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How to Set Up an Internship Program

5 Steps to Getting an Internship Program Up and Running

Internship programsAsk any intern whether or not they like what they’re doing and they will either tell you they love it or they hate it. Rarely is there a middle ground. Not surprisingly, the interns that work best for their employers are those that are the happiest with their internship programs.

If you are interested in setting up an internship program or your business’s interns just aren’t producing as well as you had hoped, then here are five tips to get your internship program up and running, or to help fix one that may not be as effective as it should be.

#1 – Should You Compensate Your Interns?

Traditionally, an intern is “paid” with invaluable on-the-job experience that they can use to help get a job down the line. But, does that automatically mean that they shouldn’t be compensated in some way? Studies show that when a company pays its interns, those interns are happier and more productive. Plus, if the employer is compensating the intern, then they will usually feel less guilty about dealing them more work than they would an unpaid intern.

Understandably, not every company can afford to pay its interns employee-scale rates, but it should at the least pay the federal minimum wage.

#2 – Consider the Legal Ramifications of Unpaid Interns

Employment laws are very vague when it comes to determining the rights of interns, but on all accounts, unpaid interns are not covered by any employee protection acts. Therefore, not paying your interns at least minimum wage could put your company at untold risk should an unfortunate event occur.

Before you make any final decisions about your internship program and compensation, you should consult with your lawyer to make sure the intern’s basic rights are provided for and your business is as protected as possible.

#3 – Provide Your Interns With Real Work Opportunities

Compensation is nice, but it is not the true reason why students apply to be interns. According to a recent study, 58.9% of interns join their programs to gain valuable work experience and to build a diverse portfolio of skills. So, before you offer an internship, you need to know whether or not your business can provide the intern with the opportunities they are looking for. If you want to bring in an intern to be the company errand runner, then you should reconsider offering the internship.

#4 – Promote Diversity in Your Internship Program

The interns you bring in should not be cookie-cutter replicas of each other. The best programs are those that offer the most diversity. Choose interns of different sexes, cultures, races, and backgrounds. This will not only enrich their lives, but it will enrich your work environment as well.

#5 – Consider Offering Your Internships Permanent Opportunities

Sometimes, an intern fits into a business like a hand in a glove and it can be tough to let them go. When creating your internship program, consider whether or not your company can provide the opportunity for advancement. If an intern knows the opportunity is there, then they may work extra hard to prove themselves. In cases such as this, the business can benefit greatly because it won’t have to spend the money associated with finding and training a new employee.

Ultimately, you should create an internship program that supports your intern’s interests via acceptable compensation and exceptional work opportunities. This makes for a win-win situation for all involved.

Dave Donovan


Dave Donovan has written extensively for the web with a primary focus on articles targeting finance and business.