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What is an Internship?

An internship is a chance for students to (1) apply their academic studies to hands-on situations and (2) obtain supervised, professional experience in a setting outside the University. Specific workplaces, such as zoos and aquaria, businesses, and government agencies offer internships to students (typically upper-level students) in the process of earning a college degree. Some internships are paid, but most are volunteer positions. 

Interns are supervised and mentored by experienced staff of a host organization while they perform the job duties of a professional. Host institution staff may serve as role models, helping students to learn the ins-and-outs of both job responsibilities and professional behavior. An intern's performance is evaluated by their supervisor at least once during an internship.

Interns work hard, think, exchange ideas and, in general, contribute. A student should complete their internship duties with initiative, motivation, enthusiasm, display reliability, professionalism, and a true eagerness to learn from experience.

Full-time internship positions are typically 40 hours per week for a full semester. As a result, internships typically aren't completed while taking other courses.

Why is an Internship Important?

In addition to a college degree, most employers want job applicants to have relevant career-related experience. Internships are a great way to gain that experience. An internship program gives students the opportunity to perform the job duties of a professional, learn specialized skills, network, and explore a potential career.

Our Internship Program

We have one of the largest and most successful internships in the College of Natural Science. Each summer, over 50 students participate in internships in zoos, public aquariums, environmental education centers, and research labs, for a total of over 700 students since 1998. This program has received extraordinarily high praise from both from the institutions that host our interns and from the students themselves, who see this as an excellent stepping-stone toward careers in zoology-related fields.

Are Internships Completed for Course Credit?

Students participating in internships can apply for MSU credit. In order to earn IBIO internship credit (4 credits), students must commit to a minimum of 40 hours per week for a full semester. The final grade will be based on both a daily written journal and written results from a project conducted at the host institution or facility.

Credit is not granted automatically. If you choose to receive credit, you must follow the established application procedure before that semester begins. Credit is never awarded for an experience after the fact.

Students Must Apply for Course Credit If:

  • Your degree program lists an internship experience as a specific requirement.
  • If your host institution requires internship participants to be enrolled in an internship course that semester. 

If neither of the above applies to you, it is your choice whether or not to pay for the course credit. If you do decide to apply to receive credit while you are completing an internship, you will pay MSU for a precise number of credits in a specific course that will appear on your transcript.

How do I Find an Internship?

1. Identify what skills you want to gain from this experience

2. Search for a placement

Some companies or agencies, such as zoos or environmental organizations, may only use their own websites to list internship opportunities for a short period of time.  

Other possible internship locations might be listed on the individual websites for:

  • Hospital laboratories
  • Foundations (Examples: Heart; Lung; Cancer)
  • Businesses (Examples: Eli Lilly; Parke-Davis)
  • State Health laboratories
  • DNR research laboratories
  • National parks (some parks use their own websites, others use the Student Conservation Association (link is above))
  • Federal government (Examples: National Marine Fisheries; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
  • Private institutes
  • Federal institutes (Example: NIH)

Another place to find companies or agencies like these is Handshake, a modern career development tool used by MSU. 

Assemble a group of job posting websites that you will check every week to see what new posts have been made.

3. Apply to the positions you selected

Intern Expectations

Interns are expected to:

  • Commit to a minimum of 40 hours per week for a full semester 
  • Perform job duties alongside professionals from that organization
  • Bring a high degree of responsibility to the workplace 
  • Share academic knowledge

The host institution or facility expects the intern to comply with the instructions of its staff and to follow all employee rules while working on-site. Interns must arrive on time on days they are scheduled to work or use the proper institution procedures if an absence is necessary. Interns are expected to complete tasks in a professional and timely manner and demonstrate initiative and responsibility.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that your internship is like a job interview. Recommendations and input from your supervisors can prove to be invaluable when you are looking for a job. Therefore, it is always important to follow directions closely, treat everyone with respect, and ask for help if needed.

Housing Accommodations

Some institutions offer housing or a stipend to cover the costs of housing, but often students need to find their own housing accommodations. 

Learn More

For more information about internships, schedule an advising appointment with your Department of Integrative Biology advisor.