Experience is the #1 thing that employers seek in qualified candidates. “Experiential education” (internships, cooperative education, significant volunteer experience, etc.) provides a glimpse into the world of work, allowing you to apply what you have learned in class and enabling you to build relationships with current professionals in a field of interest. UNC Charlotte and the University Career Center provide several avenues for you to pursue experiential education opportunities. Depending upon your major and the industry you are interested in working in you may select to pursue internships, cooperative education, practicum experiences, clinicals or student teaching.
In today’s competitive job market, an internship is just one more step in creating a well-rounded portfolio of experiences that will give you a competitive edge in the job market. Internships or other relevant work experience have the following benefits:
- Gaining new skills and professional contacts in the world of work
- Exploring career interests without making a long-term commitment to a position or field
- Clarifying your interests, skills, and career goals
- Establishing a relationship with your supervisor who may serve as an important professional reference when you begin a job search or who may be inclined to hire you at that company after a successful internship experience.
- Applying classroom knowledge to the workplace which may, in turn, shape your course of study.
UNC Charlotte broadly defines an internship as a work experience in a professional setting that is an extension of the academic experience.
Internships may be obtained through an established internship program or something that the student and the employer create together to fit the student’s skills and interests and the employer’s specific needs. Internships may be paid or unpaid and can vary in number of hours worked to accommodate the needs of both the student and employer. Employers are encouraged to consider students' academic schedules if they are participating in internships while still taking classes. Internships submitted solely as work experiences may vary in hours and length or duration. Some students seek academic credit for internships; academic departments often require that internships be a maximum of 20 hours a week during the Fall/Spring up to 40 hours a week in the Summer and are a semester in length. It is the responsibility of the student to submit the internship to the appropriate academic contact if they intend to seek academic credit.
The University Career Center reviews all internship postings to ensure they meet the criteria. Curated internships are reviewed by Symplicity Recruit, the CSM vendor for the career center. Students should do their due diligence in researching organizations. The positions provide a Job Link to apply. Unpaid internships must meet all of the Fair Labor Standards Act requirements.
A combination of goal-setting, training, supervision, and evaluation should be defined and agreed upon by all parties: the student, the employer, and a university faculty/staff administrator, especially if academic credit is involved.
A Co-Op is typically a full-time, paid position within a company or organization that spans over the course of multiple semesters. There will usually be more training and higher levels of responsibility than with an internship. UNC Charlotte’s Co-op requires students and employers to submit formal evaluations and the semester in which the student returns to campus they must do a presentation of their experience to faculty advisers. Co-ops require students commit to multiple periods of work. The typical program plan is for students to alternate terms of full-time classroom study with terms of full-time, discipline-related employment. Since program participation involves multiple work terms, the typical participant will work three or four work terms, thus gaining a year or more of career-related work experience before graduation. Virtually all co-op positions are paid and the vast majority involve some form of academic credit.
UPIP is an on-campus program that provides internships in professional roles to sophomores, juniors, and seniors who are seeking their first bachelor’s degree and are in good standing with the university. This program is a great way to learn more about potential career paths while adding value to various departments across campus.
Students from all majors can execute professional assignments to build and demonstrate skills while exploring a variety of career paths through micro-internships.
Micro-Internships are short-term, paid, professional assignments that are similar to those given to new hires or interns. These projects enable Career Launchers to demonstrate skills, explore career paths, and build their networks as they seek the right full-time role. Unlike traditional internships, Micro-Internships can take place year-round, typically range from 5 to 40 hours of work, and are due between one week and one month after kick-off.
Realize your potential to impact the environment and community through the power of social action, responsible citizenship, and volunteerism.
Government, education, and nonprofit organizations interact with UNC Charlotte to provide students with opportunities to give back to their community in a variety of ways. Use this experience to learn about industries, topics of interest, and career directions. These opportunities also provide new skills, experiences, and knowledge that could be leveraged towards full-time work and graduate programs.
Prepare for graduate school or for a career in a research-intensive field by working with a faculty member on a research project. Gain experience with developing research questions, designing methodology and writing research results while contributing to the growth of knowledge in an area of study that is of interest to you.
Get started by talking with your academic program director (graduate students) or by joining one of the programs offered by the Office of Undergraduate Research (undergraduates).
If you have any concerns or questions about your experiential education experience (Internship, Co-op, CPT, etc.), please contact Patrick Madsen, Associate Dean for Experiential Education, at firstname.lastname@example.org.