Intership Advantage - Definition

Please read our DISCLAIMER for the Internship Advantage Program! 

Internship Definition

The following is the Career Development Center's definition of an internship.  Please note that this may be different from other academic departments on campus.   

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.  Additionally, in a formal, structured program with faculty supervision, there is the opportunity to improve the curriculum and impact academic research.   

This definition closely mirrors the definition by the National Association of Colleges and Employers published in their Position Statement on U.S. Internships.

The Career Development Center is not an academic department and therefore does not grant credit for any internships.  The CDC's primary role is the posting of internship opportunities.  All positions, including internships, must meet our posting requirements as outlined on our Policy, Terms and Conditions page.

Paid vs. Unpaid

In April 2010 the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, clarified its standing on unpaid internships with specific regard to for-profit organizations. This led to many articles in the media and position statements by different professional associations trying to come to some resolution over the issue. 

Central to the issue is the 6-Point Test outlined in Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under the Fair Labor Standards Act by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has had a test in place for many years but sought to clarify how or when for-profit institutions can hire unpaid interns. It is important to note that the FLSA addresses if an employment relationship exists. If so, the employee is entitled to minimum wage payment. It does not address whether the position is an internship or not, regardless of whether academic credit is awarded. Thus, calling it an internship and/or granting academic credit does not exempt it from the 6-Point Test.

Much of the discussion on the 6-Point Test centers around criteria #4 which states, "The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded."  Many agree that for an internship to be worthwhile, the student should be engaged in meaningful learning experiences.  NACE explains it best in their Position Statement:

"Students pursue internships because they want to gain professional experience that links their academic coursework to the disciplines they want to pursue for their careers. To gain this experience, students want to engage in projects and tasks that contribute to the professional work of the organization. This means that the employer does benefit from the work of the intern while, at the same time, it provides a meaningful experience that allows for the application of academic knowledge."

Thus, it is inconceivable how any internship-worthy experience could pass the 6-Point Test and be unpaid.  Please note this only applies to for-profit organizations; not-for-profit organizations are not covered by this. 

The MTSU Career Development Center posts only paid internships with for-profit organizations, regardless of whether they are for credit or not.  The CDC will post unpaid positions with not-for-profit organizations although we strongly encourage them to pay at least minimum wage.                                 

Position Statements

Additional Resources

 Intern Bridge is an organization engaged in internship research that advocates all internships should be paid hourly wages. They maintain a clearinghouse of resources on this topic at Unpaid Internship Resource Center.

 Cooperative Education Definition

What is the definition of Cooperative Education (Co-ops) and how are they different from internships? Read more...