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Cal Poly recognizes that an internship can be a significant part of a student’s Learn by Doing experience.  An internship formally integrates the student's academic study with practical experience in a cooperating organization. It is an off-campus activity for which a student receives academic credit. It is designed to serve educational purposes by offering experience in a service learning, business, nonprofit, or government setting. An internship site is the organization at which the internship takes place. In some colleges and programs, internships are also referred to as cooperative education (co-ops).


According to EO 1064, the CSU policy on internships, “each campus is required to develop, implement, maintain and publish a student internship policy governing internships where the university makes the placement.” This policy applies when a student is getting academic credit for an internship and/or it is required for the major, regardless of whether the internship is paid or unpaid (see CSU Off-Campus Academic Activities). This policy does not apply to the following:

  • Educationally related work experiences that do not receive academic credit, such as summer employment related to a student's academic program.
  • Teacher preparation placements or clinical placements such as those for social work, nursing, counseling, physical therapy, or occupational therapy.
  • Note: International students may not begin paid or unpaid off-campus employment without work authorization. F-1 visa students must have Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorized by an International Student Advisor prior to the start date of an internship. Information about how to qualify and apply for CPT can be found on the International Center’s CPT webpage. Questions about CPT can be directed to


Under this policy, the responsibilities of the Department shall include:

  • Completing a written summary of the internship site (see the Site Self-Assessment and Student Acknowledgment of Risks developed by Risk Management), retaining the summary, and making it available for review
  • Ensuring that students sign the University Release Agreement (see University Release Agreement webpage)
  • Ensuring that the student, internship site supervisor and university representative all sign a Learning Agreement form, which includes emergency contact information and addresses the work to be provided by the student, the learning outcomes, and the placement logistics, including hours and pay. See Internship Learning Agreement Outline (pdf).
  • Retaining all the documents related to each internship for three years and in a manner consistent with university and system guidelines on records/information retention and disposition schedules (see EO 1031); electronic copies are permissible.
  • Instituting a procedure for orienting students before the beginning of an internship, which shall include conduct expectations as well as health and safety instructions
  • Conducting an annual review of internships, both for educational purposes and for the safety of the students, which takes into account the information gathered from on-site supervisors as well as from students, staff, and faculty

The written summary of the internship site shall include the following:

  • An evaluation of the potential for the internship site to provide an educationally appropriate experience and environment
  • An evaluation of the academic potential of the experience and its relationship to the student's academic study
  • An identification of the potential risks of the internship site
  • An identification of an appropriate individual from the host organization to supervise the student at an internship site
  • Selection criteria and basic skills required of the student
  • The signed agreement of the internship site to meet campus expectations, including the internship site's and campus's roles in the internship, student responsibilities, non-discrimination practices, anti-harassment policies, and accommodation of special needs

An identification of the potential risks of the internship site may require a site visit, which may be bypassed if the department can demonstrate and document sufficient knowledge of the internship site. This assessment could be accomplished through an online review, an examination of published materials, or direct contact with the site. The visit may also be bypassed if the site does not pose an increased risk relative to the campus, e.g., an office or computer laboratory.

The responsibilities of the College shall include:

  • Preparing a standard form of internship learning agreement to be used by each department. See Internship Learning Agreement Outline (pdf).
  • Designating an internship coordinator responsible for the implementation, compliance, and reporting of this policy
  • Evaluating the risk associated with each internship, using the written summary of the internship site
  • Ensuring departmental compliance with this internship policy

The responsibilities of the University shall include:

  • Establishing academic policies for initiating an internship
  • Establishing criteria for awarding academic credit
  • Establishing policies for student compensation, if applicable
  • Providing a plan to accommodate any students with special needs (for help, contact the Disability Resource Center)




last updated January 24, 2023



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