How Internships for College Credits Work

You may be able to earn college credits by working an internship

Robotics apprentices using test industrial robots in robotics facility
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An internship is a supervised learning experience for high school or college students who have not yet earned their degrees. The training received at the office or business site of the internship should be similar to the training/education received in the classroom. Therefore, college credit is often provided to students instead of actual payment. And nowadays, it's not unheard of for interns to receive college credit for completing an internship and to be paid for their work by the employer. 

If you're looking to earn college credit for an internship as you kick start your career, or you're hiring interns for your company, keep reading to learn how this all works.

Key Takeaways

  • A school may offer students the chance to earn credits toward graduation by working an internship.
  • The number of credits will vary by school and program, but the internship will typically count as one class.
  • Some programs require students to have an internship in order to graduate.
  • To earn college credit for your internship, you may have to keep a record of what you learned or write an essay at the end of the internship.
  • You may have multiple internships while in college, but your school may limit how many times they can count toward college credit.

How Many Credits Can You Earn From an Internship?

Depending on the school’s policy, students can usually earn between one and six college credits after participating in an internship. For example, if one college class at your school is worth three credits, you may be able to earn three college credits for a summer, fall, or spring internship, whether it's on campus or off campus.

You may have to request the college credit for the internship from your advisor, and also well in advance of when the internship starts. For example, when you register for classes, you may have to know if you will be working a for-credit internship as it would count as one class for that next semester.


Check the internship posting and details to see if the employer will require you to earn college credit, if it's paid, or both. You can also ask these questions during your internship interview.

For Credit vs. Not for Credit Internships

Your university or college will usually decide if your internship can count for credit or not. A for credit internship is exactly what it sounds like—you can earn college credits that will count toward your degree.

On the hand, some internships may not be for college credit. This may happen if your college doesn't believe the internship offers enough work or learning experiences to count as one class. The decision is based solely on school policy as well as the criteria of that student’s major, and whether or not the student has already participated in an internship and received college credit.

If you're on the hiring side of the internship, consider whether it's smart to pay interns, offer credit, or both. You should also work to make the internship program a full learning experience so that students can walk away with the knowledge that will help them move forward in their careers.


Nearly every college and university limits the number of internships that a student can do for college credit. Be sure to check the college's policies.

How To Get College Credit for Your Internship

To receive college credit for an internship, you'll likely have to meet certain guidelines for how many hours you must participate in the internship throughout the semester. For example, the University of Connecticut offers a one-credit internship course where students are required to work at the internship for at least five hours per week for at least six weeks. Students are also required to complete weekly assignments, mid-point and final evaluations, and a final project.

To earn college credit, students need to work with either the department for their major or the general campus career center to learn about and receive internship credit.


The specific department within their major or the career center will likely require the employer to fill out paperwork before and after the internship. This paperwork will explain the role and responsibilities that the student will take on during the internship, as well as document how the student performed during the semester or summer term.

Because internships are considered learning experiences, when students take on unpaid internships, it only makes sense that they seek out college credit as a way to be compensated for the time they've spent and the work they've performed. Paid interns are also eligible for college credit.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long do internships last?

An internship can last as short as a few weeks or one month to several months or one year. It depends on the company and program. Typically, internships are worked during the fall or spring semesters, summer months between school years, or during the month between fall and spring semesters.

How many internships should you apply to?

There's no specific number of internships that you must apply to, but the more you apply to, the better your chances will be of getting an interview. Job site Indeed recommends applying to at least 20 internships. The more internships you have during high school and college, the more experience you'll gain before you graduate and apply for full-time jobs.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. University of Connecticut. "UNIV 1991."

  2. The Ohio State University. "Internships."

  3. Portland State University. "How Long Do Internships Last?"

  4. Indeed. "How Many Internships Should I Apply To?"

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