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Department of History

Internship Guidelines

All Public History students must complete an internship.

All Public History students, including PhD students doing a field in public history, must complete an internship. This may be done through an established internship program or be set up independently by the student in consultation with Public History faculty. Students must complete an advance contract, work a minimum of 145 hours, and submit a final report.  All internship supervisors must submit an evaluation (quantitative form and qualitative letter).


What is an internship? The internship is intended to provide Public History students with professional experience in an institution whose purposes and activities are related to the student's major field (historic preservation or museums). Ideally, the internship should provide practical professional experience that supplements learning in regular university classes and in graduate assistantships. In setting up your internship, thought should be given to what kind of supplementary experience would be useful. You should also think about your career after graduate school. What kind of position do you want? Where do you want to live? You may wish to choose an institution similar to where you would like to find your first full-time professional job. If you will be looking for a position outside South Carolina after you graduate, you might want to find an internship in that location. Temporary residence elsewhere can add to the cost of your living expenses if you are also maintaining an apartment in Columbia, but becoming known in this location may give you an edge in the job market.

How is an internship different  than an assistantship? The internship offers professional-level experience in a public history institution directly related to your major field of study. You work as a practicing professional and are evaluated by your internship supervisor. In contrast, an assistantship is a form of financial aid for graduate students (that also provides useful work experience). The essential point on the internship is that you are looking for professional, entry-level work that contributes to the resume and portfolio you bring to the job market.


When should I do my internship? You may complete your internship in any semester or over two semesters. Most students do their internships during the summer months between your first and second years, when we offer few graduate seminars and you have greater flexibility with your time.


Who sets up the internship? The primary responsibility for finding and setting up the internship rests with the student. Internships fall into two general categories: those that are part of a formal institutional internship program and those that you set up independently. In both cases, it is important to consult closely with your faculty advisor on the nature of the work you will be doing. Announcements about formal internship programs are routinely posted by faculty to our Public History listserv, and hard copy announcements are posted on the bulletin boards. Internship (as well as job) announcements are regularly posted to the various electronic discussion lists in the profession, and this is a good reason for subscribing to some of these. If you are looking to set up an independent internship, consult with your faculty advisor. We have numerous contacts both within and beyond South Carolina and are happy to share them with you.


Can I do my internship where I already  work? You should not seek internship credit for work you are already doing as a graduate assistant or volunteer. However, in some cases it may be appropriate to arrange an internship in an institution where you already work. The key is defining a separate and distinct work experience from what you have already been doing. Consult with your faculty advisor.


What are the basic requirements? You must work at least 145 hours in a professional capacity. You may work more than this, particularly if your internship is part of a formal internship program with a set schedule. In addition, you must complete an advance contract, do the work agreed upon, and submit a final report. Your institutional supervisor must send a written report evaluating you at the conclusion of the internship.


What is an advance contract? Before beginning the internship, the student should prepare a contract that describes the work or project to be undertaken. While the intern will be responsible for specific tasks or a particular project, the work should ideally involve the student in a broad range of an institution's activities. If possible, the intern should be included in staff meetings and have the opportunity to meet the staff in divisions other than the one where you are placed. The student should be treated as entry-level professional staff, not as cheap labor or a "go-fer." (This is one of the reasons we insist on a clearly spelled out advance contract.) The contract should include a brief description of specific tasks and responsibilities assigned to the student; the name and title of the person who will supervise the student's work; a statement of the inclusive dates of the internship, and whether or not the student will be paid and at what rate. It should be dated and signed by the student and the institutional supervisor, with a copy given to the student, the supervisor, and the faculty advisor. If the institution has a formal internship program a written description of the existing program can be substituted for the contact at the advisor's discretion, and a copy placed in the student's file. A sample contract is appended below.


Can we change the nature of the work agreed upon? It is permissible for the tasks or projects spelled out in the contract to be modified somewhat to meet the changing needs of an institution, although major changes in the contract should only be made with the prior approval of the Public History advisor.


What are the components  of the final report? A final report must be submitted to your faculty advisor. It consists of:

  • Copy of any written product created by the student. This could include an exhibit catalog, an education plan, the script for exhibit labels, or a National Register nomination, for example
  • Description of what the student actually did. This need not be a diary or daily log, but it should be an essay that describes specific activities undertaken by the student, details of the project(s), and a summary of what was accomplished. If a written product is included, the contribution of the student to the product should be described, as well as how it fits into the larger set of tasks. If the activities were changed from the contract or the project remains incomplete, the report should explain why (and how the institution and/or student plans to carry it to completion)
  • Evaluation of the internship experience in terms of the student's professional preparation and goals. The evaluation should discuss what theories or skills taught in the classroom were applied during the internship, and it should specify where classroom training was especially helpful or perhaps weak and non-existent. The evaluations should also discuss what the student has learned in practice that may be useful in a "real" job. Finally a brief evaluation of the suitability of the institution for placement of future interns would be helpful. Was the supervision good? Does the institution do the kind of work that prepares a student for the profession? Are the staff knowledgeable and encouraging? What was especially valuable about interning at this institution? What, if anything, could have been done better?
  • The final report should be a substantial, detailed, and reflective essay.  Think of it as a term paper on the entire internship experience.  Include representative examples of the “products” you created over the internship. 

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Internship Agreement
(Your name) and (Institution)

(Institution) agrees to accept (your name) as an intern for the period from (date) to (date). (Your name) will work                                        hours a week for            weeks, for a total of           hours. This work will be compensated at the rate of                 . (Name and his/her title) will serve as the internship supervisor at (institution). The duties of (your name) over the course of the internship will include: (describe in as much detail as you can or include internship announcement if it is an established program).


Responsibilities  of the intern:

  • Consult with the Public History advisor in locating and setting up the internship.
  • Prepare an advance contract to be signed by the student and institutional supervisor, with a copy given to the student, supervisor, and faculty advisor.
  • Complete a written report to be submitted to the Public History advisor. As described in the Internship Guidelines for the Public History Program, this will include, at a minimum: a copy of any written product you created during the internship, a description of what you actually did, and an evaluation of the internship experience in terms of your professional preparation and goals.
  • IMPORTANT: Submit the final report no later than one month after the end of the internship. Fill in the due date here:                                                                      .

Responsibilities  of the institutional supervisor:


  • Provide opportunities for the intern to carry out professional activities and to undertake the work necessary to complete tasks and projects.
  • Provide professional supervision of the intern.
  • Send a written report evaluating the intern's work to the Public History advisor within month of the conclusion of the internship.





______________________________________Signature of Intern


______________________________________Postal address during internship






______________________________________Phone number







______________________________________Signature of Institutional Supervisor


______________________________________Institutional address





______________________________________Phone number



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