An internship can be a valuable way to apply knowledge learned in the classroom, gain work experience, develop professional skills, and build a professional network. In some cases, internships even lead to full-time employment opportunities. Majors and minors in the Department of Political Science intern in a variety of public and private organizations, and those students have the opportunity to earn academic credit for internship experiences related to politics, government, public policy, public affairs, or international affairs.
How do I get academic credit for an internship?
You may earn academic credit for an internship by completing POLI 379, Public Affairs Internship, during the academic term in which you are completing your internship. You must register for this course by the deadline for registration for the semester in which you are doing the internship, just as you would for any other course.
In order to register for POLI 379, you must meet all of the following criteria:
- You must be a Political Science major or minor, an International Studies major or minor, or a Leadership Studies minor
- You must have at least sophomore standing (cumulative hours earned must be at least 30)
- You must have already completed at least six credit hours of POLI course work at the 300 level or higher
- Your internship experience must be related to your major or minor
If you meet all of these criteria, make an appointment with the Undergraduate Coordinator, Janis Leaphart, and bring with you a letter from the organization that has offered you an internship. That letter must:
- Be on the official letterhead of the internship organization
- Confirm that the organization has offered you an internship
- List the dates of the internship and the hours required by the internship organization
- List the duties to be performed as part of the internship
- List the name, address, and phone number of the internship supervisor in the internship organization
During your appointment with Ms. Leaphart, you will complete an internship contract, which you must turn in to the University Registrar before you can register for POLI 379. This contract outlines requirements to complete the internship.
Note: POLI 379 is a regular course to which all University registration deadlines, rules, fee and tuition charges apply.
How many hours of credit can I earn with an internship?
You can earn either three credit hours or six credit hours. You must complete a total of 150 work hours (at least 10 hours per week in a regular semester) to earn three credit hours and 300 work hours (at least 20 hours per week in a regular semester) to earn six credit hours. You must also complete the required assignments for POLI 379 (see below). Many students successfully complete internships during the summer months, but keep in mind that you must still work the same number of hours, i.e., 150 or 300, to receive academic credit, and you must register for POLI 379 during the summer session in which your complete your internship hours. POLI 379 may be applied to major, minor, or cognate credit. A maximum of six credit hours may be applied for major credit; a maximum of three hours may be applied toward a minor (note: to count toward an IS minor, the experience must be internationally focused).
What are the assignments for POLI 379?
Assignments for POLI 379 are determined by the Internship Director, and grades for POLI 379 are based on those assignments. Typically, for academic credit, students must submit the following:
- A daily journal that explains and reflects on their internship experience
- An evaluation from their internship supervisor
- A 10 page paper (for students earning 3 credit hours) reflecting on a published article (provided by the Internship Director) on experiential education and how the student’s experience in the internship relates to the goals of experiential learning discussed in the article. Students earning 6 credit hours will write a 20 page paper following the same guidelines.
For detailed requirements, students should consult the POLI 379 syllabus on Blackboard for the semester in which they complete their internship, or they should contact the Internship Director, Dr. David Darmofal, email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
How do I find an internship?
The Department and the University offer resources that can help you in your search. Students who are beginning their search may find some of the following resources helpful:
- The Department sends out information about internships via POLINOTE when we receive internship descriptions or requests from internship organizations.
- The Career Center is an excellent resource to explore internship options. The Career Center offers JobMate, a free, online tool that can help you search for internship opportunities, as well as other resources for students seeking internships.
- The email newsletters, Facebook pages, LinkedIn pages, and Twitter feeds of different organizations sometimes post information about internship opportunities. If you identify organizations that you are interested in, consider signing up for these different services.
- Some websites are dedicated to posting job or internship opportunities. For example, Political Science and International Studies majors and minors might find websites such as the Foreign Policy Association’s Global Job Board or Idealistuseful in searching for internship opportunities.
Many students identify and acquire their own internship experiences, as well. The following suggestions may help you in your search:
- Dedicate a minimum amount of time to your internship search every week. It takes time to look for internship opportunities and apply for internships. If you block out a certain time or certain amount of time every week, you will be more likely to spend the time necessary to find an internship than if you do not.
- Take the time to read through the websites and other materials of organizations that interest you. The more you know about a particular organization, the more likely they are to want you as an intern.
- Talk to people who might be able to help you. Talk to the Internship Director, your professors, other students, staff at the Career Center, or other contacts you have in order to find out what internship opportunities exist. If you have an account through professional networking sites, like LinkedIn, get in touch with professional contacts through those sites.
- Save drafts of resumes, cover letters, and personal statements. Over time, you will draft and submit large numbers of resumes, cover letters, and personal statements. You should tailor each one to the particular internship that you are applying for, but it often helps to have old versions to use as references.
- Do not let rejections deter you. Organizations reject applicants more often than they accept them. If an organization rejects your application, do not take it personally or give up your search. Thank the organization for considering you, save the materials that you used in your application, and continue to look for internships.
- Be professional when communicating with anyone about your internship search. For example, if you contact an internship organization, a different professional contact, or a professor, always communicate in a clear, polite, formal, professional manner. This guideline applies to phone calls, emails, faxes, in-person meetings, or any other form of communication.
Where have students interned in the past?
Political Science and International Studies majors have interned in a variety of public and private organizations that deal with issues related to politics, government, public policy, public affairs, and international affairs. Some examples include the following:
- State and local government and politics: The Department has partnered with the South Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee to create a Spring semester internship with this committee, and information and applications are sent out via POLINOTE each Fall. In addition, many students seek internships in state and local government. For example, students have interned at the South Carolina Office of the Governor; the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office; the South Carolina Department of Commerce; the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division; the Richland County Public Defender’s Office; the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism; and the Office of the Mayor of Columbia. Students have also interned with state and federal legislators, campaign offices, the South Carolina Republican Party, and the South Carolina Democratic Party.
- Federal government: Students have completed internships in the federal government in Washington, DC. USAJobs is the federal government’s official system for federal jobs and employment information, and it contains information about internships in the federal government.
- Non-governmental organizations: Students have interned at non-governmental organizations in Columbia and various other locations. Examples include the League of Women Voters, Project Vote Smart, the Columbia World Affairs Council, and various think tanks in Washington, DC.