What is a Field Internship?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A field internship is the process of working or training in one’s chosen profession under the guidance of an expert or teacher. The field internship essentially puts people in “the field,” meaning participants will be getting practical experience before working on their own. The field internship is a frequent requirement of certain disciplines before obtaining either or Bachelor’s or higher-level degrees. In some cases the term is synonymous with the term practicum, which basically means practical experience in one’s field.

Paramedics must complete several hours of on-the-job-training prior to obtaining a license.
Paramedics must complete several hours of on-the-job-training prior to obtaining a license.

A field internship or practicum may also be required prior to achieving licensing in a particular field. For example, someone with a Bachelor’s degree in social work is usually required to complete a year internship prior to being able to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Archaeology students may do field internsips at dig sites.
Archaeology students may do field internsips at dig sites.

Those training to be teachers complete a field internship or practicum that is both necessary for licensing and usually a part of graduating with a license to teach. This tends not to be the case with those teaching in college settings. Normally one merely needs to achieve advanced degrees, to become a professor. Ph.D. level students are usually required to teach classes or to work as teaching assistants for large classes as part of their education.

Often the field internship means one receives little to no pay. Some receive only college credits for participating in a field internship, and others receive a small subsistence allowance. Some field internships take so long to complete, that those participating may be paid slightly more. For example, those training to be licensed therapists usually must accumulate 3000 hours of practical experience counseling under the guidance of a licensed therapist prior to obtaining a license.

Several professions that do not require a bachelor’s degree do require a field internship. Paramedics, and anyone working in the emergency medical services industry must usually complete a number of hours of on the job training prior to obtaining licensing. Most who work in non-degreed aspects of the medical field, such as in respiratory therapy, radiology or sonography must have practical experience as well.

Sometimes a field internship is not a requirement for graduation but may reflect well when one looks for jobs or is pursuing an advanced degree. For example, those who wish to become archaeologists often participate in digs over the summer months because these positions add to their chances of getting jobs once out of school.

There is no average length of a field internship, since internship requirements differ vastly. Internships can take a few days to several years depending upon the field, the licensing or certificating agency, or college requirements. Usually, time of participation in a field internship is well defined by certificating agencies or by colleges, so that one entering a program will know just how long one must devote to gaining practical experience.

A field internship occurs at a remote work site, rather than at a lab or office.
A field internship occurs at a remote work site, rather than at a lab or office.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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