Journalism Internships for Credit Syllabus

JRN 493 

Professional Field Experience Instructor: Amy Haimerl
Office: 375 Communication Arts Building
Office Hours: By appointment, email or Skype

Congratulations on securing your professional internship!

Your internship experience will likely be one of the most memorable semesters in your time as a J-school student at Michigan State University. Be prepared to work hard and be challenged, but you will also grow exponentially as a communicator.

The professional internship allows you to apply the skills you've learned in the classroom to a real working environment. It also helps you build your network of professionals who can help guide you along your career path. This position should offer as much mentorship and guidance as it does opportunity to practice your craft. In short, you won't just be working on your technical skills - such as how to write a press release or shoot a broadcast - but how to work as part of a team and be an indispensable part of a newsroom or communications organization.

In order to graduate from MSU with a journalism degree, you need to complete 1 credit of professional experience. However, we highly encourage you to complete as many internships as possible. Students who secure internships at high-level organizations such as the New York Times or CBS News often have four or five internships completed BEFORE they apply to those positions. You may take up to six hours of professional experience for credit.

You should start thinking about your internship plans as soon as you successfully pass JRN200, which is the only prerequisite for taking JRN493.

You can find listings of internships on the MSU JRN Internship Facebook Group

(Note: Your MSU email address must be in your profile in order for you to be admitted to this closed group. However, it doesn't have to be the default email.)

If you have any questions - or concerns/challenges - at any point during your internship, please do not hesitate to contact Professor Haimerl at

What Qualifies as an Internship?

You must perform journalism-related work under the guidance of a professional for your internship to qualify for credit. That can mean reporting, social media, corporate communications, video, broadcasting, PR, publishing - anything that allows you to put your classroom skills to work.

On-campus student media - such as the State News, VIM, Black Sheep, Red Cedar Log - do not count for credit. However we encourage you to get involved with student-media

organizations early in your MSU career because they are excellent ways to start developing work samples and experiences that can help you secure professional internships.

If you are unsure if something qualifies or have a unique situation, contact Professor Haimerl. We can work together to try and identify a way to accommodate your goals.

A paid internship may be taken for credit.

Remote internships - where you work from Lansing but your employer is out of state or country - must be pre-approved by Professor Haimerl for it to count for credit. You may, of course, participate in any internship you wish - no approval required - if it is not for credit.

To count for credit, your internship should run 14 weeks per semester and you must work the entire semester. During the summer, you must work from May to August (not just one session).

  • One credit equals 9+ hours per week
  • Two credits equal 13+ hours
  • Three credits equal 17+hours
  • Four credits equal 21+ hours per week or more.

However, you may choose to enroll in fewer credit hours than you are working. For example, your internship may require 18 hours a week, but you could choose to take just one credit of JRN493.

If you choose to enroll in fewer credits than you'll actually work, please remember to adjust your course load accordingly. Many students find themselves overwhelmed and overworked because they are working 20 hours per week at their internship while taking a full course load. So if you are working the equivalent of 3 credit hours but only take 1, I highly recommend that you limit your other course enrollment. If you have questions on what you should do, please contact Professor Haimerl or the Advising office.

Advantage of taking fewer credits: You aren't paying to work and you can take more JRN elective courses while earning your degree.

Disadvantage of taking fewer credits: You are doing the work, but it doesn't count toward your degree. If you took the full 3 credits, you would need one less JRN course to graduate.

Students doing internships within 50 miles of the MSU campus will be enrolled in JRN 493, Section 001. If you are doing an internship more than 50 miles away, you will be enrolled for JRN 493, Section 730.

How to Enroll for JRN 493

  1. Fill out this online internship application.
  2. Read the School of Journalism Code of Ethics and confirm in your online application that you understand it and will abide by it. You also understand the consequences if you violate the Code of Ethics.
  3. Have your employer confirm your professional experience by emailing Professor Haimerl at Have them confirm your duties and hours per week you are expected to work.
  4. Once the employer emails and the online application is received, Professor Haimerl will review and approve it if all is in order. It will then be sent to Advising. If it is approved, the Office of Undergraduate Affairs will enroll you for the course.
  5. You will be graded on a pass-fail basis.
  6. To pass the internship, your employer must also fill out an Intern Evaluation Form, which Professor Haimerl will email to them directly.
  7. It is solely your responsibility to make sure that you are successfully enrolled. You need to go online and verify that you are enrolled in JRN 493. If you are not enrolled, contact Professor Haimerl and she will go online to look at the status of your application.
  8. The deadline to apply for internship credit no later than the end of Week 2.

Course Expectations

For Students

Your work in JRN493 is graded on a pass-fail basis. In order to pass, you will need to perform well at your internship as well as submit coursework and meet with Professor Haimerl for one career guidance session. Your work for professor Haimerl should be professional quality, as if it was for your employer.


As a class, we will communicate via a private MSUJRN493 Facebook Group. You can find the instructions for enrolling in D2L. Let's use this space to communicate with each other. You can reach Professor Haimerl there quickly, where she can answer questions of protocol, etiquette, anything that you feel comfortable asking in front of the group. For private matters, please call or email her.

