The short answer is that an internship provides a learning experience that is relevant to your classroom education and career goals, whereas a job involves work a regular employee might do to advance an employer’s goal. That is, an internship aims to teach you something above and beyond the basic duties of a position. Additionally, the position must have clearly defined learning goals that are relevant to the students’ career goals and that confer/develop skills that are transferable to other professional settings. For example, working as a page or staffing the checkout desk at a public library would not qualify as an internship, but working under the supervision of a librarian to develop and stage a special exhibit from the library’s collection could qualify. Such a position may involve conducting historical research, developing a timeline for display, overseeing event publicity, or preparing guides for visitors – all responsibilities that can enhance a student’s classroom education in history and provide them with a focused yet broadly applicable skill set. Even non-history organizations can provide meaningful internship experiences; for example, a student who serves as a communications intern at a large, national corporation will develop their ability to write for multiple audiences, interpret complex material, and work as part of an interdisciplinary team. A student at a smaller, local non-profit may work closely with the community to assess their needs, learn about the experiences of a particular group in Wisconsin, or participate in grassroots organizing to effect social change.
For more information on the criteria that define an internship, please refer to the Letters & Science Career Services handout, “Basic Criteria for All Internships,” or to their main internship page.