Computer Science is a practical discipline, and we strongly encourage all of our majors to get a taste of the non-academic world through an internship. Most students will try to get an internship during the summer, but we also have students who do part-time internships during the academic year. Some students chose to take a semester off in order to work full time; while this is possible, it needs to be done very carefully and in concert with university policies. This page should give you most of the information that you need about internships, but it is not a substitute for speaking with advisers and specialists.
Getting an Internship
The department does not help place students in internships. That is the student’s responsibility. There are a large number of companies coming to campus to recruit computer science students, but you must participate in the activities in order to gain the benefit. University Career Services is very active in helping students find internships as well as full-time jobs. Because of the size of our major and the large number of companies coming to visit, UCS has assigned a specialist, Jade Barricelli, specifically for computer science. She maintains a mailing list for students interested in getting information about jobs. If you are not on this list and are looking for an internship, please make sure that you are added to the list (unlike the majors list, which we are now using only for academic items, you may opt out of the careers list). When looking for outside work, remember that FALL is the prime recruiting season. The best jobs and internships are gone well before the end of spring semester, and many of them are gone by January. As they say, “You snooze, you lose.”
Working Full Time During the Academic Year
The university does not have a co-op program that allows you to work full-time during the semester, but there are a number of ways that students have managed to work for a semester. There is no single solution, but most entail withdrawing for a semester or dropping down to less than half-time. If you are interested in doing this, you must work carefully with university advising to be sure that you are following all of the procedures properly (if done properly, there should be no problems). When you are talking to them about the possibility, be sure to tell them about any financial aid that you are getting.
Depending on your solution, you may or may not register for academic credit for the internship.
Internships and Academic Credit
The value of an internship is in the experience, not in any academic credit, but there are situations where students need or want academic credit for the work. The most common reasons that we see students registering for academic credit are:
- A visa requires it to be able to work
- It satisfies the experiential education requirement
- A student needs an additional 3 credits
In recent years, we have had a number of different alternatives to earn academic credit for an internship. There is now only one: COMP 293. The rules for COMP 293 are:
- You must be registered for the course while you are doing the internship.
- It is a 3 credit pass/fail course.
- The prerequisite is a C or better in COMP 401, 410, and 411.
- It satisfies the EE requirement.
- It does not count toward the major.
- The cost for the class is the same as for any other 3-credit course taken that same semester.
- You must work at least 180 hours.
- The work must entail substantive, non-elementary computer science concepts equivalent to a 500-level course. While summer jobs may lead to more substantive experiences than initially planned, it is the description of the job that you are being hired to do that is used to determine if the internship is acceptable.
- The internship must be pre-approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies with a completed learning contract before the semester begins
COMP 293 may be taken twice, but it must be two completely independent internships. Returning for a second summer to the same job or continuing work on the same internship into the fall semester do not qualify.
Registering for COMP 293
- Once you have accepted a non-academic internship, you may request approval of the internship as the basis for COMP 293. An REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) or other academic research experience is not appropriate for this course.
- Your next step is to download and fill in the form (on the learning contracts page). This will be the basis for your discussion with the Director of Undergraduate Studies (an in-person discussion, not an email exchange). The learning contract must be specific enough that it is possible to identify the work that is being done and the supervisor can verify that the work was done satisfactorily–a job description is rarely specific enough to be acceptable. Completing the contract sometimes requires additional discussion with your internship supervisor.
Note about the learning contract: In many cases, internship jobs are not completely defined before they begin or may change based on business needs. There is, therefore, a required checkpoint two weeks after the beginning of the internship to clarify or confirm the work that the student is doing. The supervisor is to send an email to the Director of Undergraduate Studies with this information.
- Once the internship description is at a satisfactory level of detail, the learning contract must be signed by the student and the student’s supervisor during the internship (not a human resources representative) and approved by the DUS. The supervisor’s signature may be scanned and printed, but it may not be simply typed; the student’s signature must be original.
- At this point, the student can be registered for the course. You need to confirm that you can be registered for the course (e.g., make sure that there are no holds on your account).
- Completion of the course requires a statement from the supervisor that the student in fact worked the planned hours and completed the work satisfactorily.