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Faculty Guidelines for Undergraduate Academic Internships

The Academic Internship

A course-based academic internship is an approved and monitored work experience of a pre-professional nature that meets specific learning goals and is related to an academic field of study, normally within the confines of a department internship course offering.  In course-based internships for academic credit, the work at the internship site is integrated with the goals and assignments of the course itself.  The student intern completes the internship under the direction of a site supervisor as well as the faculty member responsible for the internship course. To learn more about academic internships, read this article: Internships as High-Impact Practice: Some Reflections on Quality


Legal and Liability Issues

It is important to make sure that organizations hosting interns are in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act. The U.S. Department of Labor has outlined six criteria for determining unpaid intern status:

1) Interns cannot displace regular employees.

2) Interns are not guaranteed a job at the end of an internship.

3) Interns are not entitled to wages during the internship.

4) Interns must receive training from the organization, even if it somewhat impedes the work.

5) Interns must get hands-on experience with equipment and processes used in the industry. 

6) Interns' training must primarily benefit them, not the organization. 

For more detailed information on how to ensure organizations are in compliance with the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, visit the U.S. Department of Labor website. If you have other questions, about any legal and liability issues pertaining to internships, clinical, field or other placements, please contact USM’s Regulatory Compliance Administrator, Kelly Stevens at 207-228-8279 or

Out of State Authorization Waiver Request: State laws require permission for out-of-state students to participate in on-site educational experiences. Numerous states participate in reciprocity agreements which do not require additional waivers for out of state internship or other placements. The only state currently not participating is California. In all other states, you do not need to submit a waiver form. To complete an internship in California, please complete the State Authorization Form and send to for forwarding to the UMS state authorization staff member.

Clinical Placements: In 2014 the University of Maine System negotiated master clinical affiliation agreements with health care organizations across the state in which UMS campuses place students for clinical learning experiences.  The master agreements cover the primary legal and liability issues involved in clinical placements. When a degree program places a student in a clinical site, the Master Affiliation agreement is already operative if the site is a signatory on the agreement.  If you would like to check if a site is on the list, look into adding a site to the list, or have any other questions, please contact

Internship Site Supervisor: It is a best practice for each intern to have an internship site supervisor that is responsible for overseeing the work of the student intern. The site supervisor should provide a description of the learning goals of the internship and the intern's responsibilities to achieve these goals, as well as provide an evaluation of the student's internship performance. 

Faculty Member: The academic component of the internship will be defined by the faculty member offering the internship course and will include analytical activities such as reflective journaling, compiling a portfolio, and writing integrative papers. Classroom activities and meetings should include periodic, focused discussions of student progress in the internship and on academic assignments. The grade for the internship will be determined by the faculty member and will be based on the academic assignment/s completed by the student and the evaluation provided by the internship site supervisor.

Earning Credit for Academic Internship: The internship can be for variable credit, usually one to three credits, depending on the number of hours per week and on the type and amount of academic work assigned by the faculty sponsor.  Students may receive income for the internship while they are earning credit.

The credits earned for an academic internship are not tied solely to hours "on the job," but to the amount and type of academic work the student completes during the internship. The academic assignments are due at the end of the term in which the internship is undertaken and will be evaluated by the faculty sponsor.

In these assignments, the student reflects on his or her learning at the internship site and integrates this learning with topics or issues from an academic subject area. The academic assignments should also indicate the student's accomplishments while working in the internship as well as areas for his or her future inquiry and study that lead from the experience.

As its name implies, experiential learning is based on activity that is then to be reflected upon. An internship assumes a certain amount of work and time spent at the internship site. The academic assignment must also be commensurate with the number of credits to be earned.

The following examples indicate the relationship between the number of hours at an internship site, the academic assignment/s and credits to be earned.

No. of credits to be earned

No. of hours at the internship site

Example Academic assignments

1 credit

45 hours over the course of the term

Topical paper (5 pages in length) that integrates the intern's experience with selected topics from within an academic discipline, as assigned by the faculty sponsor

2 credits

90 hours over the course of the term

Topical paper (6-8 pages in length) that integrates the intern's experience with selected topics from within an academic discipline, assigned by the faculty sponsor
Portfolio containing samples of students work at the internship site
Reflective weekly journal

3 credits

135 hours over the course of the term

Topical paper (10-12 pages in length) that integrates the intern's experience with selected topics from within an academic discipline, as assigned by the faculty sponsor
Portfolio containing samples of work at the internship site, includes integrative paper
Reflective weekly journal

Examples of types of assignments for Integrating Learning from an Internship Experience with Academic Subjects

Reflective Journaling: Students record daily or weekly impressions of the setting, activities, and areas of growth they are experiencing. Journal entries should relate back to the learning goals and responsibilities that were agreed upon with the site supervisor and recorded in the Learning Agreement. Additionally, the act of creating a written journal of what has been learned assists students in consciously reflecting on their work as interns and integrating their experiences with other learning. Rather than vaguely assimilating skills and knowledge, students create an articulated record of their experiences.

Portfolio: Students create a portfolio to keep samples of written work, photographs, videos, reports, interview transcripts, summaries, certificates of training, reference letters and other documentation of the internship experience and their contribution to the work of the organization in which they were interns. The portfolio is to illustrate what the student has learned and how his/her skills or knowledge base has expanded through the internship.

 Paper: A paper to be written at the conclusion of the internship to integrate the internship experience with one or more topics related to specific courses or other academic interests. Researched references should be cited to support conclusions drawn. The paper is to indicate how the student has integrated the experience with his or her academic knowledge base as well as to identify areas or questions for further exploration. The topics should be selected by the student and faculty sponsor as part of the academic component and listed on the Learning Agreement.