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An internship can be a method of on-the-job training for white-collar and professional careers, yet there are no formal standards defining them as such. Internships for professional careers are similar in some ways to apprenticeships for trade and vocational jobs, but the lack of standardization and oversight leaves the term vulnerable to broad application. Increasingly this broad use of the term has been seen to serve as a cover for wage theft. Although interns are typically college or university students, they can also be high school students or post-graduate adults. On occasion, they are middle school or even elementary students. In some countries, internships for school children are called work experience. Internships may be paid or unpaid, and are usually understood to be temporary positions. Unpaid and low-paid internships can run afoul of minimum wage laws, which sometimes have exceptions for educational positions.
Generally, an internship consists of an exchange of services for experience between the student and an organization. Students can also use an internship to determine if they have an interest in a particular career, create a network of contacts, or gain school credit. Some interns find permanent, paid employment with the organizations with which they interned. This can be a significant benefit to the employer as experienced interns often need little or no training when they begin regular employment. Unlike a trainee program, however, employment at the completion of an internship is not guaranteed.
Internships exist in a wide variety of industries and settings. An internship may be paid, unpaid or partially paid (in the form of a stipend). Paid internships are common in professional fields including medicine, architecture, science, engineering, law, business (especially accounting and finance), technology, and advertising. Non-profit charities and think tanks often have unpaid, volunteer positions. Internships may be part-time or full-time. A typical internship lasts 6–12 weeks, but can be shorter or longer, depending on the organization involved. The act of job shadowing may also constitute interning.
The two primary types of internships that exist in the United States are:
Due to strict labor laws, European internships are mostly unpaid, although they are still popular among non-Europeans in order to gain international exposure on one's résumé and for foreign language improvement.
Another type of internship growing in popularity is the virtual internship, in which the intern works remotely, and is not physically present at the job location. It provides the capacity to attain the same results without the conventional means of being physically present at a job. Usually the internship is conducted via virtual means, such as phone, email, and web communication. Virtual interns generally have the opportunity to work at their own pace.
Some companies now find and place students in mostly unpaid internships for a fee. These companies charge to assist with a search, promising to refund their fees if no internship is found. These programs vary, but they claim to provide internship placements at reputable companies, provide controlled housing in a new city, mentorship and support throughout the summer, networking, weekend activities in some programs, and sometimes academic credit.
Another form of paying for internships is through charity auctions. A company with an internship will select a charity who will obtain an internship position funded by the auction. In some cases, companies have created internships simply to help a charity.
Some claim that fee-based programs and charity auctions restrict internship opportunities to students in wealthier families. These companies respond that "the average student comes from the middle class, and their parents "dig deep" to pay for it." Some companies specifically fund scholarships and grants for low-income applicants.
Critics of internships also decry the practice of requiring certain college credits to be obtained only through unpaid internships. Depending on the cost of the school, this is often seen as an unethical practice, as it requires students to exchange paid-for and often limited tuition credits in order to work an uncompensated job. Even if the school does not require credit for an internship, companies offering the internship often pressure colleges to give college credit so interns cannot complain that they receive nothing for their efforts.
Internship laws and practices vary widely from country to country, and region to region.
Internships in Australia are often referred to as "work experience" when undertaken by high school students and "industry experience" when undertaken by university students. Some degree programs such as engineering require a minimum amount of industry experience (usually 12 weeks) to attain professional accreditation with industry bodies such as Engineers Australia.
Unpaid internships are legal and allowed for under the Fair Work Act 2009. There are a number of criteria used to determine if the engagement forms a legitimate internship, including:
Internships in China are often career-specific, though they are having a tendency of emulating internships in the US, and are also arranged during school years. There is a growing trend for overseas students (particularly those from Australia, UK and USA) to compete for internship opportunities available in China. It is common for overseas students to use the services of China-based internship providers to arrange their internship.
Internship opportunities in India are career specific, college students often choose internships based on their branch of study at University. Students often see it as a way to develop their capabilities by practically applying the academic elements of their degree and as an opportunity to learn about the work environment. It is common that previous interns would become employees to the organization once they have acquired the necessary skills and experience.
Some courses offered in public universities of Malaysia require the student to attend an industrial training program for a minimum ten weeks. This includes, for example, engineering and architecture. However, this period can vary from ten weeks to as long as six months.
In New Zealand, there are a number of colleges where students can undertake an internship whilst studying. Students studying adventure tourism or hospitality management must complete an internship in order to complete their course studies. Most of these internships are paid by the employer.
