Communication Internship Policies and Opportunities

Internships offer an opportunity to apply the knowledge students gain Communication classroom to a working environment beyond Penn’s campus. Students who complete internships in Communication fields not only learn practical workplace skills and begin to develop their professional networks.

Internship duties may include a variety of communication tasks, such as undertaking research; preparing publications, presentations, and videos; participating in concept development; design; strategic planning; and content production (writing, photography, film, and video) in news, social media, advertising, and marketing. Interns may work in nonprofit organizations, private and corporate firms, or government agencies.

Below you’ll find information on earning academic credit for an internship and Annenberg’s policies on for-credit internships.

Earning Academic Credit

To receive academic credit for a department-approved internship, students must complete COMM 491. This seminar runs concurrently with internship placements throughout the academic year, including the summer.

Students should expect to spend an average of 10–15 hours per week during the fall or spring semester, and at least 20 hours per week during the summer, at internship placements. During the regular school year, students complete assigned and self-selected readings and pursue their internship research projects. These may include structured observations and interviews at their work sites and typically lead to a final research paper on a communication issue.

Because many students undertake internships outside Philadelphia during the summer months, the summer seminar does not hold face-to-face meetings. Class is structured around online communication and written assignments. Students enrolled in the summer seminar are billed for summer tuition.

General Policies and Deadlines

  • Enrollment in COMM 491 is limited to majors in Communication. It is an advanced credit course.
  • Students may not register for COMM 491 without an internship offer in hand.
  • Students with an internship offer in hand must also receive approval before registering for COMM 491.
  • Internships must last the full length of the semester. Shorter internships may not be stitched together in sequence as a substitute for a single continuous internship.
  • Internships that include virtual work will generally be considered for credit only if a substantial portion of the work takes place in an off-campus organization setting.
  • Generally, credit is not granted for Penn-sponsored internships, with rare exceptions.
  • Internships may be paid or unpaid.
  • Internships approved for credit must span the breadth of the academic term (Fall, Spring or Summer), and require 10-15 hours of work per week during Fall or Spring, and a minimum of 20 hours per week during the Summer.
  • Students may complete COMM 491 only once.

Securing a Department-Approved Internship

Before enrolling in Comm 491, students must secure formal department approval for an internship. This is a two-step process:

1. Once a promising internship has been identified, students should check with the Internship Coordinator and Comm 491 instructor, Dr. Susan Haas, or Alison Feather, Director of Student Services and Registrar, to make sure the internship falls within department guidelines. Qualifying internships are sponsored by communication or media organizations or involve communication tasks within non-communication organizations.

2. The second step is to apply for formal approval by filing two documents with the Undergraduate Office: (1) A contract form provided by the Undergraduate Office. This must be completed and signed by the student and field supervisor. (2) A document from the employer on company/organization letterhead describing the duties to be performed at the internship and the dates and hours to be worked. This document must be signed by the field supervisor at the internship.

Since COMM 491 fills quickly, students should submit their internships for formal approval as early as possible.

For further information and approval forms, contact Alison Feather or Dr. Susan Haas.

Notation on Transcript for the Completion of Non-Credit Internship

Students whose employers require them to receive academic credit but do not wish to register for COMM 491 may apply for a notation on their transcripts from the College of Arts and Sciences to indicate they have completed an internship. This option is also open to students who have received academic credit for a previous internship and are ineligible for additional academic credit.

Students should meet with a College of Arts and Sciences advisor to discuss applying for this special notation before beginning their internship. After students complete a request form, the College Office will write to the sponsoring company/organization granting permission for the student to work as an intern while making it clear the University will not indemnify the company or organization during the internship. The University also will not insure the student during the internship.

When the College Office receives confirmation that the student has successfully completed an internship under this arrangement, a notation will be placed on the transcript.

For further information and credit forms, contact Margaret Mary Thomas in the College Office, (215) 898-6341.

Where to Look for Internships

  • Career Services has an internship site.
  • A voluntary database created by students for students reports where students worked and what their experiences were like
  • Some students have found internships on idealist.org and other sites that are not connected to Penn.
  • Communication majors may periodically receive notices of available internships from Annenberg.

Recent Student Internships