But this is also the beginning you developing a professional network. Reach out to each other for help, advice, celebrations, job tips, anything. You are not alone during your internship. Know that there are dozens of other students going through similar trials, tribulations and successes. So come to the Facebook page to provide support or ask for it. This is your space.

Please join by the end of the first week of classes.

Three Essays

These essays are to show you - and Professor Haimerl - your development over the course of the semester. They are designed to help you think through your goals and dreams and whether you are achieving them. It also helps us adapt to any unexpected challenges or opportunities that arise. They must be of professional quality and written in AP Style. Points deducted for poor grammar, spelling, punctuation or errors of logic.

  1. Beginning-of-semester essay
    • This 500-word essay should outline what you hope to learn from this position, your career goals and how this will help you achieve them.
    • It is due by Friday at midnight of Week 2. Once you are enrolled, you can see exact dates in D2L.
  2. Mid-semester essay & work samples
    • This 500-word essay should outline your experiences so far and what you've learned. Think about what challenges you've faced and overcome and what successes you've had. What do you still hope to accomplish?
    • Additionally, provide links to at least two work samples you have produced for your employer. If you don't have links, provide them in some other format.
    • This is due at the mid-way point of the semester according to the MSU academic calendar. Submit via D2L.
  3. Final essay
    • This final essay should be 750-1,000 words about your overall experience this semester. Tell me what you've learned both in skills and professional development. Be specific. Use anecdotes. What was your favorite aspect? Your least favorite? Tell me about a challenge you overcame. Finally, tell me how you would rate this experience overall. Would you recommend this to another student? Why or why not?
    • Submit links to your three strongest work samples from the semester. If you do not have links, provide them in another format.
    • This is due on the final day of classes. Submit via D2L.

Students enrolled in JRN493 will complete the course with an edited resume and cover letter that are updated to reflect the work you've done at your professional experience. Having these documents will prepare you to apply for the next level of opportunity. In D2L you will find tips for writing resumes and cover letters. Please review, update your materials and submit to D2L by the end of Week 4. Professor Haimerl will then provide a maximum of three edits/revisions over the course of the semester. Your final revisons documents are due on the last day of class.

Career Guidance Meeting

Each student will meet with Professor Haimerl for a 30-minute career advising session sometime during the semester. It is up to you to contact her and schedule the time. If you are interning out of town, this meeting can be done via phone or Skype. It is up to you to email Professor Haimerl to schedule this meeting.

For employers

To pass the internship, your employer will need to provide two reviews of your performance over the course of the semester. One will happen mid-semester; the other will happen in the final week of the semester. Professor Haimerl will email them directly.


To pass this course, you need to earn at least 55 points. Just showing up won't be enough. You will need to show evidence of hard work for your employer as well as growth as a professional. Some items are pass/fail and you collect the points just by doing the assignment; others are graded in order to give you feedback on your mastery of the project.

Here is what each assignment is worth:

Essay 1 - 5 points (pass/fail)
Essay 2 - 5 points (pass/fail)
Essay 3 - 10 points (graded)
Cover Letter Draft - 5 points (pass/fail)
Resume Draft - 5 points (pass/fail)
Cover Letter Final - 10 points (graded)
Resume Final - 10 points (graded)
Meeting - 10 points (pass/fail)
Employer Mid-Semester Review - 5 points (pass/fail)
Employer end of Semester Review - 5 points (graded on a 1-5 scale by your employer) JRN Internship Assessment Form - 5 points (pass/fail)

For graded items, here is the JRN493 scale:

4.0 - 10 - Excellent work; no critiques
3.5 - 9 - Strong work; almost perfect. Could be submitted professionally
3.0 - 8 - Solid work; a few mistakes or places where you can improve.
2.5 - 7 - Average; errors of grammar or punctuation or logic
2.0 - 6 - Below average; poor writing and numerous errors
1.5 - 5 - Weak; does not meet professional standards and needs substantial rewriting and editing
1.0 - 4 - Factual errors
0.0 - 0 - Misses deadline, fabricates or has other ethical problems

What Makes a Good Intern?

  1. Work hard: Perform at your highest level every day. Go beyond. Impress your employer.
  2. Take initiative: Show that you are paying attention and can figure out what needs to be done. You aren't there to just do what you're told.
  3. Come with ideas: It is good to execute on what you're assigned, but interns who come with their own ideas are gold. Learn how to present ideas in a respectful, constructive way.
  4. Accept guidance: You need to be humble and take criticism well.
  5. Have a positive attitude: Don't be negative. Always look for ways to solve a problem.
  6. Be professional: Dress appropriately for your office, show up on time, be respectful and a member of the team. Always spellcheck your work and edit yourself rigorously.
  7. Communicate: Never ghost your employer. If can't make it to work for any reason, let your employer know. If you can't complete an assignment, give your employer as much notice as possible.
  8. Ask questions: You are not expected to know everything or be perfect. If you need help, ask. That goes for your supervisor or Professor Haimerl.

Anyone with questions can e-mail Professor Haimerl at

Professor Amy Haimerl
J-School Internship Coordinator Room 375 Comm Arts Building Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan 48824-1212