Internships & Cooperative Opportunities

What is an Internship?

A Working Definition: An internship combines practical work experience with a structured learning experience. Work is substantive and supports (your) academic and career goals. There is a supervised effort to promote critical thinking, observation and reflection that fosters (your) intellectual, personal, and professional growth. Other variations include: Co-op Education, Practicum, Service Learning, Externships, Field Experience, and Work/Study.

Getting an Internship

Look at Yourself

  • Personal Interests: What do you enjoy doing?
  • Academic Interests: What do you most want to learn/experience?
  • Career Goals: What do you see yourself doing everyday in 1 year? 5 years?
  • Work Values: What rewards do you seek? Cause do you advocate?
  • Personal Abilities: What skills and abilities do you have to offer?
  • What personal criteria do you have for an internship organization?

What personal criteria do you have for an internship organization?

  • Type of experience
  • Organizational mission
  • Geographic Location
  • Reputation
  • Duration
  • Timing
  • Monetary Compensation
  • Academic Credit

Seek and Find: Gather Information

A. Written Resources

  • Internship directories & guidebooks
  • Campus newspapers
  • Bulletin boards
  • Library material
  • Association publications
  • Popular/professional magazines/newsletters
  • Telephone book

B. Human Resources


  • Internship/Cooperative Education Offices
  • Career Centers
  • Academic departments/advisors
  • Financial Aid/Student Employment Offices
  • Fellow students/previous interns


  • Department of Education, Personnel, Community Affairs
  • Alumni Associations/Clubs
  • Public officials
  • Public interest groups; government agencies
  • Professional associations
  • Community voluntary action centers

Internship/Co-op Opportunities on the Web

  • Search the Nittany Lion Career Network for the internship/co-op opportunities listed by employers with the Penn State Career Services Offices (updated daily). Note: You must be a Penn State student and register to use the Nittany Lion Career Network.
  • Search other sites that may post internship/co-op opportunities at Employment Opportunities on the Penn State Harrisburg website.
  • The Riley Guide, referred to as the "best site on the internet for employment opportunities and job resources, has a number of great links for sites with internship/co-op resources.
  • Consider attending the numerous career fairs where employers recruit for both full time employment and internships/co-ops.

Your Academic Department

Meet with your academic advisor (and other faculty in your program) to discuss your plans for an internship. Your academic advisor will be able to share with you the departments requirements for participating in an internship and most likely will have knowledge of some internship opportunities.

Narrowing Down the Choices

  • Develop a manageable list (10-20) and prioritize it.
  • Review organizations in light of your goals and objectives.
  • Do you meet organizational requirements (age, class year, major, financial status, GPA, other)?

Developing the Career Objective

The format for the career objective can be arranged to a person's unique background or wishes, and is of great help in organizing this difficult portion of the resume.

At the simplest level, the career objective may be stated as a professional designation, followed by a specialty area in that field, e.g. Electrical Engineer - Research & Design, or Public Accountant - Auditing and Taxes, or Sales Representative-Industrial Hardwoods and Equipment.

The next level of sophistication in a career objective statement may simply state that an entry-level position is desired, followed by a comment on the functional area of work, e.g. Entry-level Bank Management Trainee - Loans, or Entry-level Store Management Trainee - Merchandising, or Social Service Trainee - Child Welfare.

After these simple formats, the matter becomes more difficult. There are a number of ways to organize career objectives.

The Short-Term/Long-Term Format
Immediate Objective: Entry-level Accounting Trainee with an Industrial Firm
Long-Term Objective: Progression to Controller function, with responsibility for fiscal affairs of a corporation

The Skills Format
Skills Objective: Position that requires knowledge of decision-making models, and application of models to marketing and production planning.

Functional/Industrial Format
Functional/Industrial Objective: General Sales Representative with company that produces soap, toiletry, or food products.

Skills/Industrial Format
Skills/Industrial Objective: Position that requires knowledge of COBOL, RPG II, and BASIC, and that requires sales/customer service abilities in the software industry.

When functional or skills types of objectives are used, the work experience section or the education section of the resume should reflect the abilities and wishes set forth in the objective statement.

Career Objective statements should avoid terms such as: opportunity for advancement; a challenging position; position dealing with people; a progressive company; position that requires creativity; a company that recognizes...; a chance to .…

While these terms may sound nice to the job applicant, they have little meaning to the person who will make a decision for an interview invitation, and in fact may indicate that the candidate has no idea about objectives. The candidate who applies vagueness will get a vague response in return.


Adapted from the National Association of Colleges and Employers Annual
By Warren D. Robb, Director of Counseling, Testing, and Career Placement, University of Texas at Arlington.