Columbia University School of Professional Studies Internship for Credit

(Last updated on Sep 18, 2023)

  • In order to earn academic credit for an internship, students must meet the eligibility requirements and complete an Experiential Learning Application in SPS Talent. This details every part of a student’s proposed internship, ensuring that the student, the supervisor, and SPS are in agreement about the scope of the internship, its relationship to the student’s education, start and end dates, hours of work, academic credit, and learning objectives.
  • It is the student’s responsibility to apply for internships themselves, although we encourage interested students to meet with their Career Coach via SPS Talent for support throughout the internship search process.
  • Once a student receives an internship offer, the student then reaches out to their primary Academic Advisor with their CPT form (if on a F-1 student visa) and offer letter. The advisor will then review the offer and, if approved, complete and sign the CPT form and send it back to the student.
  • The student then logs into SPS Talent and completes an internship application by clicking on “New Experience” in the “Experiential Learning” section. This includes uploading a completed CPT form (if on a F-1 student visa) and an offer letter in the ‘Documents and Forms” section. The student should then submit for approval.
  • Advising and CDL will then review the application and either approve or request more information from the student, if needed.
  • The student should also add themselves to the waitlist for their program-specific internship course section (found on the Directory of Classes). Once the SPS Talent application has been approved, the student will be added to the class from the waitlist and will be registered for the course.

  • The deadline to secure an internship and register for the internship course is one week prior to the start of classes. Requests beyond this point will not be considered. 
  • Internships should occur within the semester start and end dates (found on the Academic Calendar).
    • Ex. Fall 2023 (September 5, 2023 – December 11, 2023)

  • Students are typically eligible to intern for credit no sooner than the second semester of their graduate program. Students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and must be in good academic standing. If in doubt, students should confirm their academic status and individual program requirements with their academic advisor.

International Student Eligibility – Students attending SPS on an F-1 student visa must receive school authorization for all paid off-campus internship work through Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Students must be in active F-1 status for one academic year in the U.S. (two consecutive full-time terms) to be eligible for elective CPT and are eligible to receive academic credit for an internship in which they are also receiving compensation.

  • The internship course is 3 credit hours and students must work a total of at least 210 hours by the end of the term registered for the internship course. International students should refer to ISSO’s CPT guidelines for more information on part-time vs. full-time work.
    • Student internships must be minimum 20 hours a week for 10.5 weeks 
    • Students are not permitted to have 2 different experiences at 10 hours per week each. 
  • Before registering for this course, you must have completed the Experiential Learning Form in SPS Talent. You will have provided a job description as well as signed CPT from ISSO (if you are an international student). The Experiential Learning Form must be signed off by your program, by either the advisor or program director,  BEFORE being accepted into this course. To receive instructor approval, the internship:
  • Must provide an opportunity for you to apply course concepts, either at the organizational or team level
  • Must fit into your planned future program-related career path

This course is structured around the student’s internship. Students can expect that after completing this course, they will be able to:

  • Discuss the application of program content and theory in a professional context.
  • Define a plan for assessing and building professional competencies.
  • Describe an organization’s culture and assess cultural “fit”.
  • Make recommendations for the types of behaviors, structure, and culture students would want to see in a future workplace setting that they are learning from their experience. Posts should provide evidence that they have been a careful observer during their experiences and have given considerable thought to the meaning of those experiences as a career professional. Reflection should articulate the connections they are making between the internship experience and online discussions, assigned readings, course concepts, prior experiences–and those of their peers.

Internship Employer Evaluation (20%) – Each student should seek feedback from his/her supervisor on an ongoing basis. A formal evaluation process will occur at the end of the semester. The form for this evaluation is available in the last course module and should be completed by the site supervisor by the end of the semester. The instructor may contact your employer about your performance as an intern at any time during the internship, or after the internship, for further feedback.

Completeness of assignment and engagement in the course site (20%) – This course is designed as a 3-credit elective graduate-level course. Students must complete all required readings, assignments, discussions, and other requirements.

Assignments (50%) – The assignments are designed to provide an opportunity for learning about key career, professional, and workplace concepts, with the ultimate goal of helping you apply what you learn to your internship experience and to your own career development.  You will be evaluated on the extent to which your submissions demonstrate that you are able to:

  1. Understand, synthesize and integrate course concepts into your internship experience
  2. Receive and apply feedback
  3. Gain insights into U.S. workplace culture and leverage them to enhance and build upon your internship experience
  4. Reflect on your internship experience in the context of course concepts in order to advance your career goals.

Each assignment sets the stage for a Reflective Discussion and is intended as a “deeper dive” into the assigned topic.

