Aerial photograph of the Immaculate Conception Chapel

Employer Frequently Asked Questions

Communication Internship

Q: What is an appropriate internship for college students majoring in communication?
A: University of Dayton students in the Department of Communication – with concentrated studies in communication management, electronic media, journalism or public relations – seek internships that offer professional work experiences, along with regular mentorship in the workplace by an experienced communication professional. Students take internships to learn about their chosen profession, build upon the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired in college, and experience work situations that are impossible to duplicate in the classroom. Mentorship is exceedingly important in a workplace internship program. A supervisor can work with individual interns, helping them develop the professional strategies and skills that they will need in their first jobs.

Assignments for interns include observation of individual employees at work, teamwork on developing and/or execution of projects, specific tasks, practice or mock exercises. It is important for interns to do some real work that can be featured in their professional portfolios.

Internships should not be viewed simply as “free labor” or a way to fill in for vacationing employees. Employers should remember that interns are still learning their profession and need close supervision (and coaching). But employers still can gain many benefits in the relationship, including fresh ideas, new perspectives, energy, and training opportunities for existing staff in supervising.

All interns expect some mundane tasks, but those tasks should not exceed 20 percent of the workload. If most tasks involve work that could readily be completed by high school graduates working minimum wage, for example, then perhaps the work is not sufficiently professional or challenging. 

Q: How should the intern be supervised?
A: For a productive and positive internship experience, students should be mentored by an experienced professional. If the student is earning academic credit at UD, we ask that the supervisor have at least three years of related communication experience. During the internship, the supervisor can teach the intern about the field, specific skills and workplace norms. The supervisor also can advise the intern on professional development and networking. We don't want students supervised by other interns, employees new to the field, or working on their own - essentially independent contractors. In those situations, the student isn’t really getting a true “internship” experience, which involves proper education in the field.

Q: Do businesses and organizations have to pay wages to interns?
A: Generally, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires that employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.70 per hour and, in most cases, time and one-half the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 per week. Student interns could be considered employees under the law, depending upon their work activities and circumstances. Students getting academic credit for internships are not automatically exempt from the FLSA.

Employers should review the law and FLSA updated fact sheets to ensure their legal compliance. One FLSA fact sheet is reprinted here , along with a New York Times article detailing the government’s heightened interest in employers who evade the law.

Besides legal considerations, employers should keep in mind that most UD students must work to pay for college. Students who are paid for internship work can avoid seeking a second, paying job and can focus their attention on their internship work. If the position offers wages or a stipend Employers also usually get a deeper applicant pool – improving the organization’s chances of getting a top-notch intern – if the position offers wages or a stipend.

Students who earn academic credit for internships can earn wages or not. Wages do not impact credit.

Q: How many hours each week can I expect students to work?
A: Generally, full-time students work eight-12 hours per week for 12-14 weeks during the regular academic year. Students work eight to 40 hours a week during summers.  Employers and interns are advised to discuss specific weekly hours, work days and other expectations at the start of the internship. 

Students earning academic credit are required to work a minimum of 40 hours total per credit hour earned. Many students register for three credits and so must work at least 120 hours. With many internships lasting between 10-14 weeks during a 16-week semester, students face about a 10-hour/week schedule. Students who have a lighter course schedule might be willing and able to work more hours. More information on hours, terms and student availability is here .

Q: When do UD communication students want Dayton-area internships?
A: Communication majors usually look for Dayton-area internships for September through November and for mid-January through April. During summers, from about late May to early August, most students look for internships elsewhere in the country. Some students do live in the area or are willing to stay in the Miami Valley  during the summer for challenging and professional internships.

Q: Will the UD Department of Communication find and select student interns for my company or organization?
A: No. Employers select their own interns just as they select their own employees. The Department of Communication will post your internship notice prominently on our internship board, which communication students see several times a week. We also will send an electronic version, if you provide one, to all students in our department via-mail. Furthermore, we will encourage certain students who are particularly suited for your position to apply. Ultimately, though, it is up to the student to apply and the employer to select.

Q: How does my business or organization get internship notices to the Department of Communication?
A: You can mail, FAX or e-mail your notice to the department’s Internship Coordinator, Annette Taylor, Ph.D. Department of Communication, University of Dayton, 300 College Park, Dayton, Ohio 45469-1410. FAX: 937-229-2055. E-mail: ataylor1@udayton.edu . More information on internship notices is available here.

