Internships for Credit: What You Need to Know

Internships for Credit: What You Need to Know

When it comes to gaining job experience for your future career, having an internship can become essential for setting up a successful future. You may have plenty of questions when thinking about getting your internship. Where does one start looking? When is the best time to apply? What kind of internship is right for you and your career?

An internship is essentially a learning experience supervised by a working professional, and it should mirror an experience similar to what you would get in the classroom. Because it mimics a class experience/learning experience, you will get academic credit for it rather than monetary payment. If you’re looking to land an internship for credit rather than financial compensation, here’s all you need to know about internships for credits.

How many credits can you get with internships? 

The amount of credits you can get with any one internship depends on the college you are attending. Usually, internships for credit will grant you one to six college credits or units for completing an internship (more often, usually around one to three).

The amount of credits an internship is “worth” also can depend on the amount of hours/effort you are putting into the internship. A standard time commitment is around ten hours each week, which usually grants you one to three college credits. Or, the amount of college credits you can get is determined by the value of the internship. Reach out to your career center or academic counselors to see what options you have and to determine which internships are worth getting college credits for.

How do you know if a company offers college credit?

When you are viewing an internship posting, it will usually say whether or not the company offers college credit. If it’s an unpaid position, they usually do offer college credits for their interns. If it is a paid position, you may be able to switch it out for college credit instead of getting financial compensation. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Usually, you will have to coordinate with the company where you would like to intern, and an academic/faculty member that will ultimately sponsor/monitor your internship. Make sure you fill out all necessary registration and any paperwork before beginning your internship to get the college credit you want. Keep track of all the steps necessary so that you know what needs to be done and what deadlines to meet.

How do you know if you are eligible to get college credit for an internship?

Ultimately, it is actually up to your school whether or not you are eligible for college credit. It’s not just whether or not the company offers it to begin with, but if your school deems you eligible. You can be denied eligibility for a number of reasons. Maybe you have already taken an internship for college credits and have reached the university’s cap for college credits given by an internship.

The internship you are pursuing has to tie into your major or field of study in some way, so if it is completely unrelated to your studies, you will most likely not be able to get college credit for the internship. If you are able to find a way to connect your internship to your education, you can try to petition so that your internship qualifies for college credit.

Your ability to be eligible for an internship for college credit also may depend on what year you are in. You may only be able to get an internship for college credit if you are an upperclassman with junior or senior standing in terms of college credits. Also, some majors and minors will require you to complete an internship or field study as part of your requirement for classes. As such, you will get college credit for completing the internship rather than financial compensation.

How do you know if an internship for college credits is the right choice for you? 

As nice as it is to get out of the classroom and still get college credit, it definitely is not the right choice for everyone. If you are getting an internship for college credit, you will most likely not be getting paid for it as it is usually one or the other.

Sometimes you may be looking at multiple internship opportunities and be left completely unsure as to which one to pick. Lay out your options and see which one best advances your career path and gives you the most helpful experience and networking, it may not necessarily be the internship granting you the most college credit.

If you are stretched tight financially, you may not be able to have an internship for college credit. Rather, a paid internship may be the better move for you. Don’t be afraid to weigh your options. Hopefully, with this guide, your decision will be a bit easier and well-informed.

Show More

Kaitlin Hurtado is a fourth year Literary Journalism major at UC Irvine. She is a campus editor for UCI and a writer for, Online Marketplace for College Life.

Download Study in the USA® Magazines