Internship Guidelines

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The USC Marshall School of Business strongly encourages undergraduate students to participate in professional internships during their time at USC. During the last academic year, 88% of undergraduate students had at least one internship during their time at USC and many students had more than one (for example, 46% of students had three or more internships).  Internships give students practical training, exposure to an industry, the opportunity to develop new skills, and help students with their overall personal and professional growth. 

If you are thinking about hiring a USC Marshall undergraduate student for an internship at your company, we encourage you to review this document in order to develop an internship experience that will be mutually beneficial for both you and your student intern.

Qualifications for posting positions on Marshall Career Source

Internship positions posted to the Marshall Career Source must provide legitimate work or training experiences that further the educational mission of USC Marshall.  Postings must refer to a specific position to be filled. 

  • Postings that refer to multiple positions or general hiring announcements will not be approved. 
  • Postings that require up-front payment for proprietary training through the organization will not be approved. 
  • Postings that require donations, application fees, investments or items or services for sale will not be approved. 
  • Third-party employers may post internships, but the name of the company and description of the open position must be clearly and accurately stated. 
  • Postings that are commission based will not be approved.
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Leveraging On-Campus Recruiting

On-Campus Recruiting (OCR) is managed through the USC Career Center, and includes all company information sessions and on-campus interviews. OCR can be a valuable way for many employers to screen candidates, and is open to organizations actively recruiting for paid, structured internship opportunities.  Students who participate in OCR are required to sign an OCR contract, which can provide an additional level of accountability and allows the USC Career Center to take action should a student renege an offer.  For questions regarding OCR, please email ocr@usc.edu.

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Internship Best Practices

We fully expect internship employers to provide our students with professional training, ongoing guidance and support, and timely feedback/evaluations by the employer’s internship coordinator.  The internship coordinator should also provide interns with a clear understanding of their job duties, responsibilities, and expected results.

The USC Career Center has a guide to creating effective internships that can be found on their website.  We encourage employers to familiarize themselves with this guide, as well as keep the following information in mind.  We have found that students are attracted to internship opportunities that provide them with:

  • appropriate levels of guidance and direction
  • project-based work with opportunities for relevant, business-oriented skill development
  • regular conversations with a supervisor, including opportunities to receive feedback for improvement
  • opportunities to learn about broader business operations through informational interviews, shadowing, etc.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) provides additional guidance regarding internship best practices.

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Considerations for Unpaid Internships

We realize that internships come in many different varieties, but our hope is that employers will always financially compensate interns for their work through an hourly rate of pay, weekly or monthly stipend, or provide tuition-assistance in lieu of direct pay when possible.  We strongly encourage job-related incidentals (e.g., parking) to be paid for by the employer, especially when it is an unpaid position.

If the employer is unable to pay interns, they must abide by the standard set forth under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a federal law established by the U.S. Department of Labor.  It is strongly suggested that unpaid interns work a maximum of 10-15 hours per week during the academic year and less than 30 hours per week during the summer term.  Expectations regarding hours should be discussed and agreed upon by the employer and intern before the internship begins. Students may enroll in BUAD 495 to receive academic credit for an internship.

We strongly encourage all employers to check with their Human Resources or Legal Departments to fully understand their organization’s policies on hiring unpaid interns prior to advertising and filling a job opening. 

If the employer requires an intern to receive concurrent academic credit for an unpaid internship, they should make reasonable accommodations so the student can attend class or complete assignments as needed.

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Fair Labor Standards Act

Pursuant to FLSA, the U.S. Department of Labor has outlined six criteria for differentiating between an employee entitled to financial compensation and a learner/trainee who may be unpaid. The criteria for learner/trainee are:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operations of the facilities of the employers, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school.
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the student.
  3. The intern does not displace a regular employee, but works under the close observation of a regular employee or supervisor.
  4. The employer provides the training and derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion, the operations may actually be impeded.
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period.
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent training.

It is important to note that all six factors must be satisfied for the individual to be considered a trainee.  Therefore, the experience should look more like a training/learning experience than a job.

Source: NACE Position Paper on U.S. Internships

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Screening Guidelines for Internship Sites

If an unpaid internship is being contemplated by an employer, they should be able to answer “yes” to at least half of the following questions to determine if an unpaid internship is feasible:

  1. Is the work that you are offering an integral part of the student’s course of study?                    
  2. Will the student receive academic credit for the work or is the internship required for graduation?
  3. Does the student have to prepare a report of his/her experience and submit it to a faculty supervisor?
  4. Have you received a letter or some other form of written documentation from the school stating that the internship is approved/sponsored by the school as educationally relevant?
  5. Will the student perform work that other employees also perform, with the student doing the work for the purpose of learning and not necessarily performing a task for the employer?
  6. Is the student working and providing benefit to you less than 50 percent of the time and/or is the student in a shadowing/learning mode?
  7. Will you provide an opportunity for the individual to learn a skill, process, or other business function, or operate equipment?
  8. Is there educational value to the work performed? That is, is it related to the courses the person is taking in school?
  9. Is the individual supervised by one of your staff members?
  10. Is it clear that a job is not guaranteed upon completion of the training or completion of the person’s schooling?

Source: Rochelle K. Kaplan, Legal Counsel, National Association of Colleges and Employers, 62 Highland Ave., Bethlehem, PA 18017, (800) 544-5272 Ext. 10

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Ethical Considerations for Internships

The USC Marshall School of Business and the USC Career Center expect employers to act in accordance with federal and state labor laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act. 

Unpaid interns should never be treated as, or considered “free labor,” and they should be given clear and challenging tasks with training, support, guidance, and feedback from the employer to ensure successful learning and task completion.  The USC Career Center and the Marshall School of Business will take swift action if an intern expresses concern over the professional nature of their internship, which could result in denying recruiting access to an employer.

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Contact Information

Marshall Undergraduate Career Services
USC Marshall School of Business
Fertitta Hall 201
Los Angeles, CA 90089

Phone: 213.740.5705
Email: ugcareers@marshall.usc.edu

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