Students studying for careers in educational psychology in New Zealand must complete a one year Internship - the Internship programme at Massey University for example is a one year post masters Post Graduate Diploma in Educational Psychology and the majority of Internships are carried out on placement with the Ministry of Education. Some funding is available through the Ministry of Education Study Awards program to support Interns in their applied practice. The funds are contestable each year. In 2013 there were 10 study awards each worth NZ$15,000.
Internship in Nigeria is called S.I.W.E.S(Student Industrial Work Experience Scheme) or IT(Industrial Training). Students usually spend six month in their third year for four courses or fourth year for five year courses. Student of Veterinary Medicine usually use their semester break period for IT. This case particular for Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and other universities as well with little or no difference.
Work without pay is inappropriate in Denmark. One way it can be done is as part of a work-trial where a person is tested by the authorities in conjunction with putting the individual back into the workplace.
It is also common within most Danish universities to place students in "free work" jobs. The company is then compensated and the intern receives welfare during this period. This normally lasts about three months. The Danish Trade Unions monitor this type of work very closely so the hiring of an intern does not result in the loss of a paid job.
Students/ citizens of the EEA/EU area can freely move and reside in Denmark under EU rules. If their stay exceeds three months then an application for registration with the Regional State Administration will have to be filed. If the student comes from outside the European Union than the following rules to apply for residence and work permit for an internship apply:
- you must be between 18 and 34 years old (excluded from this are health care students) - the internship must contribute to your studies - the respective internship provide must be able to offer appropriate work - salary and employment conditions must comply with the regulations of the Danish collective agreements - detailed description of the internship and its objective must be handed in with the application
Furthermore there are special rules for agricultural, healthcare and architectural internships.
At French universities, internships, known as “stages”, are common. They occur during the third or fourth year of studies. The duration of French internships varies from 2 to 6 months. As of 1 January 2012 [update], French labor law requires that all internships of 2 months or longer include minimum pay of €436,05 per month. In France, it is also becoming more popular to perform internships after studies are completed.
Internships in France are also popular for international students. The primary reason international students intern in France is to learn to speak French fluently. French companies greatly appreciate employees who speak multiple languages and thus international opportunities are available.
As in most other countries, most students take their internship (German: "Praktikum") between the fourth or fifth semester of their degree at a university of applied sciences. In some fields of study it is common to write the final thesis in a company as part of an internship. Some degrees don't require practical training in order to graduate.
Another type of internship has emerged in recent years is the post graduation internship. The purpose of a post graduation internship is to equip the student with knowledge and tools to be successful in their future position. These post graduation internships should last between six and ten months.
Since the Italian University System entered the Bologna process, an internship experience (commonly referred to by the French term stage ) has been made compulsory for almost all those who are studying for a bachelors or a master's degree (especially in technical, economic or scientific faculties). The goal of this process is to reduce the gap between companies' demands and the often very theoretical learning offered by Italian universities. However, since the internship is usually completed at university as well and since only few companies who employ student interns rarely offer proper training, these internships are generally not considered real work experience. Almost all students therefore have to do a second or a third internship after they have completed their studies, hoping to receive appropriate professional training and possibly getting employed afterward in the same company or in another company in a close or related business.
Italian internships can last up to 6 months can be extended for further 6 months. The total period can be up to 12 months. Internships in Italy can be both paid or unpaid. Students internships, especially the ones not involved with the development of a thesis, are usually not paid.
Almost all the graduate internships are paid, but the remuneration is usually extremely low, around 600 euros gross per month (that is about 1/4 of the gross monthly remuneration of an hired young graduate employee) and without benefits other than lunch and a few paid days for sickness/vacation (so no 13th/14th mensilities, no parental leave etc.). This poses a big problem for graduates, considering as well that some companies use graduate interns just to save money, making them work for 6 to 12 months without giving them a decent remuneration, without offering them proper training/formation, and without hiring them after the internship even if they showed to be productive, fast-learning and trustworthy. In other words, a significant percentage of Italian graduates, after one or even two years from the end of their studies (in some cases even masters studies), are still searching for a real job, that can offer stability and a decent remuneration. This, together with the long time necessary to graduate in Italy, is part of the reason why graduate Italians leave the family home very late, usually in their early 30s.
In order to get an internship, graduates have to go to interviews, which might be held in cities far from the ones in which graduates have been studying.
