FAQs about Internships for Academic Credit
Below you will find any and all information regarding internships for academic credit. If you have any additional questions that aren't on this page, feel free to contact Career Services.
- What is an internship?
Cooperative Education (Co-op) is an educational plan designed to integrate classroom study with planned, supervised, and evaluated work experience that links the academic program with students' career goals and interests. It offers undergraduate and graduate students a unique opportunity to combine career, social, and personal growth with the educational process. Students can do internships on their own for no credit. In this section we are talking about doing internships for academic credit.
The Cooperative Education / Internship work experience may be full-time or part-time, on- or off-campus, and be paid or unpaid. Central's program uses the terms "cooperative education" and "internship" almost interchangeably. These refer to pre-approved work-experiences that pair hands-on work in the field with a specific course and pre-approved academic assignments/objectives to count for academic credits.
To qualify as a cooperative education/internship experience, a position must offer the 6 essential elements below:
- Hands-on work with increasing levels of responsibility for the student.
- The work experience should challenge the student sufficiently to be worthy of university-level credit.
- There is a coordination and supervision of the student efforts by a faculty advisor.
- There is a means of evaluating the student.
- The work relates to the student's academic major and/or career goal.
- Must be a future or current work experience (cannot retroactively count positions or hours completed prior for credits).
- Who is eligible for an internship?
- Who needs an internship; do I need an internship?
Internships are consistently listed among the top factors that employers look at when hiring recent graduates and can be an extremely effective way for students of any major to jumpstart their career or professional development. While only some CWU programs require internships, all students who are able to are encouraged to do one or more internships during their program.
Speak with your faculty or academic advisor to get additional information about your department's specific internship requirements, restrictions, or current opportunities.
- How do I get an internship?
Students generally find internships much like they would any other type of job or employment opportunity and can use Career Services, the Wildcat Career Network, or various public job boards to explore opportunities. Once a suitable internship opportunity is located, a student could then complete the internship application to have the requested experience reviewed and approved by their department and the the Career Services office. If approved, the student would be registered in 290, 490 or 590 course depending on their class level and the nature of the internship. Once registered, the student would be expected to complete the internship hours and academic requirements as outlined in the application/agreement process in order to receive a "satisfactory" grade in the course.
A Co-op 290 course is intended for students who have not declared a major, are interested in career exploration, or otherwise do not qualify for the 490 level. Co-op 290 is offered for 1 to 5 credits with a maximum of 10 credits. Students need to have completed a minimum of 45 credits before the internship begins; 15 have to be through CWU prior to the internship.
A Co-op 490 course allows 1 to 12 credits per experience with a maximum of 20 credits to apply toward graduation. The 490 level is specific to the major and students must qualify according to university and department requirements. Students need to have completed a minimum of 90 credits (including any transferred credits) before the internship begins; 15 of those completed credits have to be through CWU prior to the internship.
A Co-op 590 course is intended for graduate-level students and 1 to 8 credits are allowed with a maximum of 8 applied toward a graduate degree. Students at this level are usually on an "as arranged" basis with their advisor and their program outline.
- Where do I look for an internship?
Students can check listings in the Wildcat Career Network by logging in via their MyCWU dashboard. For further assistance, read these tips for finding internships.
- How will my financial aid be affected?
Students receiving financial aid must check with the Financial Aid Office prior to accepting a paid placement. A paid placement could impact future financial aid award amounts or eligibility.
If the student is receiving financial aid, Federal Law requires that any income be declared. If the student is employed and completes a W-4 form, this reporting will occur through regular employment withholding and a W-2 form at tax time. If the student does not complete a W-4 form for the employer, they must declare their income with the Financial Aid Office through a specific form that is available from the Financial Aid Office.
Students receiving financial aid must be sure their academic responsibilities for their co-op experience are completed as agreed on the learning agreement. Any student with an incomplete or in-progress grade at the time of financial aid awards for the next quarter jeopardizes their position to receive their financial aid. Upon completion of any outstanding hours or assignments, students with an IP grade should follow-up with their Internship Faculty Advisor to request that their grade is updated.
If an internship extends past the end of the quarter, the student should be assigned an In-Progress (IP) grade until the internship hours are completed. Student with an IP grade will need to ensure to complete the outstanding requirements before financial awards for the next quarter or risk jeopardizing your financial aid.
- How is an internship graded?
Internships are graded as Satisfactory (S) or Unsatisfactory (U). The final grade will be assigned by the internship faculty advisor and is based on the number of hours completed, course assignments and activities, and the intern evaluations provided by the site supervisor. Internships that span beyond the length of the quarter should be assigned an In-Progress (IP) grade until the remaining hours and assignments are complete.
- Do I need health insurance during my internship?
Health insurance is the responsibility of the student, and if not provided by the employing agency, should be purchased individually. In most instances, the group coverage for students available through CWU will provide adequate coverage; however, the student is advised to consider the level of coverage and the exclusions of the policy which may apply to unique co-op agencies, and to seek supplemental independent coverage, if necessary.
- Do I need to buy liability insurance? Where do I get It? What is the difference between Medical and Non-Medical Liability Insurance?
Yes, all students completing internships at CWU are required to purchase one of the two liability insurance options below. The type of liability insurance required depends on if the internship will be occurring in a medical setting or a non-medical setting. Students may use the links below to purchase the insurance that best fits their specific internship needs.
Medical Liability Insurance: For internships that take place in medical settings such as clinics, hospitals, medical labs, or similar roles/facilities.
