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Internship Program Development 101

A guide to the benefits of hiring Rutgers University interns and designing an effective internship program: Employer Internship Handbook (PDF).

 

Why Hire Interns?

  • Early identification. Employers have the opportunity to screen and work with potential entry-level employees prior to making a full-time commitment. For example, Johnson & Johnson hires up to 100 Rutgers interns or co-ops each year.  Active recruiting organizations at Rutgers such as Barclays, Johnson & Johnson, Prudential, and Target hire most full-time employees from the ranks of former interns.
  • Reduced turnover and training among entry-level employees who were former interns.
  • Junior-level managers within your organization have an opportunity to gain supervisory experience.
  • Convenience and flexibility of hiring additional staff during the summer to contribute and fill in the gaps of vacationing workforce.
  • Campus visibility.  Good "buzz" about your organization on campus and an increased pool of interested candidates to meet future recruiting needs. Student interns who return to campus can serve as ambassadors for sharing positive experiences with fellow students and faculty.
  • Tap into new talent.  Energetic, enthusiastic interns are eager to learn and bring a fresh perspective.

Rutgers University belongs to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), one of the 63 leading North American institutions recognized for the quality and scope of their research and educational programs. Rutgers-New Brunswick offers more than 100 major programs of study.

Visit http://nbweb.rutgers.edu/departments/index.shtml for specific academic program information.

 

Initial Planning

  • Plan ahead.  Advance planning is the key to a successful internship program. Hiring an intern only to have that person sit idly, waiting for someone to assign a project, is not productive for either you or the student.  Approach your internship program as an important element of your overall recruiting strategy. There are many sources of information available to help you in the initial phases of developing an internship program.
  • Benchmark practices of competitors. Start by talking to counterparts in your field at other organizations to see how their programs are structured. Review the internship websites of companies with well-established programs.
  • Review internship descriptions in directories such as The Internship Bible published by Princeton Review.
  • Contact professional associations such as the National Society for Experiential Education to obtain their books entitled "A Handbook for Site Sponsors" and "Effective Internship Supervision."  The National Association of Colleges and Employers also provides valuable resources.
  • Meet with the University Career Services staff to assist you with tailoring a program best suited to attract Rutgers students. The internship and co-op program actively supports Rutgers University-New Brunswick students from all academic departments as they pursue and secure meaningful internship experiences across the country. Career Services also supports a wide range of employers as they create, market, hire for, and evaluate their internship programs.

 

Designing Your Program
A well-developed program benefits both the hiring organization and the intern by managing expectations and removing the "guess work" from the process. Think about your internship program as a favorable way to introduce students to your profession or industry and as a way to identify potential full-time hires. Before you interview and prior to any hiring decisions, establish objectives and identify on-site coordinators for your internship program. The following steps are suggestions for creating, implementing, and maintaining a successful program.

  • Work with the supervising manager to create a job description. Develop a specific job description. Describe your organization and outline duties or projects associated with the internship. Not only can this help in attracting students, but it provides a realistic job preview and builds clear expectations.
  • Determine the particulars. Map out the length and timing of the internship experience (i.e. summer, fall, or spring, and the number of weeks), working hours (part-time or full-time), applicant selection criteria, and compensation.
  • Select a direct supervisor for each intern. This person should be responsible for assigning projects, working with the intern to provide on-the-job training, answering questions, and offering regular performance reviews. The supervisor should be available and accessible to the intern either through scheduled meetings or through an "open-door" policy.
  • Develop specific projects and assignments. Whenever possible, delegate beginning-to-end projects. Let interns work as a member of the team so they can learn how different departments interact within your organization.
  • Appoint an internship coordinator as needed for recruitment and management purposes. The task of screening applicants, working with college career centers, and administering the on-site activities of interns can become fairly time consuming, depending on the size of your program.
  • Coordinate logistics prior to the intern's arrival. Be sure to arrange for workspace, phone use, a mailbox, e-mail accounts, payroll forms, security clearance, parking permits, and any other needs. Offering additional benefits such as company discounts or paid time off can be incentives for interns.
  • Provide training and support through an orientation or mentoring program. Your program should cover the basics, including an overview of corporate philosophy, an office tour, and introductions to staff. You will also want to review the dress code, hours, and other relevant office policies. This can be handled through a formal program (if you have several interns starting on the same day) or as more informal meetings with a mentor or supervisor.
  • Establish performance criteria and offer regular feedback. Again, this practice benefits both parties. It serves as a professional development experience for the intern and clarifies employer expectations of what constitutes quality performance on the job.
  • If you are hiring out-of-town interns, they will have questions regarding relocation and housing. While it is not an employer's responsibility to provide housing for interns, it is a good idea to serve as an information resource for students prior to their relocation. For information on Rutgers University summer housing, visit http://summerconferences.rutgers.edu/intern.html
  • Continue communication throughout the academic year. Successful interns can promote your organization on campus. Rutgers Career Services seeks feedback from students returning from internships and can feature their personal testimonies and success stories on our website or through programming.
  • Consider offering interns opportunities to engage in professional development.  Invite interns to social events and networking gatherings with full-time employees and other interns.
  • Before interns return to school, conduct an "exit interview." Solicit feedback on the nature of their experience and suggestions they may have for improving the program. If the intern is someone with whom you would like to work again in the future, be sure to get updated contact information.

