A student’s guide to internships

Thousands of BYU students must navigate the legalities and logistics of internships each year. (Addie Blacker)
Second in a series.
Editor’s note: The Daily Universe is examining details of internships since BYU emphasizes and encourages experiential learning through opportunities such as internships.


Finding an internship can be an overwhelming process for college students. Over 100 BYU majors require internships to graduate, meaning thousands of students have to navigate the logistics and legalities every year.

Each BYU department provides an internship coordinator to help students understand the unique requirements for their programs, but there are some logistical items that all prospective interns must manage.

Finding an internship

International internship coordinator Malcolm Botto said the first step for the prospective intern is to talk to their academic advisor or department internship coordinator. The coordinator will have resources for finding internships in the appropriate field and will likely already be aware of many opportunities.

Many departments sponsor domestic and international internship programs. For these programs, the prospective intern need only fill out an application, which can be accessed on the Kennedy Center website.

If none of the available programs fit the student’s needs or interests, the student may find their own internship through a research process similar to a job search. Internship coordinators and local experience providers can help students find internships in their field.

Registering for credit

If the student needs their internship to count toward their major, the internship must last for the length of a term or semester, and the student must receive credit. Botto said that the student will work with the internship coordinator to register for credit which “validates (the) academic rigor” of the internship they have chosen.

Once the student has accepted an internship, they must fill out an Internship Registration and Management System application and get their internship approved by their department and the Academic Internship Office. Once the application is approved, the student can register for credit.


Whether they intern through a BYU program or an internship they have found themselves, most interns will need to manage and fund their own travel and housing. Other expenses include tuition, application fees and personal expenses. For interns going abroad, tuition includes the cost of international health insurance. Scholarships apply to tuition costs during the internship semester.

Botto encouraged students to ask their departments for funding. BYU delegates a lot of funding available to experiential learning, especially for international experiences. Students just need to ask for it, he said.

To qualify for experiential learning funding, the student needs to register their internship as an individual experience through the Kennedy Center website. If their internship meets the criteria, they may be approved for funding through their department.


The Department of Labor recently changed the criteria internships must meet to legally be unpaid. Until Jan. 5, 2018, the Fair Labor Standards Act required unpaid internships to meet six specific standards. Now, for-profit employers must conduct a “primary beneficiary test” to determine whether an intern qualifies as an employee who must be paid.

This test takes into consideration the following seven factors:

  1. The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee—and vice versa.
  2. The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions.
  3. The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit.
  4. The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.
  5. The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning.
  6. The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.
  7. The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.

If, through this test, the employer determines the intern benefits from the arrangement more than the company, the intern does not qualify as an employee and does not legally need to be paid.

All international internships through BYU programs are unpaid, as are some domestic internships, though many offer stipends.


Botto recommended students prepare for their internship by taking relevant courses and participating in related community events in the semesters leading up to the internship and familiarizing themselves with the local language if they are interning abroad.

“Research as much as you can, be flexible, and (have) a positive outlook on things,” Botto said. “Our motto is ‘expand your world.’ I think these experiences really help do that, but it really depends on the student’s initiative and desire.”

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