Internship Best Practices

Are you designing an internship course or want to benchmark your existing course against best practices happening on UI’s campus or beyond?  Consider these items related to course best practices, student safety resources, and educating yourself about the field.  

Course Best Practices

Experience Approval

  • Students receive academic credit for coursework not just hours worked at a site
  • A robust internship is not simply about the total hours worked, but also the length of exposure to the site in order to provide the student an in-depth experience. Typical internships are 8 – 12 weeks long and at least 10 hours per week.
  • Include some type of intern agreement, which entails documenting when and where the student will be working, job duties and a section that includes student-friendly information about liability, safety, & worker’s compensation.  
  • The intern agreement can be a paper or electronic form that the student also asks the supervisor to sign.  This ensures that the supervisor understands the student registered for a course related to the experience and verifies work dates and duties.
  • Potentially ask the student for an offer letter to have on file; this is not mandatory and can open the door to also receiving contracts, non-competes, or other legal documents that you may not want access to.
  • If the site will have multiple University of Iowa interns and is a site that is repeated over multiple semesters, then work with the Office of General Counsel to create an official Affiliation Agreement, which establishes a legal relationship with the organization.

Course Content

Basics (all academic internship courses should include these)

  • Students set learning objectives or goals and share them with supervisor
  • Journals or other reflective writing assignments with prompts provided
  • Student self-evaluation and employer evaluation of the student are completed and then discussed together by student & supervisor
  • Student evaluates the employer for the course instructor

Advanced (these depend on the size of the course, number of credit hours, and instructor time)

  • General professional skills readings & discussion boards on ICON
  • Field-specific readings & discussion boards on ICON
  • Updates to resumes, Linked In, or work sample portfolios
  • Informational Interviews with professionals at the work site
  • Final papers, projects, or presentations that synthesize self-reflection, content, and skills learned from the site
  • A mid-term check-in visit or phone call by the instructor,  or an end of experience visit for intern presentations at organizations that have large, structured programs

Resources for Safety

While the main relationship should be between the employer and intern, instructors may hear of situations where they need to help students navigate resources to address a situation.   To help address this early on, the University of Iowa advocates for the inclusion of safety in your intern agreement, syllabus, and course content. 

Example language for an internship agreement: 

Syllabus Additions: 

Understanding Sexual Harassment [mandated inclusion already]

Sexual harassment subverts the mission of the University and threatens the well-being of students, faculty, and staff. All members of the UI community have a responsibility to uphold this mission and to contribute to a safe environment that enhances learning, incidents of sexual harassment should be reported immediately even if they are uncertain whether a violation of this policy has occurred. See the UI Comprehensive Guide on Sexual Harassment (Operations Manual: for assistance, definitions, and the full University policy.

Safety at your Internship

If the behavior or language of your co-workers, supervisors, or clients makes you uncomfortable at your internship, talk to the human resources representative at the organization.  If there is not a human resources person at your internship, you do not feel comfortable talking to them, or you want additional help, do not hesitate to reach out for guidance from campus representatives. Although we cannot control the internship experience, some behaviors are unacceptable.  Discrimination, harassment, aggression and illegal behavior do not belong in the workplace. If you are concerned for your safety or emotional wellbeing, do not hesitate to reach out.  Please see the “Safety at Your Internship” handout on ICON. 

Evaluation Additions:

  • Is there anything else you want the instructor to know about your experience?
  • Is there anything you would like to share that will help future interns at this site? 
  • I would like my instructor to contact me about a specific concern.


Course Content:

Include PDF icon“Safety at Your Internship” handout and/or link to this page on your ICON site.


Educate Yourself

As an instructor, here are resources to help you learn more about harassment and internships. The National Association of Colleges and Employers is also a resource to help you understand employer best practices regarding internships and hiring. 

Reports & Industry Articles:


Power to the Interns: The Student View

Power to the Interns: The University View

Power to the Interns: The Employer View

Equality in the Newsroom: Ending Sexual Harassment & Redefining Respect