4 Facts About Internships for Online Bachelor's Students


Prospective online undergrads should consider whether a program allows students to intern near home, experts say.

For many college students, internships are an opportunity to translate what they learn in class into real-world experience.

That's what prompted Ashley Armstrong, who earned her bachelor's degree online in 2016 from Colorado State University—Global Campus, to intern for credit – at a nonprofit that provides long-term care services – alongside her classes.

"Not only have you learned about it – you're now actually getting an opportunity to see what that looks like on the inside of working," says the 30-year-old, who's now pursuing her master's at the school. "It really reinforces what your education is doing for you."

But Armstrong, who studied business management, was also working full time as an accountant. Luckily, she says, her employer was flexible with her schedule during the eight-week term, permitting her to complete some work at home. She interned twice a week.

Armstrong's internship wasn't required – though whether that's the case varies among online bachelor's programs, and something prospective online students might determine before enrolling. Experts say internships can be good opportunities for online students, who often aim to switch fields or advance professionally.

"It's a kind of professional training that can be very difficult to get in classes," says Michael Weigold, director of online programs for the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida, where online bachelor's students majoring in public relations must complete internships.

But the internship experience differs for online and on-ground students. Here are four facts prospective online students should know about interning as an undergraduate before selecting a program.

1. Many online students intern near home. Though some online students live far away from their institution's campus, they might be allowed to find opportunities in their own communities.

"That becomes a real benefit to the experience because these students are building those networks in the community that they're ultimately going to work in," says Shannon Corkery, director of human development and family studies online programs at Pennsylvania State University—World Campus, which has a required internship component for bachelor's students.

It's also not uncommon for online students to find internships with their current employer in a different department. Cecelia Hart, a 2016 graduate from the Penn State—World Campus bachelor's program, worked as a full-time teacher with some administrative duties. For her internship, she trained as an executive director at her school one summer, before being hired for that role full time.

"I learned more about the budgeting of the program, the business end. I kind of got my feet wet in staffing issues," the 30-year-old says.

At UF Online, public relations students will also be allowed to complete virtual internships remotely, Weigold says – another option to consider asking about.

2. Online students who intern will need to modify their weekly schedules. Time management is often already a challenge for online students juggling work and school. Add an internship into the mix, and that becomes even more difficult.

"That is something that they would have to understand going in – that they're going to have now an entirely different set of commitments," says Jon Bellum, provost and executive vice president of CSU—Global Campus.

As a solution, online students might check with their employer about whether they can tweak their work schedule to meet their needs, experts say.

Interning where they currently work might make that process easier, Bellum says.

In the University of Central Florida's online bachelor's program in health services administration, some students sacrifice work vacation days to complete the required internship hours over three weeks, says Reid Oetjen, chair of the school's health management and informatics department. Others, he says, complete their hours gradually over a semester, possibly even during weekends.

3. Some online programs offer credit for internships, but requirements vary. Prospective online students should determine whether the experience will count toward their degree, Bellum says.

That's particularly important for those who work and want to complete their degree as quickly as possible, especially as they balance multiple obligations.

If credit is awarded, a program might require students to enroll in a certain online course to help them find the right internship and address potential challenges; that's the case in Penn State—World Campus' human development and family studies program.

In the UCF health services administration program, online student interns are regularly assessed by their employer and ultimately submit relevant projects for review, Oetjen says.

4. Previous work experience will help you succeed. Already having work experience might allow an online student to more easily attain an internship, whether that's through the job connections they developed during their career or by interning at their current company, experts say.

And, Oetjen says, it can also increase the likelihood of success. An internship may even turn into a full-time job.

"It only benefits them, because they understand what the needs of the working world are," he says.


By Jordan Friedman

Source: usnews.com