Internships, Credit for


Internships for undergraduates at Duke University are work experiences that allow them to sample professional environments in which they might seek careers or which might give them experience that will help prepare them for careers. Internships may be paid or unpaid, academic or non-academic, university-sponsored or independent. Since internships may take place outside the university environment, Duke has no blanket policy on them. It does, however, take a variety of positions on different kinds of internships, depending on their purpose and sponsorship.

Duke encourages and supports internships that are required or recommended components of disciplinary curricula. Departments and programs establish their own criteria for such internships and the academic credit that may be earned for participation. Recognizing the value of this kind of experience, the university attempts to facilitate student participation in these internships.

Duke also encourages and supports internships that may result in academic credit, even though the internship is not required or even formally sanctioned by a department or program. Most often these internships entail independent or directed study in which the student collaborates with a faculty member to distill from an internship a certifiable academic experience that qualifies for course credit within the faculty member’s department or program. The faculty member is the sole judge of the work necessary to meet these course requirements. Students will normally find appropriate faculty members for such collaboration within their major department, most often those with whom they have already done coursework or a faculty member who has an interest in the topic to be considered. However,  it is also possible to identify and solicit faculty members in non-major fields. The sole criterion is that the faculty member finds the independent or directed study to be sound academically and that the faculty member is willing to work with the student to achieve the goals of the course they design.  In recent years, the Writing Program has also offered an online course, Writing 270: Composing the Experience, intended for students participating in an internship.

Duke University, primarily through the Career Center, also provides support to students who desire internships in order to build experience and skills while exploring career options. Such internships will not receive credit unless a Duke faculty member has agreed to award independent study credit for academic work arising out of the internship, using the model noted in the previous paragraph. Career advisors assist students in identifying and preparing for internships. Databases of existing internships, some of which are targeted specifically towards Duke students, are available. Students who have particular learning goals for internships can receive help from Career Center advisors in developing their own internships with organizations nationwide. Except for internship programs sponsored by the Career Center, Duke does not sponsor or endorse non-academic internships. It does, however, acknowledge the strong value of experiential education through internships and will attempt to help students find and participate in them.

Procedure for Earning Course Credit

In order to earn course credit, internships must:

  • Include an academic course of instruction as a component
  • Be offered under the auspices of an academic unit in Trinity College
  • Be sponsored by a departmental/program faculty member
  • Be approved by the director of undergraduate studies.
  • Be an unpaid internship; it is a longstanding policy in Trinity College that students may not receive academic credit for work (e.g., in a lab, an internship etc.) for which they receive monetary compensation.

Internships typically draw upon work experience as a way to investigate a research problem from one or more intellectual/disciplinary perspectives. They thus have an experiential component and a formal intellectual component leading to submission of a substantive research paper for evaluation.  

Note that International F-1 students must obtain work authorization from the Duke Visa Services Office before engaging in off-campus employment (including paid and unpaid internships).  

Academic internships are of two types:

  1. Those that are required for an existing major and/or are required in programs designed to meet state teaching certification standards; and
  2. all other academic internships, which are considered to be electives. Only one course credit from these elective academic internships may count toward the thirty-four (34) course credits required for graduation.

Further information about procedural requirements may be obtained from your academic dean.

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