University of Oregon

Student Services Hub (PODS)


What kind of experience are you searching for?

Volunteer, practicum and internship are words that are sometimes used interchangeably. However, there are differences - to help you understand what distinguishes these different types of experiences, see below:


  • Goal: Gain exposure to an organization/field and/or contribute to a cause
  • Required skills: Minimal to none
  • Level of commitment: Minimal; individual reputation/ethics
  • Pay rate: None


  • Goal: Gain experience in an organization, field; broad exposure, exploratory
  • Required skills: Some skills helpful ranging from basic administrative to computer organizational, or others specific to field
  • Level of commitment: Typically designated/agreed upon time-frame
  • Pay rate: None

NOTE: Architecture & Interior Architecture student's on site work must NOT be associated with the firm's billable hours. If students are working on projects associated with billable work then the student should be in a paid internship. This is based upon AIA standards and Labor Laws. One exception is pre-approved non-profit organizations.


Internship Agreement/Contracting is highly recommended to insure clarity of expectations and good match. Click here to download the Internship Agreement form.

  • Goal: Gain direct work experience in chosen field
  • Required skills: Specific skills identified and brokered as trade for mentorship and learning opportunity
  • Level of commitment: Committed period of time
  • Pay rate: None to paid; other benefits negotiable such as stipend, travel, housing, access to resources/events

*Note: The field of Architecture typically uses the term "Internship" to define paid professional position after graduation as an Intern Architect. However, students in architecture do participate in paid experiential learning during the academic year and these positions are sometimes referred to as internships, but are at the student level. Check with your department to clarify current policy on pre-graduation paid and unpaid, credit and non/credit experiences and consult with NCARB for regulations toward licensure.


  • Goal: Gain entry to income/career path
  • Required skills: Specified skills aligned with job requirements and pay scale
  • Level of commitment: High - typically 2 week notice minimal for termination, longer for more professional levels
  • Pay rate: Typically adjusted by industry and skill/experience level


Volunteering can be great way to explore career-related work, get to know an organization, or gain some knowledge and skills for your future career. Often this can be done without structured applications and without a major time commitment.

The following are a few resources to help you locate local volunteer opportunities:

In addition to off campus opportunities, consider getting involved in College of Design student organizations


For all College of Design majors:

Talk with your individual major department about the availability of practicum.

Special notes:

Arts and Administration:

Review Community Partners and Practice for practicum information.


Students with little work experience can take a Practicum course to be exposed to many different aspects of professional practice, including client discussions, job site visits, etc. The Practicum can also be used for graduate students to do a specialized study for the firm that they would not normally be able to charge to clients, such as research and development, marketing communications, user perception surveys, or building post-occupancy evaluations. As students pay tuition and receive credit for the Practicum experience, they should not be working on billable projects, which are suitable for more experienced students in paid Internships.

Practicum experiences must fit the UO academic calendar, paid internships are flexible in terms of time commitment and schedule. Most of our students take classes full-time and would have difficulty meeting their academic requirements if they work more than 12 hours a week. Architecture students who have few requirements might be interested in working 15 hours a week, as 15 hours/week for 8 consecutive weeks is the minimum to count towards work experience towards the Intern Development Program.

AIA Compensation Report 2013

Architecture practicum coordinator: Amy Miller Dowell


See our resources by department.

Some employers require that you are enrolled as a student and earn academic credit while completing their internship. If your site doesn't require it then it is up to you to decide if you want to pursue credit for your internship (you can complete an internship simply for the experience and could choose to not enroll for credit).

If you want academic credit, you will need to begin this process prior to the start of your internship. First, check with your major department to learn if they will grant you credit. Typically, you will earn 1 credit for every 30 hours worked. Your department will also ask that you work under a faculty supervisor and typically you are required to complete academic work along with the work you are completing at the site. Each department approaches internships differently so be sure to talk with them about their individual requirements.

If you find that for whatever reason your department will not grant you credit for your internship, please inquire at the PODS office or contact for other options to earn credit. PODS is located in 277Lawrence (map).

Note that while some employers say that they can offer academic credit for your internship, it is only your university that can grant the credit. Therefore, you need to go through the steps listed above to begin the process.