Reflective Discussions (30%) – The Reflective Discussions (up to 500 words) are designed as a formal place for you to process, analyze, and critique your own internship experience, as well as that of your peers. You will be evaluated on the extent to which your posts and participation in the discussion demonstrate.

Grade Percentage
98–100 %
93–97.9 %
90–92.9 %
87–89.9 %
83–86.9 %
80–82.9 %
77–79.9 %
73–76.9 %
70–72.9 %
60–69.9 %
59.9% and below

What is reneging on a job/internship offer?

  • Reneging an offer means you back out of an agreement or contract. If you already have accepted a job/internship offer from Company A, then you accept another offer from Company B suddenly, putting Company A in a difficult position where it may be too late/difficult for them to fill the position resulting from your renege.  
  • You are “burning a bridge” with Company A, potentially eliminating any future prospects working for the company where your behavior is perceived unprofessional and inconsiderate. 
  • Your professional reputation in the industry may get damaged. Various personnel (recruiters, managers, human resources professionals, supervisors) from Company A may speak with other colleagues in the field, sharing their cautionary experience which can impede your future career opportunities. 
  • It puts Columbia University School of Professional Studies in a bad light. In many cases, employers invest time, expenses, human resources into recruiting and such poor professionalism in Columbia SPS students can jeopardize the future relationship where the employer refuses to hire any new students and alumni, eliminating opportunities for others. 

What can you do instead?

  • Critically evaluate the offer without accepting the first offer out of fear. Your first job may not be your perfect job but a springboard for a long and successful career. Think about both long and short-term career goals and your needs. 
  • Talk to the company and ask for an extension to make a thoughtful decision. Some companies may be more flexible in offering extensions and some may not. You will not know until you ask. Consult with your career coach if you are unsure how to approach this conversation professionally.
  • Break the news and minimize the damage. We understand. If you are offered the dream job, you may want to renege out of necessity. However, do your very best to let the company know the difficulty of the situation and your ultimate decision. Ideally, you want to avoid burning the bridge with the employer. Talk to your Career Coach how to have this conversation with the employer, if necessary. 


  • We expect all SPS students to uphold the same high level of professional standards as they do for the Academic Integrity & Community Standards. Falsifications, embellishments, and exaggerations on internship/job applications (e.g. resume, cover letter, writing sample), social media output as well as interviews violate the Student Conduct and Community Standards Policies.
  • Consequences: The Career Design Lab, Academic Affairs, and Student Affairs will collectively examine and respond to egregious and unprofessional behavior on a case by case basis. 

What is an Unpaid Internship? (Note: Below content is from the Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act)

Columbia University School of Professional Studies, Career Design Lab (CDL) adheres to the internship criteria outlined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Courts have used the “primary beneficiary test” to determine whether an intern or student is in fact an employee under the FLSA. This test allows courts to examine the “economic reality” of the intern-employer relationship to determine which party is the “primary beneficiary” of the relationship. Courts have established the following seven factors as part of the test:

  1. The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, expressed or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee — and vice versa.
  2. The extent to which the internship provides training 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.

Courts have described the primary beneficiary test as a flexible test, and no single factor is determinative. Accordingly, whether an intern or student is an employee under the FLSA necessarily depends on the unique circumstances of each case.

If analysis of these circumstances reveals that an intern or student is actually an employee, then he or she is entitled to both minimum wage and overtime pay under the FLSA. On the other hand, if the analysis confirms that the intern or student is not an employee, then he or she is not entitled to either minimum wage or overtime pay under the FLSA.

Failure to Comply with School Policies 

  • Students are expected to follow the Standards and Discipline Policies for Columbia University while serving as interns. Student interns found in violation of these policies will be referred to the Center for Student Success and Intervention and may be subject to sanctions. 
  • Employers hosting Columbia university interns are expected to meet ethical, accounting,  and business practices. Employers found in violation of these policies risk losing the privilege of hosting future Columbia SPS Interns. 
  • Interns must immediately report to the Career Design lab any concerns about an internship placement, including requests to engage in unethical or illegal activities, exposure to sexual harassment, discrimination or unsafe situations, or any other circumstances that create an uncomfortable environment for the intern.
  • Interns recognize that Columbia University and/or employer have the right to terminate the internship at any time if it is deemed by Columbia SPS or the host organization that the intern has violated the code of conduct or otherwise negatively compromised the internship program and/or host organization. Termination may result in a failing grade and/or loss of academic credit.

Number of Internships per Semester 

  • Students may be able to work multiple internships in the same term but should consult with ISSO if applying for CPT, as they will need to apply for CPT for each internship.

Retroactive Internship Registration

  • Students cannot retroactively register an internship that took place in a previous semester. Students must register their internship for credit during the semester in which the internship occurs.