AIGA believes that quality internships provide an invaluable stepping stone towards professional practice and create continuity within the design profession. We thank those who open their doors to young designers and generously share their knowledge and experience with the next generation of design practitioners.
An internship is a temporary job at a design consulting firm or in-house design office that is geared toward an upper-level student or recent graduate. Employers may hire interns to assist on a specific project or for a set amount of time, such as the summer or a semester. Students and young designers often develop their practice by broadening their education with a mentor, while gaining experience in a professional design environment. Employers benefit from each intern’s unique approach, perspective, and assistance during the creative process.
An internship is an important opportunity for students to:
This process can be a job in itself! Although it may be time-consuming, students should remember that there is a lot to be learned from the experience, which can set the stage for strong career development. The process of seeking an internship provides valuable experience in talking about one’s work. Students will also learn about the professional practice of design and possibly discover new directions that their career could take. Competition for internship opportunities can be high, so students should be sure to start the application process early.
A good internship host will:
To make a good impression as an intern, students must exhibit the utmost professionalism. Students may receive more responsibility by presenting themselves as dependable, easy to work with, and appreciative of the internship opportunity. Students should take cues from co-workers and fall in line with the social style of the workplace.
As an intern, students should:
Internships may vary in their duration and approach to compensation. Internships typically last from a few months to a year. Students may be paid by the hour, the project, or a flat rate applied for the duration of the internship. Regardless of the compensation schedule, the total paid for hours worked must at least meet the required minimum wage rate in the state where the employment occurs. Employers are encouraged to also offer students invaluable small perks such as travel reimbursement, tickets to lectures, or specialized training, and recommendation letters or introductions to other professionals.
Students may also be eligible to earn academic credits for their internship experience. Students should check with their school’s career services office to find out if an internship qualifies for academic credit. However, academic credit may not be enough for an internship experience to qualify as “unpaid” under the U.S. Department of Labor’s internship guidelines. Employers will find a list of six standards that must be met for an internship to be unpaid, including a formal training program that “is structured around a classroom or academic experience as opposed to the employer’s actual operations.”
AIGA’s Philadelphia chapter has created a Paid Internship Pledge that calls for “all private sector businesses to make a pledge to honor the law and fairly compensate the design students they may employ in the future.” AIGA urges employers to provide paid internships whenever possible, and to fully comply with the U.S. Department of Labor’s internship guidelines.
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