Importance of Internships for Adult Learners

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The word “internship” is often associated with younger college students who possess little or no experience in their chosen field, but who are looking to receive the training and experience needed to stand out to potential employers. However, in today’s world, internships are no longer viewed as an option solely for “traditional” college students. Instead, adult learners, who are juggling school, work and families are seeking and pursuing internship opportunities as a way to gain experience for a future career change.

“Internships are beneficial for students who are not already working in the field,” said Jama Thurman, career services manager at Hodges University. “Internships allow them to gain experience and build their professional network. Most employers are looking for some experience on the resume, whether it is work experience, internships or volunteer experience.”

At Hodges, many of the programs have internship requirements, or students are provided the option to participate in an internship elective for credit. Internships provide students with hands-on experience in their field of study, and they are expected to acquire the necessary learning objectives for the experience. Below are just a few examples of the experiences Hodges students are receiving through their internships:

Johnson School of Business

Heriberto Sanchez Jr.In the Johnson School of Business (JSOB), students may choose to participate in an internship as a part of their elective credits. “There are so many opportunities for students to gain real-world experience. Through the relationships we have with companies in the Southwest Florida area, we receive many inquiries regarding the needs for interns,” said Dr. Aysegul Timur, dean of the Johnson School of Business.

Heriberto Sanchez Jr., who is a Hodges student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in management with a minor in marketing, currently works as an administrative assistant for Merit Credit, Inc. Looking for an internship as a form of college credit, he found an opportunity to intern with Nexxa Group, Inc. in Fort Myers. The company is a direct marketing and database solutions provider for energy, broadband and telecommunications industries.

Beginning his internship in May 2016, he is learning about the data side of marketing. “In class, we are fortunate as students to have professors who are experienced and can provide us with valuable information. However, nothing is better than receiving hands-on experience and getting to work within a business. It has certainly helped in my studies at Hodges,” he said. Sanchez will complete his internship in August.

School of  Health Sciences

Juditte JeanWithin the School of Health Sciences, students in the health information management (HIM) degree program, which is completely online, are required to take the HIM Practicum, which provides students with internship experience and enables them to produce a portfolio demonstrating proficiencies in health information department functions.

“At the end of study, our students are required to complete an internship, which is four credit hours. They must spend 90 hours at the location, but they must also prepare a portfolio on site,” explained Professor Susan Casey, program chair for Hodges’ health information management program. “At the end of their semester, the internship is an opportunity to tie everything they have learned together. It prepares and helps them to see the practice, as well as prepare for the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) exam.”

Hodges student Juditte Jean, who is pursuing an associate degree in health information management, is currently interning at Lee Memorial Health System where she verifies medical records and coding.

“This internship has allowed me to experience my field of study first hand before I graduate. Getting hands-on experience helps me to be certain about my career choice, and it is giving me a glimpse into what I will be doing after graduation,” she explained.

Nichols School of Professional Studies

Dr. Daniel Pontzer, program chair of the criminal justice program at Hodges, explains that students in the program are encouraged to participate in an internship at a professional agency, such as a local sheriff’s office, police department, a prosecutor or public defender’s office, a prison or jail or an at-risk youth center. Students who complete an internship within the criminal justice program earn four to eight credit hours of upper level elective coursework.

“This is an opportunity for students to gain insights into how to go about procuring employment in a specific field of criminal justice, to develop job-related skills and strengthen their network of professional contacts,” said Pontzer.

While each agency has different requirements for internships, students must meet with the program chair one semester in advance in order to obtain approval.

Contributing writer for Fastweb, Kizzy Preston explains that adult learners who are preparing to change careers should seek internship opportunities while in school. “Having the degree alone is usually not enough to successfully change careers. Companies want to see that you have tangible experience in their field before they will hire you for the job you desire. Some companies are willing to let students intern on the weekends, or on a flexible schedule. You could also look into volunteering with an organization to gain new skills and experience that would make you more marketable in your new career field,” she said.*

Jean understands this philosophy all too well in her internship at Lee Memorial Health System, saying, “It can be a great opportunity to get hired by the site upon graduation if the student made a great impression during the internship… Therefore, student interns should be professional at all times, be punctual, and wear proper attire when going to the internship site; it is based on first impression.”

“We understand that many of our students are managing a busy schedule, and the idea of an internship seems unfathomable; however, internships are becoming increasingly valuable in today’s workforce, and at Hodges, we want to make sure our students have every opportunity to excel and succeed after graduation,” said Timur.

Students who are interested in internship opportunities should contact their program chairs.

*Preston, Kizzy. “Internships: Why You Need to Complete One.” April 12, 2013.