More credits available for internship work

by Laura Gomez / Beacon Staff and Katelyn Palladino / Correspondent • November 21, 2013

Emerson students may not have to ration their eight internship credits like Board Bucks anymore. This semester, Career Services piloted the Professional Development Experience program, which allows students to get two extra credits from an internship experience. 

This program can be an alternative to the current system of internship credit approval, which allows students to earn up to eight internship credits, said Carol Spector, director of Career Services. Up to two credits can be earned from the Professional Development Experience. 

Students may become involved in Professional Development Experience if they have completed two semesters of college — at least one at Emerson — and have a GPA of at least 3.0. To participate in a four or eight-credit internship for credit, a student must have at least 64 credits — which usually means having a junior standing — and a minimum GPA of 2.7.

Under the new pilot program, students can earn one credit by working a minimum of 60 hours in a two-to-12 week period. To earn four credits from an internship, students must work 16 to 24 hours a week for a minimum of 12 weeks. Eight-credit internships require working 32 to 38 hours a week for at least 12 weeks. 

According to Spector, staff from Career Services had observed that students wanted more flexibility when it came to participating in internships or in Emerson’s external programs. The Los Angeles and Washington D.C. programs, for example, both require eight-credit internships to be completed.

“Most students are advised to save their eight credits for those programs,” said Spector. “But if they come across something before that, [Professional Development Experience] is another option for them.” 

Feedback from employers was also a factor in prompting Career Services staff to come up with an alternative to the current internship credit system, said Spector. Many companies are now requiring interns to receive school credit for their time there.

“We gathered that information for a couple of years, saw the different trends that were happening with the employers and put this proposal together,” said Spector.

The plan was approved by department chairs and the office of academic affairs in the spring, she said. 

Some students said they are concerned that the new program only compensates one credit for the time committed to an internship. 

Megan Tripp, a senior writing, literature, and publishing major, questioned how the program would fit into students’ other commitments.

“I don’t think it will fit very well into Emerson’s students’ busy schedules. The internship system right now allows for more flexibility with class schedules because there is the opportunity to earn credits,” said Tripp, who said she currently interns at Boston Magazine. “Only one credit for a program that will interrupt our insane schedules doesn’t feel worth it to me.”

Gabrielle Tyson, a junior writing, literature, and publishing major, who said she interns at Mass Poetry, agreed with Tripp.

“The fact that it’s one credit might be the tipping point for some people,” she said. “What I love about doing an internship for a semester is that it takes the place of a class, and you get the full four credits for it.” 

This semester was the first for the program and it will continue to run as a pilot in the spring and summer of 2014, according to Spector. 

Students who want to participate in for-credit internships, but are already taking 16 credits have to pay for the cost of the credits from their internships. In the fall and spring semesters, the cost is $1,096 per credit, and in the summer, it’s $679 per credit. 

Other students said they were more optimistic about how the program would fit into their schedules, but questioned having to pay for the program.

“I currently do about 15 hours a week at my internship, so I think the hours are manageable,” said Elizabeth Isenberg, a junior writing, literature, and publishing major, who said she interns at Perseus Book Group. “What I’d be more concerned about is having to pay for it. It seems ridiculous to have to pay to do an internship already. But to be paying to work and only getting one credit, it just doesn’t seem worth my time.”