What is an Internship?

Internships are work experiences that allow students to gain practical skills and knowledge in a specific career field. Internships at JMU can be paid or unpaid, as well as for academic credit or no credit. They can take place at any point in the semester, but they are most often completed during the summer. Internships provide beneficial, work experience to supplement what students are learning in the classroom! Internships are considered experiential education, along wih externships, shadowing, and volunteering.


We support the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) standards on internships. View our Recruiting Policies for policies regarding internships.


We encourage employers to offer students paid internships, though some government and non-profit organizations routinely offer unpaid internships only. Unpaid internships limit your applicant pool; though all internships offer students experience, providing a paid internship makes your opportunity competitive and increases the number of applicants. For-profit employers offering unpaid internships must abide by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

What is The Fair Labor Standards Act?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law under the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the United States Department of Labor. This law includes standards for private sector employers in regard to internships.

If you are a for-profit employer offering an unpaid internship, you must meet the following criteria outlined by the FLSA:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and the employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship. (Source: WHD Fact Sheet #71)
Internship for Credits

While most JMU students can receive academic credit within participating states of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, the majority of JMU students are not required by their major to complete an internship for credit. You may contact an internship coordinator in the department from which you hope to hire an intern for more information.

Students must pay for internship credit(s) like they pay for other academic courses; therefore, offering students the ability to use the internship for credit hours, if applicable to their major, is not equal to paying them and should not be viewed as an incentive.

What is the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement?

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is an established agreement regarding student participation in out-of-state internships and other educational courses for academic credit. Member states join SARA, while colleges and universities operate under SARA, and follow its nationwide policies and standards on accredited internships.

How Does SARA Relate to JMU Students’ Internships?

James Madison University joined SARA in June 2015 and implemented SARA’s regulations for accredited internships in spring 2016. JMU students may now intern in other member states of SARA for credit. 

How Does SARA Impact Employers Hoping to Hire JMU Interns?

An employer’s headquarters must be located within a member state of SARA in order for their JMU student intern to receive credit. If an employer’s headquarters is not located in a participating state, their JMU student intern may not receive credit. See the JMU and State Authorization website for a current list of participating states.

While all JMU students are encouraged to participate in an internship, students that need an internship for completion of their academic program requirements may seek out employers located within member states.


  • Please visit the JMU Office of the Provost’s website on JMU and State Authorization for more information.
  • For more information regarding online programs, contact Doug Hearrington.
  • For more information on internships or other physical placements, contact Herb Amato.
Posting Internship Opportunities on Handshake

Posting your internship on Handshake is the best way to connect JMU students with your internship opportunities. The following are tips for a successful internship posting that appeals to JMU students:

  • Select “Internship – Paid” or “Internship – Unpaid.” This must be one or the other, as students want to know if they will be paid or not. Keep in mind the information above, which explains that offering internship credit hours does not equal paying students, as they would in turn be paying for the internship credits. Our office encourages employers to pay students for their internship work.
  • Provide a detailed internship description. List as much information about the internship as possible, especially the internship tasks and if the internship is in the fall, spring, or summer. By doing so, students will have a better understanding of your opportunity and will more likely apply. 
  • List the compensation in the “Salary” section. If an internship is paid, students will take this information into account. They also may be deterred to apply if the salary is not provided, when the internship is listed as paid. 
  • Include the internship location. Location is a major factor that students take into account when searching for internship opportunities. Students will intern in and around Harrisonburg, VA during the academic year, but in the summer, students are open to internships elsewhere.
Promote Your Internship Opportunities

Our office can assist you in promoting your internship to JMU students, just simply request a consultation with our staff to discuss best ways of reaching JMU students.

Our UCC Media Team provide direct marketing support for our employer partners, click here to learn more about the UCC Parnters Program.


If you have any questions about internships, please don't hesitate to contact our Employer Services unit at handshake@jmu.edu.

Back to Top