Beyond Internship: Field Experience

Beyond Internship: Field Experience
  • Opening Intro -

    College students seeking to gain experience in a particular field may pursue an internship.


Under this arrangement the student works for an employer, gains some experience, makes important business contacts and can sometimes receive college credit. A bonus would be any stipend or pay received on top of the internship.

Going Further

While internships are certainly valuable to college students, field experience can take you a step further. Essentially, field experience is an extension of work that has already been done and can include conducting research or handling specific projects. By actively participating in field work, students further deepen their knowledge and may receive credit equal to an independent study program.

Each college and university that offers a field experience program establishes the parameters for qualifying, applying and for participating in the program. At Harvard, its field experience program is open to Harvard Graduate School of Education students and represents a custom-designed course for students to practice, perform research and develop new skills. It is also an opportunity for students to explore varying areas of work.

The University of Texas at Austin also offers field experience for College of Education students. It describes the program as “…a sequence of field experiences and professional development courses leading to teacher certification.” With budding educators, the “field” is the classroom, where students participate for the length of the college semester.

Field Consideration

Not all field experience programs are for grad students. At East Tennessee State University, the College of Public Health offers field experience for undergrads, grads and doctoral candidates. However, all undergrad work must be completed before field experience can be considered.

Besides gaining experience, receiving academic credit is usually possible. Students may have to complete a certain number of hours to qualify and may also need to prepare an academic paper or supply a portfolio demonstrating their accomplishments – professors from can tell you how to write a business letter. Minimally, logging work in a journal may be required, with a supervisor signing off on the student’s documentation of what was learned.

Gaining Experience

While there may be a certain mystique about field work, the challenges of taking on such a position are typically not understood until the student has participated for some time. Your field experience might take you to a medical clinic in the inner city or to a remote outpost in Africa. The work can be hard, frustrating and at times senseless, but by completing your assignment, you may gain a fuller understanding of what it takes to succeed in your field.

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