Non-Medical Liability Insurance: This is for all other internships that are not taking place in a medical setting.
- Where do I find the Internship Application (Learning Agreement)
All internship applications will be completed via the online application found in the Wildcat Career Network. Login to your account (all current students should login via their MyCWU dashboard) then use the left tab to select the "Internship & Cooperative Education" tab. Once the tab has been selected, a page will appear listing your past, current, and draft internship applications. You can edit/review any existing application displayed or click the black "New" button to begin a new application.
Students are also encouraged to view the full step-by-step guide to this process for additional information.
- Where are the Internship Evaluation forms?
Internship evaluations will be sent to both the student and the supervisor via a system email from "email@example.com". The student will get an evaluation near the end of their internship. The site supervisor will receive email evaluations around the middle and end of the internship.
If you or your supervisor have not received your internship evaluation emails, please email Career Services so that we may follow-up as needed.
- When in the quarter can I apply for an internship?
Student can apply for an internship at any point in the term provided all of the following criteria can be met:
- The student is able to complete the required academic activities and hours as needed for the requested credits within the time remaining in the quarter after their approval. Activities completed prior to or during the approval process would not be applicable.
- The department approves of the internship plan and demonstrates this by providing a faculty advisor and signing the internship learning agreement when provided
- The internship passes the standard application and approval process in time before the end of the quarter in which it is being requested.
Note that internship registrations occurring after that standard add/drop deadline for a quarter will be subject to the standard late registration fees and may not be applicable for financial aid. Students should speak with the cwu cashiers office or student financial aid offices for additional details on these topics.
- What happens if an internship starts before the quarter has started?
Students can begin completing activities or accumulating hours towards a given term as soon as all required internship stakeholders have authorized the learning agreement. If all parties have authorized the internship learning agreement, a student could potentially begin work activities before the start of the quarter in order to have them applied towards credit for the approved term to follow provided most or a portion of the work will occur during that term.
Alternatively, some students may opt to begin their industry work/industry roles in advance of their formal university “Cooperative Learning Internship Course”. In these cases, any work hours or activities completed prior to the internship agreement process or beyond the scope of the internship learning agreement would be considered outside the oversight of the university and could not be applied towards academic credits.
Important Note for International Students: Some work visas may place additional restrictions and requirements that can impact potential start dates or work authorizations. Please speak with the campus international student office about your internship or work plans.
- What happens if an internship ends before the end of the quarter?
CWU internships are a course like any other within CWU and generally need to fit within a standard quarter calendar. It is common however for industry “Internships” or positions to extend beyond these academic quarters. In such situations students have the following options:
Option A) Enroll for multiple quarters. Students can request a new internship course enrollment for each term they intend to continue the work experience. Each quarter they could clone their prior internship application and update it to reflect the new dates, hours, or goals they intend to complete during the coming term.
In this instance, for example, a 9-month work experience could be broken up into three quarters of “Cooperative Learning Internship” courses.
Option B) Only request credit for a portion of the experience. Industry work roles (sometimes called “Internships”) and CWU internship courses (“Cooperative Learning Internships”) rarely perfectly align. Students often begin work before or continue work after their formal internship course period. In these instances, any work activities that fall outside the scope of an approved learning agreement would not be subject to university oversight or applicable for course credits. A student working in a 9-month industry internship might, for example, only enroll in a cooperative learning/internship-for-credit course for just one quarter. In this instance, only the hours completed during that quarter and outlined in the learning agreement would be counted towards internship credits. Any other continued or prior activities, would be seen as arrangements between the employer and student outside the scope of university oversight or affiliation.
Important Note: Students planning to work using an international work visa may have additional restrictions in terms of thier intended internship or start dates and should speak with the internationl student office for addition information.
Option C) InProgress (IP) Grade: Is some rare instances and with department approval, a student may be able to obtain an IP grade in order to allow additional time to complete activities after the standard quarter grading deadline has passed. In such instances, a student woud be issued an IP grade by the department until the outstanding work was completed. Once it was completed, a finalized course grade would be in place of the IP. A student who has just a few needed hours remaining at the end of the quarter, for example, might make arrangements to take an IP grade for a week after the grading deadline while the last of the planned hours are completed. Once they completed the needed activities, their faculty advisor could then input their updated grade before the start of the next term.
Important Note: An unresolved IP grade can impact registration, graduation, and financial aid timelines if left unresolved by the start of the following term. Because of these risks, this approach is only advised in limited circumstances and primarily when the student only needs an additional 1-2 weeks to complete the required activities.
- Are internships different for international students?
International students follow the same internship process as all students at CWU but may be subject to additional work authorization restrictions or requirements. Students should speak with the international student office about their internship plans or learn more about any relevant work restrictions. Students intending to complete internship activities using a CPT work authorization should note that they cannot begin work activities until the international student office has signed off on their work authorization. This sign-off process will occur at the end of the internship agreement authorization process and can take some time. Students should allow 2-3 weeks to complete the full internship authorization and review process when selecting their start dates or filling out internship application materials. Note that the international student office cannot sign any agreement with past dates so it is important to allow time for the internship learning agreement routing process and to follow up regularly as deadlines approach.
This page contains links to websites outside of www.cwu.edu. The views and opinions expressed on unofficial pages of Central Washington University faculty, staff or students are strictly those of the page authors. The content of such pages has not been reviewed or approved by Central Washington University.