The following guidelines and checklists are provided to assist programs seeking to establish credit bearing internship relationships and/or agreements with an employer. These reflect the MWSU Criteria for Applied Learning Activities and internship best practices as described by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and the US Department of Labor.

Definitions and Guidelines

Missouri Western defines an internship as an applied learning experience that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional or community setting. Internships provide Missouri Western students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent. An internship is a legitimate learning experience benefitting the student and not simply an operational work experience that just happens to be conducted by a student.

An internship may be full or part time, on or off campus, paid or unpaid, and may be credit or non-credit bearing. Internship experiences have a fixed start and end date that generally, though not exclusively, coincide with one of the three MWSU academic terms. Credit bearing internship experiences should engage students in a minimum of 45 hours of work for each credit earned.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) an internship:

  • Must be a learning experience that applies knowledge gained in the classroom.
  • Teaches skills or knowledge that can be transferred to other employment settings.
  • Has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications.
  • Has clearly defined learning goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework.
  • Provides supervision by, and routine feedback from, a professional with expertise in the field.
  • Includes resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer to support learning goals.

Students at any academic level may benefit from an internship experience. Internship experiences provide students with:

  • ‘Real world’ work experience.
  • The opportunity to experience a potential career path before having to commit to it.
  • A stronger resume.
  • A professional network.
  • Potential future employment.

As an applied learning experience, Missouri Western has established criteria that should be part of any credit bearing internship.

  • It must be structured, intentional and authentic.
    • The activity must be a structured experience with a formal process.
    • Defined learning outcomes should be identified and communicated to all stakeholders (student, employer, faculty supervisor).
    • Roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined.
    • The internship should have hands-on and/or real-world context that draws on the student’s academic training.
  • It must require preparation, orientation and training. 
    • Students should have sufficient background and foundational education, as well as a plan to support a successful outcome. 
    • The training and plan should include learning and performance expectations.
  • It must include monitoring and continuous improvement.
    • Students should receive regular constructive criticism and feedback from a dedicated workplace mentor/supervisor.
  • It must require structured reflection and acknowledgment. 
    • There must be a structured opportunity for students to reflect on their experiences and to evaluate the outcomes. 
    • Reflection should demonstrate the relevance of the experience to student learning, including the student’s articulation of how the experience draws on and improves this learning and meets defined objectives. 
  • It must be assessed and evaluated. 
    • Outcomes and processes should be systematically documented. 
    • Students should receive appropriate and timely feedback.

Criteria guided by and adapted from the Eight Principles of Good Practice for All Experiential Learning Activities National Society of Experiential Education

As a workplace experience, a focus on the development and assessment of essential workplace skills (career ready competencies) is also critical.  Essential skills competency areas include:

Career and Self Development
Proactively develop oneself and one’s career through continual personal and professional learning, awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses, navigation of career opportunities, and networking to build relationships within and without one’s organization.


Clearly and effectively exchange information, ideas, facts, and perspectives with persons inside and outside of an organization.

Critical Thinking

Identify and respond to needs based upon an understanding of situational context and logical analysis of relevant information

Equity and Inclusion
Definition: Demonstrate the awareness, attitude, knowledge, and skills required to equitably engage and include people from different local and global cultures. Engage in anti-racist practices that actively challenge the systems, structures, and policies of racism.


Recognize and capitalize on personal and team strengths to achieve organizational goals.


Knowing work environments differ greatly, understand and demonstrate effective work habits, and act in the interest of the larger community and workplace.


Build and maintain collaborative relationships to work effectively toward common goals, while appreciating diverse viewpoints and shared responsibilities.


Understand and leverage technologies ethically to enhance efficiencies, complete tasks, and accomplish goals.

Course Development

Learning objectives are specific, measurable statements that articulate what a student should accomplish or learn during their internship experience.  They should be clear, concise, measurable, achievable and related to the experience.  Learning objectives provide a means for the evaluation of the experience and may factor into the assigned grade.  Writing the learning objectives should be a collaborative effort between the student, faculty advisor or internship coordinator and, wherever possible, the onsite supervisor where the internship will take place.  When developing learning objectives ask the following questions to ensure that they are SMART goals:

Specific -Does it identify a specific area or skill set?
Measurable – Can it be measured?
Achievable – Can it be accomplished given the student’s foundational training and the resources, training, and environment provided by the organization?
Relevant – Can it be accomplished within the context of the internship?
Time Bound – Can it be accomplished within the time frame of the semester?

There are three types of learning objectives: Academic, Professional and Personal.

  • To apply knowledge and skills related to the concepts, principles, and methodologies of one’s academic training.
  • To acquire new knowledge in a new setting to enhance one’s education.
  • To integrate or synthesize knowledge from diverse disciplines, courses and areas of experience.
  • To apply higher order thinking skills (critical thinking, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, complex problem solving) to “real world” situations.
  • To develop skill competencies specific to an occupation or profession.
  • To expand oral and written communication skills.
  • To increase skills for understanding and working with people of diverse backgrounds and cultures and to work effectively within diverse environments.
  • To acquire additional interpersonal communication and interaction skills.
  • To develop skills to work effectively within formal and informal networks and work cultures.
  • To further develop observation, recording and interpretation skills.
  • To develop skills needed for effective citizenship.
  • To acquire skills in leadership.
  • To develop self-awareness.
  • To clarify one’s own values.
  • To develop self-reliance and self-confidence.
  • To develop and use an ethical perspective.
  • To develop career awareness, direction and exploration of vocation

When writing learning objectives it is helpful to use the SWAT (Student will be able to…) format. The use of Bloom’s verbs is also very helpful in crafting SMART goals.

Examples of internship learning objectives. Bloom’s verbs are underlined in each statement.


The student will be able to explain various treatment methods for autism spectrum disorders in preschool children.
The student will be able to understand the role of social media as a marketing tool.
The student will be able to estimate the cost of a repair.


The student will be able to apply research skills to an environmental impact study.
The student will be able to utilize workplace SOPs.
The student will be able to build an effective team.


The student will be able to demonstrate effective time management skills.
The student will be able to construct a professional resume.