Education: Through his undergraduate studies, William became interested in using his knowledge to serve people. William saw his BA in sociology as a tool for providing services to people in need in a large metropolitan area. With the help of his professors, he found an internship in an inner-city shelter for the homeless; after two semesters helping conduct a count of the area's homeless population, William decided to apply for a job with the city's Department of Human Services.
Current Position: William works as a program coordinator, drawing on his internship experiences and his undergraduate sociology courses in the family, social stratification, communities, and group dynamics.
Responsibilities: William's work includes routine processing of reports and legal forms, as well as extensive contact with clients and direct
engagement with the problems of the poor, disabled, homeless, elderly, and minorities. He combines his efforts with other employees; using his knowledge of how human services and welfare systems work, he often acts as a trouble shooter by providing help to clients who might otherwise "fall between the cracks."
Benefits: William's job requires him to maintain contacts with other public and private agencies that affect the lives of the poor. For example, one of his friends from college now works on the staff of a large community mental health center, and another is involved in supervising rehabilitation for state penitentiary inmates. Like William, they are using their sociology BAs as a foundation for social service positions. All three receive satisfaction from being able to experience day-to-day accomplishments in helping others.
William's salary is commensurate with the wage scales of public sector employees generally. He could progress through Civil Service channels to a career of relative security. However, he is considering going back to school to earn a graduate degree, which would help him compete for administrative positions.
In order to develop an internship, ask yourself these questions:
"What are my talents, skills, interests, and areas of knowledge?"
"In what areas would I like to grow?"
"What are my strongest assets?"
"How can I make a meaningful contribution in a relatively short time?"
When you address these questions and are ready to search for an internship that will benefit both you and your "employer," the following strategies may help:
Volunteer your time and skills to an employer on a temporary or part-time basis in order to establish initial contact and lay the foundation for future work.
Contact your cooperative education, internship and/or service learning coordinator on campus for a listing of organizations that accept interns and for general advice on how to find an internship and derive the most benefit from it.
Contact your college or university sociology department for advice on internships. Organizations might send internship announcements to them and your professors may have contacts in the community. Sometimes college course credit can be arranged with the department.
Contact by letter and follow-up telephone call several nonprofit organizations, corporations, businesses, and government or educational agencies in the geographic location that interests you--the broader the net, the more likely someone will offer you an internship.
Write to the National Society for Experiential Education for the National Directory of Internships (latest edition). This publication lists opportunities in 75 fields of interest, by state, type of organization, and specific organizations. NSIEE, 3509 Haworth Drive, Suite 207, Raleigh, NC 27609-7229.