Internships and Occupational Socialization: What are Students Learning?


  • Amy McManus
  • Andrew Hale Feinstein


Internships provide rich environments where students can learn about their future careers by way of occupational socialization. Entering a career for the first time, however, can be a delicate matter. As active agents in their own socialization, interns have a lot at stake. So too, do the organizations and institutions of higher learning that sponsor them. Because of these interests, pre-placement assessment and periodic monitoring of interns is needed to ensure that internships are structured and beneficial to learning. Self determination theory (SDT) will be used to frame the argument that an intern’s motivation to perform as an agent is increased as the needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence are attained. Therefore, internships may be most effective when they maximize students’ feelings in these component areas. The presentation to follow describes survey measures of two psychological variables that can serve as process feedback for interns. Depending on the resources available for the internship program, this feedback can be used for information, intervention, or as part of a more comprehensive approach, aimed at clarifying how we can maximize the positive outcomes of internships and the future careers of their participants.