What Separates an Internship From a Paid Position or Volunteer Work?

An internship is designed to offer students the opportunity to gain work knowledge and possibly college credit for learning experiences identified in their job. An intern must be supervised by a mentor who actively participates in their workplace learning.

The goal of an internships is for a student to learn new skills and/or knowledge about his /her job and improve work performance.

Paid employees, and to a lesser extent volunteers, require much less teaching and oversight than an intern. The internship experience must be an extension of the classroom: A learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom. Thus, interns are not intended to replace full time employees, part time employees, or volunteers.

Some core features of an Internship include:

  • Training in an educational environment
  • A structured, centralized process for mentorship
  • Intern is exposed to existing organizational practices and procedures
  • On-the-job training is transferable to other employment settings.
  • The internship experience has a defined beginning, end, and job description with desired qualifications.
  • The intern is supervised by a professional with expertise, educational ability, and/ or professional background in the field of experience.
  • The intern recieves routine feedback from the experienced supervisor.
  • Resources, equipment, and facilities are provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/ goals.

Benefits to host employer include:

  • Internships give employers a chance to test-drive talent before permanently hiring
  • Internships are an excellent recruitment tool for employers.
  • Internships offer employers a chance to train incoming employees for potential permanent positions.
  • Internships help employers connect with ambitious and dedicated students entering their field.

Cuesta Work Experience Program

For Cuesta College students and interested employers, the Cooperative Work Experience Program (WEXP) provides the opportunity for students to participate in paid and unpaid internships while earning college credit.

The Cuesta College Internship and Work Experience Programs are intended to give students real-world experience in their area of academic study. We connect all internships to curriculum so that students are able to learn hands-on in connection with their academic plan. Our Internship and Work Experience Programs strengthen student learning, build effective work habits, and create career awareness. Our goal is to have students develop workplace competencies through internships and/or jobs.

While the Work Experience Program is not required for all Cuesta College students participating in our Internship Program, most of our interns will elect to participate in a Work Experience course and complete relevant course assignments. This allows students to gain college credit while participating in their internship.

Students participating in a Work Experience course must first secure a position, paid or unpaid, with a supervisor to receive college credit. Credit is earned based on 75 hours of paid work or 60 hours of unpaid internship/volunteer work per unit the student is enrolled. Below are some frequently asked questions by employers with brief answers and resources.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


How Do I Learn More?

If you would like to talk to us about creating an internship position for students, you can contact us at careerconnections@cuesta.edu.