Internship Requirement

Important Information

  • Students required to fulfill the internship requirement must enroll in SIPA U9013 unless they are completing an internship waiver (see internship waiver request section below)
  • International students should contact ISSO to understand the CPT process. CPT may take up to 10 days to process, please plan accordingly
    • International students may reach out to ISSO at [email protected] with specific work authorization questions.

SIPA will require students in the four-semester MIA and MPA programs to fulfill their internship requirement during their first Summer following two semesters of full-time enrollment.

All SIPA students that are required to complete an internship must then register in the SIPA U9013 internship course. (Please see Internship Registration section below.) Students are also responsible for reviewing and understanding the details below regarding paperwork, registration in the internship course, and internship eligibility.

NOTE: There is a 0 - credit SIPA U9013 section for students who wish to simply fulfill the internship requirement without receiving academic credit for their internship. Please ensure that you are registered for the appropriate section of SIPA U9013 via SSOL. See INTERNSHIP REGISTRATION below.

update for 2021 j-term students

Beginning with the cohort matriculating for the first time in Fall 2020, SIPA requires students in the four-semester MIA and MPA programs to fulfill their internship requirement during their first Summer following two semesters of full-time enrollment. Thus, J-term students are eligible to fulfill the internship requirement during their second Summer (i.e. Summer 2022).

CAC recognizes that many J-termers are interested in interning this Summer, and that some employers require that the internship be conducted for credit in lieu of payment. Therefore, SIPA and CAC have developed an alternative option for J-Term students for Summer 2021.

J-term students conducting an eligible internship during their first Summer may register for a unique, zero-credit Spring 2021 course: SIPA U0060 -- Professional Experience (Call No. 20658). This internship must meet eligibility requirements. Also, students must fulfill a minimum of 120 internship hours and complete the paperwork in order to receive R credit for the U0060 course. Please Note: The completion of this course does not satisfy the internship requirement.

Students interested in the SIPA U0060 course should refer to our website to review eligibility criteria for what constitutes an internship, as well as step-by-step instructions for the internship paperwork (to be completed at the completion of the internship). They should then register for the course once they have secured an eligible internship opportunity. 

International F-1 students are reminded that they are not yet eligible for CPT work authorization until after their second semester of full-time academic enrollment. However, students may conduct a US-based unpaid internship without CPT in their first summer, if the unpaid internship meets all criteria outlined by ISSO here. CAC encourages students to meet with an ISSO adviser to fully understand any risk involved working without CPT. Alternatively, international J-term students may conduct unpaid or paid internships abroad (outside of the US) in their first summer, if they ensure that they meet the work authorization requirements for that country. 

International J-1 J-term students may conduct a US-based paid or unpaid internship in their first summer, per their Academic Training (AT) qualifications. More information can be found here

update for continuing students impacted by covid-19

Additional provisions have been made for continuing students (matriculated prior to Fall 2020) impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Continuing students have the following options to complete their internship requirement:

  • If you completed an internship during your first academic year (Fall 2019 or Spring 2020) and received a grade of P in the SIPA U0913 internship course, there is no further action required on your part. (Note: If your Spring 2020 internship was interrupted due to COVID-19, you will be awarded credit for that internship even if you were unable to meet the hourly requirement. You are still required to submit an internship report and supervisor evaluation to receive credit.)
  • If you completed an internship over Summer 2020 or plan to complete an internship during Fall 2020 or Spring 2021, you must register for the SIPA U0913 internship course and complete the required paperwork.
  • Alternatively, continuing students may fulfill the internship requirement by completing one additional professional development elective course (0.25 credits) over and above the required 2-course Professional Development sequence. If you choose to exercise this option, you must register for SIPA U0045 - Professional Development/Internship Requirement (Call # 23199). This course is reserved for second-year students who were unable to secure an internship during Summer 2020. In addition, you must register separately for the PD elective of your choice (U4041-4045). Second-year students who have already completed more than 0.5 credits of Professional Development may apply one of those electives toward fulfillment of the internship requirement.

Internship Eligibility

Students in most two-year MIA and MPA degree programs are required to fulfill a minimum of 120 internship hours and complete the paperwork outlined below in order to meet the internship degree requirement. In addition, students must register in the SIPA U9013 internship course, complete the paperwork, and fulfill a minimum of 120 internship hours for 0 credits or 1.5 credits (or 240 hours for 3 credits); see INTERNSHIP PAPERWORK and INTERNSHIP REGISTRATION sections, below, for more details. 