In the Netherlands it is also common to perform internships during college which, just like in Belgium and France, is called a stage. Most student internships last between 3 and 9 months. Companies are not obligated to pay the student, so sometimes small companies won't pay anything. Unpaid internships are also the de facto standard in education. The normal internship compensation rate in the Netherlands is around €300 per month, depending on education level and company generosity.
At Spanish universities, internship during the education period are uncommon. "Real" work experience for students begins only when they are done with their study.
Some Spanish companies are getting more used to having student internships—mostly these are international students from other European countries. Often, students want to learn Spanish. Placement organizations may be needed as Spanish companies are harder to contact directly. The normal stage compensation rate in Spain is around €500/month. Retribution is regulated in many universities starting from €6/hr. Given these rates, Spanish employers who do hire interns often may be taking advantage of unpaid interships in order to get free labor.
In the United Kingdom, work experience is offered as part of the national curriculum to secondary school students in years 10 and 11. Generally, these placements are unpaid.
During their degree programme, students may apply for internships during the summer holidays. University staff give students access, and students apply direct to employers. Some students opt to apply for year-long placements, often referred to as 'sandwich placements', between the penultimate and final year of their degree. This is done as part of a degree programme. Some universities and employers hold fairs and exhibitions to encourage students to consider the option and to enable students to meet potential employers. In the modern labour market, graduates with internship work experience are deemed more desirable to employers. Research has demonstrated they attain higher level degree classifications than those graduates without such experience.
The purpose of these placements is varied. Some university students see it as a way to develop their employability by utilising the academic elements of their degree in a practical setting. International students may also seek to get understanding about how work is conducted in the English-speaking world and to experience cultural diversity. Organisations such as the Trades Union Congress and Intern Aware have been lobbying for a change in British internships to make interns aware of their employment law rights, especially in relation to whether they are entitled to minimum wage and paid holidays.
The legal status of volunteers and interns is not always clear cut. Various factors will determine whether an individual is classed as an employee, a worker, a volunteer or self-employed and these often require further examination.
In Canada, high school, college, and university student placements are typically referred to as "Co-ops" (co-operative education) programs. University co-op programs are often highly competitive; students must apply to and compete for admission, as enrollment is limited. Partnering employers will post placement opportunities through the university. These positions typically span a four month term taking place either during summer break or during the school year.
While some internships are unpaid (particularly in media, advertising, PR, and communications), there are a few Canadian organizations that do offer paid internships. Not all internships are entry-level positions; organizations may also offer internships for mid-level professionals. For example, in the province of Ontario, paid internships are available for immigrants who have extensive experience in other countries but lack relevant Canadian experience.
The nature and scope of unpaid internships in Canada is difficult to estimate. This is in part because there are no written regulations defining internships directly. Minimum wage for labour is covered by employment standards legislation and is governed at the provincial level. Ontario provides for a 6-point test to be applied to determine if an employee-employer relationship does not exist, where all of the conditions must be met:
Many internships in the United States are career specific. Students often choose internships based on their major at the university/college level. It is not uncommon for former interns to acquire full-time employment at an organization once they have enough necessary experience. The challenging job market has made it essential for college students to gain real world experience prior to graduation. Yet, only 37% of unpaid interns have job offers awaiting them at graduation compared to 60% of paid interns and 36% of students with no internship experience. In the US, company internships are at the center of NIGMS funded biotechnology training programs for science PhD students. One example is the Biotechnology Training Program - University of Virginia.
Not all internships are paid. Many internships that are unpaid involve receiving college credit, especially if an internship is correlated with a specific class. The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division allows an employer not to pay a trainee if all of the following are true:
An exception is allowed for individuals who volunteer their time, freely and without anticipation of compensation for religious, charitable, civic, or humanitarian purposes to non-profit organizations. An exception is also allowed for work performed for a state or local government agency.
Some states have their own laws on the subject. Laws in the state of California, for example, require an employer to pay its interns working in California unless the intern receives college credit for the labor.
Internships in Brazil are known as estágios (lit. "stages") and internship workers are known as estagiários. They are regulated by the Lei do Estágio ("Law of Internship"). This law demands that companies pay a monthly income, although some internships are unpaid. It also requires that companies provide Personal Injury Service. The Lei do Estágio further stipulates a 30-hour limit of hours worked per week, which is normally divided into six hours per day from Monday to Friday. Estagiários have the right to 30 days of paid holiday for each year worked.