Q: If a student is earning academic credit through the UD Department of Communication for the internship, what does my company or organization have to do?
A: All employers are asked to be partners in the education of our students in the UD Department of Communication.  When the student intern is earning credit,  the employer’s responsibilities essentially are to:
  • provide a written job description,
  • complete and sign the department’s Internship Learning Agreement,
  • assign an experienced professional mentor to the student,
  • provide professional work training and experience for the student,
  • help the student to meet his or her learning goals,
  • complete a confidential evaluation of the intern’s performance before the end of the semester. 
The Internship Learning Agreement outlines both the student’s and employer’s responsibilities. It asks for the name of the supervisor, and an outline of that employee's relevant experience. The agreement also includes the student’s learning goals, which take into account the employer’s job requirements. Students set three to six goals, depending on credit hours they seek and their own ambition. In most cases, these goals can readily be met on the job. An evaluation form is sent to the employer by e-mail by the Department of Communication near the end of the semester. A completed evaluation is required for the student to pass the course. The evaluation will be shared with the student only with the employer’s permission.

Q: My company requires student interns to get academic credit. How do we verify that the student intern is registered for credit?
A: The Department of Communication Internship Coordinator will write a letter and send it by mail or e-mail to your company’s internship director when the student is registered for credit. The Internship Coordinator also can write a letter verifying that the student is eligible for credit and apprise you of where the student is in the registration process, if that helps with your planning.

Employers are asked to be a little patient with verification because credit registration is never automatic, not at UD or any university. Firstly, the Department of Communication must check that the internship meets our requirements to get internship credit. For instance, we require that the work be professional in nature and relate to the student’s major, and that the intern be supervised by an experienced communication professional. Secondly, we must check the student’s academic qualifications. Thirdly, the student must complete certain paperwork, including the Internship Learning Agreement that details his or her educational objectives for the internship. The Internship Learning Agreement must be signed by both the student and the employer as a condition of registration and continued enrollment in the course. If you do not receive this Agreement, then you can assume that the student has not yet registered for internship credit.

You are welcomed to contact the Internship Coordinator for more information and/or confirmation at ataylor1@udayton.edu .

Q: Whether or not the student gets academic credit, what one thing should my company or organization do to ensure a productive and positive internship experience?
A: The employer can help interns document achievement of their learning goals for the internship. The learning goals address strategies and skills that interns seek to achieve at your workplace through observation, projects and tasks. Through  internships, interns build a professional portfolio of work, demonstrating their new knowledge and skills that are transferable to other workplaces.

Sometimes, interns need help in how to provide concrete evidence of their developing competencies. So, for example, rather than allowing interns to simply suggest ideas verbally at a strategy meeting, the employer might advise the intern to follow-up with a written proposal. That written proposal can later be included in the student’s portfolio to demonstrate his or her creativity and, enterprise, as well as ability to write clearly and succinctly.   

Q: What is one common complaint that students have about internships?
A: The most complaint by students is that employers fail to assign work to their interns. Students will show up for work at the appointed time and have nothing to do. Many area employers have said that their interns remain busy and productive if
  • the student and employer share the intern’s educational objectives for the internship,
  • the employer provides a clear and comprehensive job description,
  • the supervisor plans projects, looks for learning opportunities and regularly meets with the intern.  
 
Q: Can an employer fire an intern if he or she just isn’t working out?
A: Employers are not obliged to keep students who do not perform their jobs, but employers are asked to first seek alternative solutions. “Fired” students not only lose professional experience and mentorship, but they could fail their academic internship course, which means a loss of credit hours and tuition. Students also might have passed on a paying or better-paying job and would end the semester with nothing to show for it.

Many job performance problems can be resolved before they reach the point of termination. A supervisor or an assigned mentor might discuss work habits and production with the intern perhaps once a week or at least every two weeks, keeping expectations clear. In that way, too, employers can enhance their mentorship program, encourage good work habits, and nip problems before they escalate. 

The Department of Communication Internship Coordinator also is available to intercede – whether or not our student is getting academic credit – and to work with both employers and interns for a productive and educational internship experience for everyone.