Internship FAQ's

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What exactly is an internship?

Internships are educational programs that allow students to gain practical work experience and academic credit at the same time. These are supervised programs of work and study which involve students working in government, community service, or business settings applying skills and knowledge obtained in the course of their studies. The typical intern works ten to twenty hours per week. 

Are interns paid?

Yes.

What is the going rate for intern compensation?

Compensation may vary, however, our experience shows that internships pay from minimum wage to $25/hour with the median rate around $14.00/hour in Summer 2014.

Rationale: Many companies use internships as an opportunity to "interview" a possible candidate for a career position.  As such, they intentionally offer a fair and reasonable hourly pay.  The value received from the contributions of interns, including new ideas and techniques, and the opportunity realized from the ability to work with a potential full-time employee, typically far exceed the cost of the hourly rate of the intern.

The trend toward intern-pool hiring has come on very strong in the past 3-5 years, reports a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. * Some university Career Services predict that internship recruiting will largely replace entry-level campus recruiting in the next few years.

What kinds of organizations sponsor interns?

All kinds. We regularly place interns with the largest employers in Sonoma County as well as with organizations in which the intern is the only employee aside from the owner. 

Is there special liability in sponsoring an intern?

No. In ten years of operating the internship program in the School of Business and A. Economics no sponsoring organization has had a problem with an intern that could not be quickly and informally resolved. Ninety-nine percent of our placements prove satisfactory to the sponsoring organization and to the intern.

How should my request for an intern be written?

We suggest that you write it as if you were seeking a new employee. Using your letterhead or a Word document, write an internship/job description and submit it to Karen Thompson: thompska@sonoma.edu

How should I submit my request?

Ideally, you would submit your intern opportunity announcement on letterhead in an enclosure by e-mail to Karen Thompson: thompska@sonoma.edu. Snail mail is feasible though it requires that we scan your internship description. Submission by fax is less desirable because that medium frequently compromises the quality of the posting.

Are unpaid internships appropriate?

Under federal law, employers must pay workers unless the position meets six criteria, including one stating that the employer "derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees or students."

All of the following criteria must be met in order for an internship to be unpaid according to the US Department of Labor:

  1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school;
  2. The training is for the benefit of the trainee;
  3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under close observation;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees and on occasion the employer's operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the completion of the training period; and
  6. The employer and the trainee understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

Caution: Some employers assume that if a student earns academic credit for an internship, the employer does not have to comply with federal laws.  That alone, however, does not guarantee that the employer is in compliance with the six criteria of the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to the US Department of Labor.

*Cheney, A. (2010, September 13).  Firms Assess Young Interns' Potential.  Wall Street Journal, p. B10.