Remember, interns are not merely additional clerical staff. Interns should be considered an integral part of the workforce who are expected to learn and understand the nature of the business and projects they are assigned. Provide meaningful work. If the interns are used purely for "busy work," neither party is maximizing the situation. Make sure interns understand the "big picture," and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the quality of work they can produce.

 

Compensation

The question of whether or not to pay interns has a number of implications for employers. It may be of some help to consider the following when determining how to compensate your interns:

  • The quality of an intern's experience need not be diminished simply because an internship is unpaid. However, the quality and number of available candidates for the hiring organization may be reduced because financial need prevents some highly qualified students from pursuing unpaid opportunities.
  • In a for-profit organization, it is common for employers to offer a stipend or hourly wage. The advantage of a stipend is that you can avoid adding short-term workers to the payroll. However, be sure to determine and satisfy any federal and state income tax requirements related to paying interns.
  • In some fields like computer science and information systems, paid internships are the norm.  Technical majors bring specialized skills to the hiring organization. Students majoring in these fields are in demand and may have the luxury of choosing between multiple offers.
  • In the not-for-profit sector, it is more common for internships to be unpaid. For the most part, students interested in working with not-for-profit organizations are aware that these may be unpaid positions.
  • In the case of unpaid internships, interns often work part-time. This will enable them to earn money through another job.
  • Should you choose to use unpaid interns and you are a for-profitorganization, be sure that your intern is considered a trainee under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Most Rutgers students do not seek academic credit for internships or co-ops. Students need to check with their academic department to find out if credit arrangements can be made or enroll in the Rutgers Internship & Co-op Program.

Given the limited duration of internships, the out-of-pocket costs associated with compensating interns may produce a strong return on investment and "pay-out" over the long run in the form of lower recruiting costs and reduced turnover.

From employers surveyed, the following salary ranges have been reported for Rutgers University student interns:

  • Computer Science/Engineering: $18 - $25/hr
  • Business: $15 - $25/hr
  • Liberal Arts: $10 - $25/hr

 

Legal Issues 

This section will briefly cover the legal ramifications regarding hiring interns and compensation issues. Please note, however, we are not lawyers, and this information does not constitute bona fide legal advice. Therefore, it should be used only as a guideline for consulting your own human resources department or general counsel on legal matters.

With the exception of less stringent termination and unemployment compensation procedures, the same laws and standards for hiring full-time employees apply to hiring interns.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (view complete Department of Labor Fact Sheet), you do not have to pay interns who qualify as learners or trainees. The U.S. Department of Labor has outlined six criteria for determining trainee status:

  1. Interns cannot replace regular paid employees.
  2. Interns are not guaranteed a job with your organization upon completion of the internship.
  3. Both you and the intern are aware that they are not entitled to wages.
  4. Interns must receive training.
  5. Interns must get "hands-on" experience with equipment or processes used in your particular industry.
  6. The skills learned on the job must be considered transferable.

To limit exposure to liability, it is generally a good idea to cover interns under your worker's compensation policy even when they are unpaid.

While interns are not specified in the language of the law, we strongly recommend that you follow equal opportunity employment laws when recruiting and hiring interns. (See the Rutgers University policy)

An internship should provide training and experience related to a student's academic course of study and/or career goals. If this is not the case, then the positions are not considered internships, and the employer must pay no less than the minimum wage. Learn what qualifies as an internship.

 

Recruiting Strategies 

The selection and hiring process for interns should be virtually the same as for full-time hires.

  • Determine your selection criteria for candidates. These factors may include academic performance, demonstrated written or quantitative skills, academic major, or specialized skills like foreign language fluency or computer proficiency. If necessary, consider screening applicants by requiring a writing sample or administering an appropriate instrument.
  • Contact Rutgers University Career Services. Provide us with information about your program and specifications for applicants. Let us help you recruit effectively and efficiently.
  • Solicit qualified applicants through Rutgers University Career Services. Conduct on-campus interviews, attend a Career & Internship Fair, or post an internship listing in CareerKnight.
  • Work through Rutgers University Career Services to build relationships. Target student leaders, clubs, faculty, administrators, and special populations, including diversity, students with disabilities, student athletes, and international students.

 

Employment Policy

Rutgers University pledges itself to continue its commitment to the achievement of equal opportunity within the University and throughout American society as a whole. In this regard, Rutgers University will recruit, hire, promote, educate, and provide services to persons based upon their individual qualifications. Rutgers University prohibits discrimination based on arbitrary consideration of such characteristics as age, color, disability, ethnicity, gender, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status.