Important updates have been made to the SIPA internship requirement. Beginning with the cohort matriculating for the first time in Fall 2020, SIPA will require students in the four-semester MIA and MPA programs to fulfill their internship requirement during their first Summer following two semesters of full-time enrollment.

If you are still unsure about your internship eligibility after reviewing this section, please email the details of your internship opportunity to [email protected].


Students should ensure that their opportunity meets criteria for what constitutes an internship, as well what is required for eligibility for the SIPA requirement and/or for SIPA credit, as follows: 

  • It is related to your program, concentration, and/or specialization;
  • The work is substantive and professional in nature (perhaps with some administrative tasks, depending on the organization and the nature of the position); language training, language studies, or other coursework are ineligible;
  • It is not conducted in a family-owned organization/business or one’s own organization/business/foundation/start-up, etc.;
  • It is completed during your degree program; internships completed before matriculation into SIPA are ineligible;
  • It includes at least 120 hours of work at the internship (to fulfill the requirement for the 0 credit option and/or for the 1.5-credit option in SIPA U9013) or at least 240 hours of work at the internship (for the 3-credit option in SIPA U9013);
  • It follows the criteria for what constitutes an internship, outlined here: Effective Internship Criteria - Fall 2017.pdf.



International students should be aware of special regulations when seeking paid internships in the United States. Please review the International Student Work Authorization section of the CAC website for details before beginning an off-campus paid or unpaid internship in the U.S.


In lieu of the internship requirement, MPA-DP students complete a mandatory 12-week summer field placement. However, MPA-DP students may still choose to register for up to three credits in SIPA U9013 (overseen by CAC) if completing a separate internship that is related to their concentration and outside of the summer field placement opportunity. MPA-DP students who complete a separate internship should still submit to CAC the internship paperwork that is detailed below. Internships must be professional in nature and follow the same SIPA internship guidelines, below, in order for MPA-DP students to receive credit in the SIPA U9013 internship course. 

INTERNSHIP PAPERWORK - Completed after/nearing the end of the internship


Carefully follow the below instructions to complete an online Internship Report at this special log-in page within SIPAlink. NOTE: This page is not the same as the general SIPAlink log-in page. Most Internship Report responses must be in paragraph form with a minimum of THREE (3) full sentences per question (as noted in the report). 

To prevent loss of information, we recommend that you first draft and save your answers in a Microsoft Word document, and then transfer them to the online report. Please use Internet Explorer when completing the report to save it properly.


  1. Once an internship has concluded or is nearing an end, you may begin your internship report.
  2. Follow the link that says, ">> First-time Users: Click here to report your internship!" Please do NOT log in if you are creating a new Internship Report. You only log in to edit existing reports.
  3. Fill out all the fields (with complete information: three full sentences per question is the standard) and then submit the report by clicking "Save." 
  4. For additional internship reports (after completing more than 1 internship) you will need to create a new profile. Each new internship at a new organization will need a new internship report.


  • Most Internship Report responses must be in paragraph form with a minimum of THREE (3) full sentences per question (as noted in the report).
  • The responses must also be written in a professional tone. Your report will NOT be approved if there is not enough information and/or if the information is not written in the proper tone. 
  • When answering the credit registration questions on the Internship Report, please be advised that you are simply stating your registration intentions. If you will register for credit, you must STILL register for U9013 through the same registration process as your other courses.
  • On the Internship Report, be sure to accurately select the semester and number of credits for which you intend to register, if applicable. If you register in a different semester and/or for a different number of credits than what was stated in the report, please notify CAC as soon as possible to avoid processing delays.
  • When registering internships for credit, they are graded on a pass/fail basis.


Once you are nearing the end of your internship, please submit your internship supervisor's contact information, using the Internship Employer Information Form. This is so the online system can send your supervisor an auto-generated Supervisor Evaluation Survey via a link sent to their work email address. 


It is your responsibility as the student intern to ensure that your supervisor receives and completes the Supervisor Evaluation Survey and that it is then successfully submitted to the Career Advancement Center. This survey is both a confirmation of your completed internship dates/hours and a detailed evaluation of your performance during the internship. We strongly recommend that you alert your supervisor to the receipt of this auto-generated survey link via their work email inbox, so that they can ensure the survey link is not lost in their SPAM inbox.



