Consult the U.S. Department of Labor fact sheet for additional information.

Employer Responsibilities

Getting started

Creating an internship program is the key for successful intern experiences. Employers must be prepared to receive resumes, interview applicants, select candidates, train new hires and provide structure and feedback for interns. The most successful internship programs are planned with the interests of both the employer and intern in mind.

Duties and responsibilities for the intern

It is critical that a learning component accompany the tasks performed by the intern. This learning component must be maintained throughout the internship. A supervisor must be available to guide and counsel the inexperienced student.

Internships are designed to provide students with an opportunity to learn about a specific field or career. The intern will understand more about your work and the goals of your organization if they can experience a day in the life of an employee. The intern can gain great knowledge by participating in a staff meeting, client meeting, listening to a conference call, accompanying staff on field visits and participating in any other important events that make up your job. Broaden these shadowing experiences to include others in the organization.

Internship schedules

Student interns also have academic obligations in addition to their internship. Employers should work with students to schedule working hours around their classes. Most students will be able to work part-time (10-20 hours) during a semester. Internships during the summer can be full-time (40 hours) positions.

Internship orientation

If you have several interns, you may want to hold a formal orientation day or half-day. During this time, interns can be introduced to company policies and the logistic aspects of their position.

Orientation ideas

  • Introduction to the company: Give interns an overview of the company, including history, philosophies, organization and goals, as well as an overview of any services or products produced by the company.
  • Tour: Show interns around the company and its facilities. Introduce the intern to other employees.
  • Employee conduct: Review the company's dress code, timecard procedure, sick leave, phone manner and other aspects of employee behavior.
  • Work space: Show interns around the part of the company where they will be working. Make sure to show the intern where they have access to computers, phones, restrooms, supplies, break rooms and other essential aspects of work.
  • Resources for the intern: Introduce the intern to any supervisors and employees around them in their environment. Schedule a regular meeting time for questions and concerns or tell the intern how to reach you should they have any problems.
  • If you have multiple interns, consider regular meetings that could include speakers from individual departments within your company.


Interns should be provided with feedback on their performance several times during the course of the internship. Feedback may be in oral or written form, but should be presented by the intern's supervisor.

Ending the internship

As the end of the internship approaches, each intern should be evaluated and given feedback on his or her performance. At this time, employers may want to consider the intern's future possibilities in the company or organization. Interns may be offered full- or part-time positions in the company or may be asked to extend their internship for the following semester or over the summer. Compensation, schedules and duties for these possibilities should be discussed as early as possible so that the students are able to plan for the following term. If interns are not a good fit for the company, employers should offer advice on ways to improve their performance for their next internship or job. Employers should end the internship period with a debriefing session, individually or in a group. 

Timeline for Posting

When to post a position

Students follow academic semester calendars when they are looking for internships. Students usually begin their search one or two months before a new semester. A small number of students are still looking for internships three weeks into the semester as well. To maximize student response, consider posting internships at least two months before and one month into an academic semester.

  • Fall semester postings: June through early Sept.
  • Spring semester postings: Oct. through late Jan.
  • Summer postings: Feb. through May

Length of the program

Internships typically last for at least one semester. If students are not receiving academic credit for their internship, students may work for longer or shorter periods of time. Remember to plan enough time for the intern to get to know the company or organization, receive any necessary training and participate in the work environment.

Internship hours

Interns are usually able to work part-time (10-20 hours per week) during the fall and spring semesters and full-time (40 hours per week) during the summer. Some students will be able to work full-time during the semester as well. Please specify the number of hours per week in your job description in order to locate an intern who will be able to serve the needs of your organization.

Learning Agreements

Learning agreements are contracts between the employer and intern relating to their internship. Agreements include employer and student learning goals, strategies, duties, responsibilities, timeline, expectations, evaluation methods and closing activities. Intern evaluation is recommended throughout the internship. Designing specific guidelines sets up clear expectations for both the employer and the intern. It is recommended that students and employers should sign and retain a copy of the learning agreement. If the internship is offered for academic credit an additional university representative signature or copy may be required. The terms and obligations of the internship are best designed as a collaborative effort by both the internship supervisor and the intern.

  • Learning goals: What are the student's learning goals for the internship? How does the student intend to apply academic theory in the workplace? Does the student propose to improve communication or observational skills? Does the student intend to learn about the organizational culture? Does the student intend to learn to build relationships that will enhance their personal and professional success? Does the student anticipate clarification of their career goals? Does the student intend to gain skills and develop a professional identity?
  • Job responsibilities: Will the intern be required (or given the opportunity) to attend and participate in staff meetings, accompany the supervisor on field visits, work on group projects and make presentations, or will the intern be required to read current trade publications or attend conferences?
  • Supervisor's responsibilities: Open communication is highly encouraged between supervisors and interns. Supervisors are expected to meet regularly with the intern during the internship to discuss acceptable work and progress.
  • Evaluation methods: Share with the intern any methods of evaluation you plan to use. Complete any evaluation forms given to you by the intern from his or her academic department.
  • Closing activities: The intern may be required to produce a final project or activity. The supervisor may offer guidance for organizing data, presentation preparation and summary of the experience. Finally, close with a debriefing session.

Internship Guidelines


For more information, please contact our Assistant Director of Internship and Experiential Learning Programs, Janice Potzmann, at (818) 677-2387 or .