Internship Program

CMST 489: Internship


Internship Coordinator: Dr. Nan Li
Office: THMA 436 
Office Hours
Email: nli1@csuchico.edu

Phone: 530-898-3051

What is an internship?
Formal Internship Definition

What are the benefits of an internship?
How does one enroll in and complete an internship?
When should one start planning an internship?
What are the different ways to locate internship opportunities?
How long do internships last?
Are interns paid for their work?
Can one use an existing position as an internship?
Typical Problems Associated with Internships

What is an internship?

An internship is a supervised and challenging experience in an organization for which you get academic credit. The goal of the internship is to provide students with an opportunity to gain practical experience in an area of interest, while applying their communication knowledge and building their skills.

An internship requires an organization or a member of an organization, to agree to supervise the student's work, to evaluate and grade the student's progress, and to provide the appropriate number of hours to meet the course requirements.

An internship is not: Working for yourself, starting your own business, or receiving credit for work previously completed or experienced.

Formal Internship Definition

"A quality work experience, guided and managed by an experienced supervisor, in a position with duties that the student has not previously performed, which will benefit the student in their future career goals." 

The "quality" of the experience emphasizes that students will be doing work that challenges them rather than tasks that do not. This is an upper division course and the internship work needs to reflect that level of achievement. 

We require a supervisor because the student is there to benefit from the guidance of others. This does not mean students cannot work on their own, but rather they need direction and feedback from someone who will provide an evaluation of their abilities at the end of their experience, so that they can learn from the opportunity. Required supervision does mean that students may not use "self-owned" businesses or "start-ups" for their internship experience. 

We specify that students cannot use their existing work positions for an internship, as this is an opportunity to gain new experiences and extend skill sets, however, that does not preclude creating new opportunities within an existing place of employment. 

Students should be selective with regard to which internships; an internship that will contribute to future professional goals is the kind of quality opportunity the student should be seeking.

What are the benefits of an internship?

Active application of what has been learned in the classroom (i.e., build transferable skills).

Learn how to work more effectively in an organizational environment.

Explore career options; sometimes students discover they do not want to work for a particular company or pursue a particular career once they have some experience in that area.

Build your resume; internship experience can make up for a lack of work experience, as well as demonstrate experience in a specific area related to career goals (i.e., P.R., Sales, Event Planning, etc.).

Build your network; an internship can provide an excellent opportunity to develop a relationship with a potential employer. Sometimes internships evolve into employment with the organization.

Develop professional maturity; learn how to work effectively in a professional environment.

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How does one enroll in and complete an internship?

All students must attend a mandatory internship information session at least one semester prior to enrolling in and completing the internship requirement. The most successful internships require planning, so it is not a bad idea to attend the information session two or more semesters before completing the class. You only need to attend the information session once before completing your internship.

At the internship information session, you will be provided with the necessary information and guidance to search for, apply, and complete the internship. 

Students cannot add the class on-line; they must work with the coordinator, provide the required paperwork, and meet all deadlines. During the regular Fall/Spring semesters, students have until the end of the second week of classes to turn in their signed internship application form and enroll in the class. Applications will not be accepted after the second week of classes; you should begin your arrangements as early as possible.

Students complete the internship by:

  1. Securing an internship.
  2. Successfully completing the application process by the deadline.
  3. Meeting the objectives of their internship.
  4. Meeting additional responsibilities of the course (i.e., mid-semester check in, paper assignment, etc.).
  5. Completing 150 hours.
  6. The final grade is assigned in consultation with the Internship Supervisor based on their final evaluation of the intern, which is sent directly to the Coordinator. The course is credit/no credit.

When should one start planning an internship?

Before you can enroll in CMST 489, you must have completed a minimum of 18 units in the major. In terms of the specific prerequisites, you must have completed CMST 131, 330, 331, 350, and 370, with a grade of C- or better. 

The rationale for this is after having taken six classes, you will have some knowledge to apply to the internship experience. Your senior year is the ideal time to complete the internship.

You can't start planning early enough! You are encouraged to explore your opportunities both in and out of town, network, and/or apply for competitive internship positions. If you are going to complete an internship in another location, like at home over the summer, in another state, or overseas, you will need extra time to make arrangements and to secure the internship.

One of the best ways to begin planning your internship is to attend the mandatory information session. Attending the meeting is something you can do before completing the prerequisites, so that when you are ready to complete the class, you will have all of the information you will need.

What are the different ways to locate internship opportunities?

Go to the Chico State Career Center, Student Services Center, Room 270. This office is responsible for internships for the entire campus community and has a searchable database of over 2000 employers seeking interns. The internships provided in the database cover local, state, national and international opportunities. To access this database you will need to meet with someone from the Career Center, fill out an application, provide a resume, and receive training on using the database. This approach is often helpful getting started thinking about possible internship opportunities; you may end up not pursuing an internship from the database, but the listings may have provided you with some interesting ideas.

Seek out a company you want to gain experience with, or a position you know you want to work in, and contact the organization. Take the same approach you would for a job prospect; research first, network, tailor your resume, dress and behave professionally, and present your qualifications persuasively. You also want to be sure to address the ways in which the organization will benefit from hiring you as an intern. This approach is the most frequently used, and usually results in an experience tailored to your specific needs and desires.

Ask the Internship Coordinator for suggestions or ideas. Sometimes employers will contact the internship coordinator directly, seeking interns for a particular project.

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How long do internships last?

The length of time required for an internship is determined by the amount of units earned by the internship. Communication Studies majors are required to complete 3 units for an internship. In terms of time, 3 units is the equivalent of 150 hours, or an average of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The student and the internship supervisor can work out the specific work schedule, and the 150 hours can be completed in any manner agreeable to both parties.

Bear in mind that the 150 hours is a minimum requirement, and some internships may require significantly more hours than that (especially during summer session). The internship application serves as a contract between the student intern, the internship supervisor, and the CMST internship coordinator, and it specifies the number of hours to be worked by the intern. Student interns will be expected to fulfill their contracts, and any change in the contract must be negotiated between the three parties.

Are interns paid for their work?

Sometimes, but this is not a requirement for the course. Some employers believe that they are providing a valuable experience and that is enough. Those that do not pay will often still reimburse for expenses such as mileage if travel is involved.

Others may provide an hourly wage or a stipend at the end of the internship. Some students need to receive some kind of pay and some internships do pay.

Can one use an existing position as an internship?

Typically, no. This is because you cannot use an experience that you have already completed to fulfill the internship requirement (i.e. continuing in the same position and duties).

In some cases, students who took initiative found ways to build new duties and responsibilities into their existing jobs to meet the objective and time requirements. For example, managing a new project, taking on new responsibilities, being put in charge of some training, etc. The key is they found a way to create new aspects to their jobs for approximately 10 hours a week. Supporting documentation clearly differentiating the internship work from existing responsibilities is required.

Typical Problems Associated with Internships

Students who fail to plan carefully for their internship often experience problems; sometimes this results in having to drop the course and postpone the internship until the following semester.

Students who do not follow the directions provided prior to every semester often fail to meet deadlines and are unable to enroll and earn credit.

Students who complete all their major and university degree requirements, but not their internship. Some students' benefit from taking time to focus on an internship after they have completed all their coursework. However, far too often students leave the university and fail to complete the internship, only to let semesters and years pass, without having completed the requirement. A student will not "graduate" or earn their degree until all requirements for that degree have been met.

Students who do not keep the Coordinator informed of changes in the internship. If there have been changes in a student's internship (change in supervision, duties, responsibilities, hours, location, etc.), the student must update their application. Failure to do so can result in receiving a failing grade in the course.

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