Internship guide

Sunrise over city in Uganda with mountain in the background

Planning and Completing Your Internship

The Internship Coordinator will support you in your internship search, help you negotiate specific aspects of the internship with the mentor in the partner organization, advise on the creation of the internship proposal, and serve as a logistics advisor throughout the internship development process as well as during the time you are in the field.

Below are the core requirements:

Develop Objectives

It is first important to think about the kind of internship you want to have. Here are some core questions to consider: Do you want an experience in a Canadian or non-Canadian setting? Do you wish to delve into an organization that is based in your home community or another community? Do you have a specific kind of host organization with which you would like to work?  Are they set up to cater to your needs as an intern?

Find a placement

Next, you’ll begin to search for placement opportunities that meet your goals. You can look for internship programs that are already running in an organization, or approach an organization to create a position for you.

Criteria for an internship are as follows:

  • The placement must be at least 50 working days (350-400 hours)
    • These hours can be completed full-time during one academic term, or on a part-time basis over multiple academic terms.
    • If an exceptional opportunity arises that does not meet the preferred duration, it may be considered.
  • The substance of the work to be completed is consistent with the goals of the MPACS program and provides a level of rigor that is consistent with a graduate level course credit.
    • It is ideal to have opportunities to understand the organization’s internal structures and dynamics, how your organization operates within the government-civil society organization (CSO)-marketplace triangle that is core to the MPACS worldview. The internship should also involve opportunities for you to develop an understanding of how the organization works, and not just to complete important day-to-day tasks. This will ideally mean exposure to management meetings, visioning sessions, and board or committee meetings (if a CSO), or to bodies of similar function if you are working in a business or government context. These expectations are in part communicated through a letter from the Internship Coordinator and can be sent as your plan develops. Throughout this process and during the internship, be on the lookout for specific research projects to which you can contribute that will benefit your host while also advancing your own learning goals.
    • Typically placements with “start-up” organizations will not be approved because they often lack the same organizational structures of more established organizations and thus have a different depth of learning than is intended for a graduate student.
  • Organizations will appoint a local mentor, typically this will be your work supervisor. While your Faculty Advisor will be your primary contact, developing a “check-in” relationship with someone “in the field” for whom you work is equally important. You will include a copy of this person’s CV/resume in your proposal. Ideally they will have a Master’s degree and five years of experience or a Bachelor’s degree and ten years of experience.

Starting your internship search

Finding an internship can be daunting task when you don't know where to start. Below are some resources you can use to start your search, as well as some potential organizations. You can also take a look at past students' experiences at some of these organizations and our Career Guide (PDF).

Use a job / internship search website:

Check out these job lists:

Join professional networks:

Visit the Centre for Career Action for one-on-one appointments to discuss:

  • work search strategies
  • resume critique
  • cover letters
  • CV
  • mock interviews

Potential organizations in Canada:

Potential organizations abroad:

Search websites | Job lists | Professional networks | Centre for Career Action | Organizations in Canada | Organizations abroad

Submit a proposal

Once you have secured a placement with an organization, you will need to have this work approved for credit by the PACS Advisory Group (PACS AG) through a proposal. The deadline for proposal submission is January 15 if you wish to do an internship that will begin during the following Spring term. If you would like to do an internship that begins in one of the other terms (Fall or Winter) please check with the Internship Coordinator for deadlines.

The proposal should be approximately 5-8 pages and include the following elements:

  1. A cover page that includes your full name, student ID number, name of host organization, job title (if known), location of placement, as well as the start and end dates of your placement.
  2. An introduction with a brief description of the placement, the location, the cultural context, and issues the placement will enable you to study.
  3. A concrete list of learning objectives and a brief explanation of how the internship will help you to achieve those objectives. Aim for a list of 6-8 learning objectives.
  4. A preliminary bibliography of at least 20 works that you draw upon throughout your placement and utilize in the internship assignments.
  5. A copy of the correspondence with the organization confirming the placement and providing the job or internship description. This can be a formal letter or an email message.
  6. A copy of the CV/resume of your local mentor. This person should preferably have a Master’s degree and five years of experience or a Bachelor’s degree and ten years of experience.
  7. If you would like to request financial assistance from the MPACS program, you will need to include a budget outlining the expenses associated with your placement.
  8. If you have any preference for which faculty member might serve as your Faculty Advisor, you may include a note at the end. There is no guarantee that you will work with this person, but it is helpful to know. You will be assigned a Faculty Advisor once your proposal is approved.

Note that for international placements, you must complete the required Waterloo International pre-departure course online, and submit additional risk management forms. These will be administered by the Internship Coordinator.

If you intend to do research that requires ethical clearance, you will need to work closely with your Faculty Advisor to submit your proposal to the Office of Research Ethics early – it takes at least three weeks from submission to decision for a project needing minimal clearance. Ethical clearance takes time so you need to plan accordingly.

Complete Waterloo Pre-departure briefing

Complete the required Waterloo pre-departure briefing, and submit required risk responsibility and risk management forms.  If you intend to do research that requires ethical clearance, submit your proposal early to the Office of Research Ethics  – it takes three weeks from submission to decision for a project needing minimal clearance. Ethical clearance takes time.

Complete Academic Requirements

The PACS 625 Internship course is worth 1.0 units credit (equivalent to two graduate-level courses). Students will complete academic work (readings, reflective journal, and research paper or project) in conjunction with their placement under the supervision of a Faculty Advisor. At the end of the placement, students submit an internship portfolio, containing:

  • a copy of the internship proposal
  • the reflective journal
  • research project or paper
  • any materials developed during placement
  • employer feedback

A detailed outline of academic requirements is available in the course syllabus for PACS 625.

Presentation on Internship Experience

Upon return to campus, students present to PACS faculty, students, and other collegues an overview of their internship experience. The presentation contains key learning outcomes and the key findings of research conducted.