Internships: Why Some Majors Require It

Most students at some point in their academic career make it a point to complete at least one internship.

However, there are some majors that require students fulfill an internship for graduation requirements. Others, though they offer credit, do not make it a mandatory course.

Communication, multimedia, religion and criminal justice are just a few of the departments that require students take an internship as part of their major. Business, sciences like biology or chemistry and some humanities do not require it.

“Our field is primarily vocation oriented,” said Robert Meadows, former chair of the Criminal Justice Department. “A lot of students want to go into some aspect of the system. So, one way to get an understanding of that is to have them do some field work, in this case an internship. Right place, right time, right experience.”

For majors where students are going into fields where it might be helpful to gain skills and references before they graduate, internships can help with these connections. And for those who are not sure if the major is the right fit, it can help them decide.

“Internships can definitely help you figure out what you like and what you don’t like,” said Cindy Lewis, director of Career Services. “It’s a little bit backwards that [students] come in to school and have to pick their major right away, imagine that they didn’t come into school and pick their major right away, and did an internship or two.”

It comes down to a process dictated by the Educational Policies and Planning Committee. When the department wants to require an internship, they submit a proposal to the EPPC, discuss the idea with faculty and figures out if an internship is necessary. Each major is different in what the curriculum requires.

“I don’t think any department wants to require more than they feel is necessary in order to prepare people for what they want to do when they graduate,” said Kristine Butcher, chemisty department chair. “We don’t add things without really thinking about whether it’s going to benefit all of our students.”

For some majors, such as the sciences, an internship might not help students as much as it does for those in other departments, Butcher said regarding research or labs.

“In chemistry internships would mainly be in an industrial lab, which is not what most of our students want to do. It might not fulfill what their larger goals are,” Butcher said. “We think that the thing that is more useful for them, more broadly, is research. We can replicate real world labs.”

It all comes down to the major itself. However, there is some debate on if the majors that do not currently require internships should, such as the business major.

“Internships basically can, in the case of a business major for instance, get them to their dream job in a shorter amount of time, because they have built up the skills they needed while still in school,” Lewis said.

The School of Management handles internships not as a requirement but as an option for students to get credit. Professors often help to find positions based on their own personal contacts with companies. This allows more flexibility and organizational limitations. With so many students, it would be hard to ensure learning objectives are met.

“I am fully aware that we need to modernize our undergraduate business curriculum and that we need to give experiential learning such as internships a more prominent place,” Gerhard Apfelthaler, dean of the School of Management, said in an email interview. “We are currently working on a thorough and systematic review of our undergraduate business program and we’ll particularly look into making internships a higher priority.”

For majors that do not require internships, Lewis encourages students to pursue them anyway if they can. They can provide skills, references and for majors that aren’t very tangible for employers, it shows specializations toward career goals Lewis said.

“Overall, employers are now looking for internships,” Lewis said. “If it were up to me, I think all majors should do mandatory internships, but obviously some should be more flexible.”


Emily Graybill
Staff Writer