Q&A: Are There Online Internships?

Question: I am thinking of doing my graduate program online. Do online schools offer internships or practicums? If so, how does this work?

Answer: Online schools do offer both internships and practicums. However, there is a difference between the two. An internship is field experience that students can receive credit for. A practicum could be based on field experience or research. However, practicums are typically required for specific fields and usually are shorter in length than an internship. Additionally, practicums are usually unpaid while internships could include financial compensation. If so, this is an arrangement between the student and employer and schools usually do not get involved with this aspect of the internship.

Most schools provides steps for obtaining an internship. For example, schools might provide students with a list of organizations or companies allowed; the expected student responsibilities; on-site supervisor responsibilities; and the number of hours required. Just the same as a "ground" class, these internships often require you to submit assignments relevant to your internship experience. Some internships are shorter than others but this can depend on your field of study. You may find a longer internship means you may have more than one instructor.

Both internships and practicums are also supervised by a faculty member or school advisor. Depending on the program, you may have an internship or practicum class that meets regularly. During class, this is a good time to ask questions, address concerns or barriers, hear about experiences from your peers, and discuss positive learning moments, as well.

If a program of study requires an internship or practicum, this means that one or both need to be completed in order to graduate. Students may encounter barriers in securing or completing these obligations: finding a site, securing a site supervisor, managing your personal, academic and internship/practicum schedules, and completing your hours in time are examples.

To avoid these barriers, meet with your academic advisor three to six months ahead of time. This gives you enough time to secure a position. Also, ask your professors or academic advisor to help you compile a list of questions about the internship or practicum position. Taking these few steps will hopefully lead to a successful internship and/or practicum experience.

Beverly Browning

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning (Dr. Bev) has been a higher education adjunct faculty member for over 25 years. She has taught in the classroom and online for multiple colleges and universities including the University of Phoenix, Spring Arbor College, Baker College of Flint, Mott Community College, and Rio Salado College. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Spring Arbor College and Mott Community College. She is currently an online instructor for ed2go.com (Cengage Learning). In addition to founding and directing the Grant Writing Training Foundation, Dr. Bev is also Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis, Inc. She is the author over over 37 grant-related publications and a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter for national and regional conferences. Dr. Bev is a product of lifelong learning and an advocate for online teaching and learning!