All SIPA students who are fulfilling the SIPA internship requirement MUST register in the appropriate section of SIPA U9013 (the SIPA internship course), based on their registration intentions, as follows:

  • For 0-credit internships where students do not choose to receive credit for a minimum of 120 completed internship hours, but will simply fulfill the internship requirement, please register in section 003 of SIPA U9013.  
  • For 1.5-credit internships where students choose to receive credit for a minimum of 120 completed internship hours, please register in section 001 of SIPA U9013.
  • For 3-credit internships where students choose to receive credit for a minimum of 240 completed internship hours, please register in section 002 of SIPA U9013.

The maximum a SIPA student may receive for SIPA U9013 for the duration of their program is three (3) credits total.

NOTE: Registration for SIPA U9013 internship credit is through the same registration process as other SIPA courses (via SSOL). See SIPA Registration for details. SIPA does not have summer registration.



Students who meet any of the following criteria may be eligible to waive the internship requirement:

  • On leave from job. Must include required documentation with waiver request.
  • Was employed on a full-time, permanent, professional basis for a minimum of four years (internships not included) in a field relevant to student’s concentration and career goals prior to enrolling in SIPA. Must include required documentation with waiver request.
  • Dual-degree student who has completed an internship in another program. Must include transcript showing course completion and (for internship) report/evaluation from other program with waiver request.



  • Students who waive the internship requirement or received academic credit for an internship from their dual-degree program will not be awarded any internship credits.
  • Students must submit the Professional Development and Internship Waiver Request Form (for waiver of the internship requirement and/or the Professional Development requirement) and all required supporting documents to CAC within the first year of study at SIPA.



SIPA Research Internships provide a valuable opportunity for students to prepare for doctoral studies or a research‐ intensive career by conducting research on public affairs or policy‐related topics with a full‐time faculty member from SIPA or other Columbia University schools. With permission of the SIPA Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, students also may conduct a research project with a current part-time faculty member from SIPA. A research internship fulfills the MIA/MPA internship requirement, and it can be taken for credits (see below). Interested students are responsible for identifying a full‐time faculty member who is willing to supervise the research internship and for fulfilling steps below. Research internships are approved on a rolling basis, but approval is required before the beginning of the internship.

To be approved for a research internship:

  • Students will be expected to work on a clearly defined and substantive research project, either under the direction of a Principal Investigator or of their own creation with faculty consent.
  • Students will be expected to gain concrete research skills of a quantitative or qualitative nature.
  • Students must first obtain approval from a faculty supervisor by following the below steps to properly submit the Application for Research Internship Form.
    • STEP 1: Students must first obtain a faculty supervisor signature on the Application for Research Internship Form
    • STEP 2: Students should then submit the signed form with a summary of proposed research and professional objectives to Caroline de Vries ([email protected]) to obtain the signature of Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs Hande Mutlu-Eren ([email protected]). After Dean Mutlu-Eren approves the form, the Office of Academic Affairs will forward the application to the Office of Student Affairs.
    • STEP 3: Associate Dean of Student Affairs Cory Way also signs the form, and the Office of Student Affairs will inform Curriculum Director Andrew Johnson.
    • STEP 4: The Curriculum Director creates the research internship course, and OSA then registers the student in the research internship course. Upon completion of the research internship, the faculty supervisor will enter a grade of Pass or Fail for the student.



SIPA's Career Advancement Center (CAC) strongly urges students to fully research each internship opportunity -- particularly before engaging in unpaid internships, regardless if the student chooses to register for academic credit or not. CAC expects all employers to provide compensation for internships to the extent required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and other applicable wage and hour laws.

We have included a link to information provided by the US Department of Labor on internship programs: This information describes seven factors for an employer to consider in determining whether an intern must be paid as an employee under the FLSA:

1. The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee—and vice versa.

2. The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions.

3. The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit.

4. The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.

5. The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning.

6. The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.

7. The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.

The NY State Department of Labor considers additional factors in determining whether an intern must be paid under New York state law. These factors are summarized at the following link: SIPA CAC expects employers posting internships taking place in other states to adhere to the wage and hour laws applicable to that employer at the internship site. Given the cost of higher education and the value interns bring to an organization, CAC encourages organizations that are not required to pay interns to consider paying interns or providing other forms of support, such as a travel allowance, meal per diem, housing, and/or stipend.

If you have any further questions, please visit CAC in IAB Room 420, email [email protected] or call 212-854-4613 during our office hours (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm EST).