Some internship sites will compensate their interns while other sites choose not to or simply don't have the resources to do so. Compensation can take the form in an hourly salary, a one-time stipend, housing, reimbursement for travel expenses, organization perks, e.g. tickets to their events, etc.

As an applicant, you will need to decide what you are comfortable with in terms of compensation. Some students are able to participate in an unpaid internship while others need to be paid in order to meet their monthly expenses. Other students might intern part-time (unpaid) and work another part-time job to support them. Consider your individual circumstances to evaluate what you can afford.

Know that you can always ask about compensation even if it isn't mentioned. When negotiating, which is typically done after it has been decided by you and the organization that a match has been found, approach it with an attitude of compromise and finding a solution that works for you and the company.

If you are pursuing an unpaid internship, federal guidelines for unpaid internships have been created to help protect an unpaid intern and ensure that the experience is about learning for the student rather than unpaid labor for the company. When evaluating an internship, consider how the company's internship measures up to these expectations. Below are the guidelines:

From the United States Department of Labor:

There are some circumstances under which individuals who participate in "for-profit" private sector internships or training programs may do so without compensation.

The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:

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

6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.


It is important to know what is expected of both you and your site supervisor during the internship. Additionally, to ensure that you gain the skills and knowledge you want from your internship, it is important to create learning goals for your experience and talk with the supervisor about what you would like to accomplish. To help you understand expectations and create goals, PODS offers a generic Learning Agreement that you can use for your internship.

Use the agreement to help structure a conversation with your site supervisor. You might review student and supervisor responsibilities together (page 2). You can also discuss your goals (page 4). Your supervisor may be able to help you come up with on-site tasks that will help you meet your goals.

The Internship Learning Agreement is available for download here.

Liability refers to responsibility for you and your actions while on site, e.g. if you are in an accident on-site. If you are employed (paid by your employer for your internship) by your site, then the company will cover you, as they will with all of their employees. You should check with your site supervisor to determine if the organization or company provides this coverage for interns.

The Internship Learning Agreement contains a liability statement stipulating that the university is not liable for interns. However, if required by the internship provider, the university may be able to provide liability insurance for specific cases (the internship must meet certain criteria).

Please contact Deb Donning for more information.

Deb Donning
Risk Manager Office of Risk Management
(541) 346-8209

If you are traveling abroad for your internship (not through an IE3 internship), consider purchasing travel insurance offered through the University. This insurance coverage includes accident and sickness, security evacuation, emergency medical evacuation, trip cancellation, trip interruption and travel assistance. The cost of this coverage is $13.37/week (2013/14). Additional information regarding this insurance may be found at the Office of Risk Management.

If you are interested in applying for the insurance, please complete the following form and submit to either Deb Donning ( or Becca Puelo ( in UO Risk Management. International Travel Insurance student form


Internship search resources:

Be Proactive!

Be sure to research organizations that you would like to intern for and proactively connect with them: check their websites for internship postings, call them to ask about internships, outreach to someone working at the organization for an informational interview. Check LinkedIn for UO alums working at the organization to reach out to.

Resources for UO students:

  • DuckConnect: Internship and Job opportunities are posted to this Job Board by employers interested in hiring UO students (for College of Design students only)
  • Department resources: Career information and resources listed by your College of Design major department
  • IE3 Global Internships: IE3 provides opportunities to intern abroad while earning academic credit
  • Service Learning Program: SLP connects students with the local community, including public schools and non-profit organizations, to gain experience and earn academic credit

Resources available to all college students:

Additional Assistance:


Be Proactive!

Be sure to research organizations that you would like to work for and proactively connect with them: check their websites for employment postings, reach out to someone working at the organization for an informational interview, and check LinkedIn for UO alums working at the organization to reach out to. Because such a large number of jobs are never posted, proactive job search strategies such as networking are critical for success!


Job search resources:

  • DuckConnect: Internship and job opportunities are posted by employers interested in hiring UO students (for College of Design students only)
  • Department resources:  Career information and resources listed by your College of Design major department
  • and are two websites that allow you to search job postings listed on non-password protected employment websites. Enter your desired location and key words.
  • Creative and design job search website


Additional assistance: