Internships Are Yearlong Commitment at Some US Employers

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek September 21, 2022
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year long internship

​College internships, typically 10 to 12 weeks long, are stretching to a year at organizations such as Navy Federal Credit Union, Duke Energy and U.S. News & World Report.

These lengthier programs are "an innovative way to engage talented students and recent graduates and keep them engaged and growing within the organization," and are an addition to shorter summer internship programs, said Dan Bartfield, CEO of Yello. The Chicago-based tech company specializes in recruiting and diversity solutions and works with more than 360 major employers.

"Often, the yearlong intern cohort is a smaller group of slightly more experienced employees who recently graduated with an undergraduate or graduate degree," Bartfield explained. 

Interns at a company for an extended period of time "have the opportunity to delve deeper into the challenges of different roles and departments," he added. "In a yearlong internship, students and recent graduates are more immersed in the day-to-day operations of the job and have exposure to a wide variety of functions, depending on the industry or position."

What Some Employers Are Doing

Wilmington, N.C.-based Duke Energy posted a dozen openings in September for yearlong full-time and par-time internships for students pursuing a two-year degree in engineering technology. The internships are in customer delivery, which conducts engineering studies and assists designers with general work order preparations, as well as information technology. No salary range was posted for students working the hybrid-schedule roles.

At Washington, D.C.-based U.S. News & World Report, the yearlong digital marketing intern reports to the senior director of partners for 360 Reviews, the magazine's product review and recommendation platform. Candidates for the remote, full-time, paid position must be recent graduates, part- or full-time students enrolled in an accredited undergraduate program, or students who have completed more than 24 hours of college credits at an accredited university. No salary range was posted. 

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Employing Interns

Navy Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Vienna, Va., posted eight openings in September for yearlong internships at three of its locations. The positions include working in HR analytics; baseline analytics engineering services; hardware asset management; facility, design and space management; facility, planning and design; mortgage equity claims specialist; and workforce management.

The hourly range for yearlong internships at Navy Federal varies, according to the postings:

  • $15 to $17.40 for a student interning in its two workforce management positions.
  • $15 to $24.70 in HR analytics and facility, design and space.
  • $17.50 to $30.10 in facility planning and design as well as in mortgage equity.
  • $19.90 to $30.10 in hardware asset management and baseline analytics.

Things to Keep in Mind

One of the downsides of yearlong internships, Bartfield pointed out, is that applicant pools will be smaller.

"Not every student has the time to dedicate to a yearlong internship," he said.

The number of hours a yearlong intern is expected to work per week varies slightly at Navy Federal. The intern in HR analytics is expected to log a minimum of 20 hours, while the student in mortgage equity must work at least 25 hours. The intern in facility planning and design is expected to work at least three days a week—or 20 hours—but can work as much as 40 hours per week, with arrival and departure times flexible based on the student's class schedule.

Employers need to be sure they have a support structure in place that offers students guidance and mentorship, Bartfield added. "It's easier for employers to invest heavily in summer internship programs with larger intern cohorts, but the yearlong internships also need structure and support," he said. 

The upside is that employers have time to develop and nurture interns in a longer program "and give them the opportunity to dive into more specialized work," he explained.

Lauren Berger, CEO and founder of Los Angeles-based InternQueen.com, an internship advice website, said she has not heard much about yearlong internships and is wary of such long programs.

While employers may feel yearlong internships offer more consistency or that a year is needed for students doing a rotational program to gain the necessary experience, she cautioned employers not to go that route.

"Internships are a gray area as is; do as much as you can to paint a difference between entry-level employment and an internship opportunity at your organization," she said.

Berger had 15 internships—sometimes doubling or tripling up on internships—during the four years she studied at the University of Central Florida, graduating with a bachelor's degree in organizational business communications.  

"Internships, regardless of length, shouldn't be used to solely have a young person promote a brand," Berger said. "They need to be supervised learning experiences. Get familiar with the Fair Labor Standards Act and talk to legal regarding payment before onboarding any kind of intern." 

Other SHRM resources:
Effective Internship Programs, SHRM Online, July 2022
Model Work-Study/Internship Program Agreement, SHRM tools and samples

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