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An intern is one who works in a temporary position with an emphasis on education rather than merely employment, making it similar in some respects to an apprenticeship. Interns are usually college or university students or other young adults. They can also be adults later in life seeking skills for a new career or placement in industry after relocation. Of interest to psychologists are:

An internship may be either paid, unpaid or partially paid (in the form of a stipend). Paid internships are most common in the medical, science, engineering, business (especially accounting and finance), technology and advertising fields. Internship positions are available from businesses, government departments, non-profit groups and organizations. Due to strict labor laws European internships, though mostly unpaid, are popular among non-Europeans to gain international exposure on one's resume and for foreign language improvement.

Internships may be part-time or full-time; typically they are part-time during the University year and full-time in the summer, and they typically last 6-12 weeks, but can be shorter or longer.

Student internships provide valuable opportunities for students to gain experience in their field of study, determine if they really have an interest in a particular career path, create a network of contacts, and often gain a high school or college credit.

In the U.S. the word, "intern" is used to describe one who works in a temporary position with an emphasis on education rather than merely employment. In Canada the term Cooperative Education is used more often to describe this same type of program.

Stages of an internship

H. Frederick Sweitzer, Mary A. King developed theory of the stages students typically go through in an internship in their book, The Successful Internship.

  1. Anticipation: In this stage, students are beginning the internship with excitement and some anxiety. They may worry that they are not prepared for the internship or worry about fitting in. Students should try to check with their supervisor to find out what to expect and to check if their assumptions are correct. Discussing learning objectives with the supervisor can also help.
  2. Disillusionment: Excitement wears off, and students might feel some disappointment about the “real world.” Sometimes students discover that the world of work is very different from what they are used to in school. They might be disappointed to find that their supervisor has other responsibilities besides supervising them.
  3. Confrontation: Facing disillusionment may be difficult, but can help students grow. Students may have to re-examine their goals and expectations. Comparing the internship description and/or the learning goals with reality may help as a reality check. Interpersonal issues should be discussed.
  4. Competence: Morale increases. Students feel more professional. There is increased productivity. Students can ask for higher level tasks; they feel more like a part of the organization.
  5. Culmination: At the end of the internship, students may feel pride in their accomplishments, as well as sadness upon ending the work experience. There may be some guilt at not having accomplished more, or because the project students have worked on may not continue once they leave. Talking with the supervisor may help with these feelings.

The word "intern" can also be used as a verb, e.g. "Hendrik interned at Pinnacle Systems this summer."

Diversity internship programs

There are several organizations that provide extremely competitive internship programs for minorities. Some of the best-known are Inroads, which places over 5,100 minority college students in paid corporate internships each year; and Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, which places students in internships in fields such as management consulting and investment banking. Other organizations, such as the United Negro College Fund, and The InternZoo Organization organized corporate-sponsored internships that also provide a scholarship.


  • The Successful Internship: Transformation and Empowerment in Experiential Learning (Paperback) by H. Frederick Sweitzer, Mary A. King
  • Internship Success, Marianne Ehrlich Green

See also

  • Advertising Agency
  • Apprentice
  • Cooperative Education
  • Curricular Practical Training (for international students)
  • Experiential Education
  • Externship
  • Fellowship
  • Mentoring
  • Practicum
  • Service Learning
  • Work Experience - the term used for much the same thing in the United Kingdom and Australia, where the word intern is not as commonly used.

External links

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