By definition, an internship is a supervised learning experience under the tutelage of a schooled professional. The training received at the office or business site of the internship should be similar to the training/education received in the classroom. Therefore, college credit is often provided to students instead of actual payment. However, it's not unheard of for interns to receive college credit for completing an internship and to be financially compensated by their employer.
Is There a Limit?
Depending on the school’s policy, students can usually earn between one and six college credits after participating in an internship, but it's more common to receive one credit point than six credit points. Employers often ask they can provide college credit for interns, but that's a misconception. The role of the business is singular: It's to be an on-site teacher and educator operating in the world of business, not academia.
It's a big misconception about college credit for internships that the company can decide whether the internship is ‘for credit’ and ‘not for credit.’ Technically, it’s the student’s university or college that can decide if the student is eligible to receive college credit or not. The decision is based solely on school policy as well as the criteria of that student’s major, and whether or not the student has already participated in an internship and received college credit.
That said, if a student is eligible, you as the business professional should do all you can to help the student receive school credit. It's worth noting that nearly every college and university limits the number of internships that a student can do for college credit. Otherwise, college students would likely spend more time doing internships than attending class.
How to Get College Credit
To receive college credit for an internship, students have guidelines on how many hours they must participate in the internship throughout the semester. For example, at the University of Connecticut, students must intern 300 hours throughout the semester to receive one college credit.
Students work with either the office of their specific major or the general campus career center to learn about and receive internship credit. The specific department within their major or the career center requires the employer to fill out paperwork beforehand that explains the role and responsibilities of the intern at the sponsoring company. The school also requires one or two evaluations to take place throughout the internship. Also, the sponsoring manager needs to fill out paperwork regarding the student’s performance and specifically detail the new skills acquired.
Because internships are considered learning experiences, when students take on unpaid internships, it only makes sense that they seek out college credit as a way to be compensated for the time they've spent and the work they've performed. Paid interns are also eligible for college credit.