MPA Internship FAQs
- What is the Purpose of the Internship Program?
- What Do Interns Do?
- Do I Have to Serve an Internship?
- What Kind of Agencies Hire Interns?
- How Much Time Do Interns Work?
- Who Pays Interns?
- Who Provides Transportation?
- How Are the Internship and the Classroom Integrated?
- How is Quality Control Insured?
- How Can an Agency Hire an Intern?
The essential purpose of the Master of Public Administration (MPA) Internship Program is to offer public administration students who lack previous public service experience a developmental learning experience in the mainstream of public management.
Beyond providing professional development for interns, participating agencies also benefit from the program by being able to tap the resources of talented, motivated graduate students to help meet agency needs. This talent, moreover, is available at a very reasonable cost to the agencies.
Basic objectives of the internship program, then, are:
- to provide the pre-professional with a valuable learning experience in his or her area of public service interest
- to provide agencies with talented pre-professionals at reasonable cost and
- to strengthen the university/community bond
Students and prospective supervisors have raised many questions with respect to internship programs. Some of these are posed and answered below in the context of the MPA Internship Program.
Interns are generally assigned research of administrative duties by supervisors at the agencies for which they work. Assignments differ from agency to agency, but always involve a meaningful learning experience. The nature of duties varies widely depending on agency needs. Interns employed in municipal managers' offices, for example, work on a range of assignments from capital budgeting to handling citizen complaints. In other agencies, interns procure and analyze crime statistics, work on urban renewal plans, and evaluate the delivery of human services in target areas.
There are three general categories of internship assignments. One is the long-term project-oriented assignment in which the intern concentrates effort on a specific topic (e.g., capital budgeting). Long-term projects could last from several weeks to several months. Day-to-day routine tasks comprise a second type of internship assignment. A broad exposure to the nature of agency operations may be gained by involving the intern in jobs such as record-keeping and handling citizen complaints. Finally, a great deal can be learned, particularly about line functions, by performing such tasks as developing inventory systems. Ideally, interns should be exposed to some degree to all of these types of assignments, although the supervisor should assign tasks based on perceived and demonstrated strengths of the intern.
Interns are employees of the agencies for which they work, and are expected to comply with all internship requirements imposed by the agencies and NIU. Since interns aspire to be professional public administrators, they are expected to adopt the personal deportment befitting a professional in their agencies.
Students who enter the MPA program without "appropriate professional experience" will generally be required to serve internships. "Appropriate professional experience" can generally be defined as: at least two years of administrative full-time work experience in the student's area of interest in the MPA program. Whether the student meets this criterion will be determined by the director of the Division of Public Administration upon recommendation of the MPA coordinator after consultation with the work supervisor. If the student meets the above criteria, the internship requirement will be waived and the student's program will consist of 39 semester hours of coursework. For all other students, the internship is a requirement for accomplishment of the MPA degree at NIU.
Internships are generally not available for students in the Comparative and Developmental Administration area of specialization and are usually not available for foreign students.
The fact that the MPA program has several different areas of specialization means that students with different public service interests are enrolled in the internship program. This, in turn, means that a wide variety of public and quasi-public agencies at all levels of government hire and benefit from interns.
Agencies in which interns have been placed include:
City, Township, Village Internships
City of Dekalb
City of Elgin
City of Elmhurst
City of Highland Park
City of Janesville
City of Geneva
City of St. Charles
Village of Bartlett
Village of Buffalo Grove
Village of Cary
Village of Deerfield
Village of Downers Grove
Village of Gilberts
Village of Glen Ellyn
Village of Glendale Heights
Village of Glenview
Village of Gurnee
Village of Hoffman Estates
Village of Homewood
Village of Kenilworth
Village of Lemont
Village of Lincolnwood
Village of Lyons
Village of Morton Grove
Village of Mundelein
Village of Oak Brook
Village of Orland Park
Village of River Forest
Village of Schaumburg
Village of Skokie
Village of Western Springs
Village of Willowbrook
Village of Wilmette
County-Level and Additional Public Sector Internships
McHenry County Administration,Woodstock
DeKalb County Community Foundation,Sycamore
Humanitarian Service Project,Carol Stream
United Way of Elgin,Elgin
Different fields of public administration from which interns select and complete coursework include:
- Urban Management
- Fiscal Administration
- Human Services Administration
- General Public Administration
Most interns are also full-time students (3 courses per semester) and work an average of 20 - 24 hours per week in their agencies. Interns must work a minimum of 20 hours per week; agency need determines whether any hours beyond 20 will be served. Interns who are full-time students should not work in excess of 24 hours per week.
Classes in which interns are enrolled are generally scheduled in the time frame of 3:00 - 9:00 p.m. This allows maximum flexibility in scheduling intern work sessions.
Interns normally serve in their internship for the entire two years that they are in the MPA program. Depending on the internship site, interns may be allowed to work full-time over the summer and semester breaks.
Interns are normally paid by the agencies for which they work. Wages range from $10.00 - $20.43 per hour, with $14.57 being the average wage. Wages are determined by the agency.
Interns are responsible for providing their own means of transportation to and from internship sites.
Interns are concurrently enrolled in courses in generic public management and an area of specialization. The core courses expose interns to skills in organization management, budgeting, general finance, personnel management, quantitative analytical methods, public policy analysis and evaluation, and information systems management. Interns bridge the gap between the classroom and the job by integrating these tools with intern assignments when possible, and discovering instances in which these tools are not appropriate.
Interns are also required to attend intern activities. These activities are designed to enhance the professional development of the intern. Academic credit is awarded based on attendance and internship evaluations.
Quality control is insured in a number of ways. First, interns are evaluated on a written basis by their supervisors at least once each semester. Second, each internship site is visited at least once during the two year period in which the intern is serving. Supervisors and interns are able to communicate concerns orally to program faculty at the site on a more informal basis. Third, supervisors may contact the program faculty at NIU when problems are embryonic. Communication between the intern's academic adviser and supervisor is encouraged irrespective of problem situations. Finally, the internship site is evaluated on a written basis by the intern at least once each semester.
The best time to hire an intern is late spring and summer because the fall semester, which begins in late August, provides the greatest number of intern candidates. Students who have been accepted into the MPA program for the spring semester, which begins in late January, are generally available for placement starting in October.
It is recommended that requests for interns be submitted as early as possible to maximize interest-matching between agencies and intern candidates.
If an agency has an internship position available, the hiring agency should mail a copy of the job description along with any other background information about the agency to the MPA Coordinator. A file will be started on the internship so that prospective interns can review the position. If the intern feels that the position provides the opportunities that he/she is looking for, the intern will request that his/her resume be sent to the internship site. Decisions to interview and hire are made by agencies and will be facilitated by the MPA Coordinator.
Our annual Internship Placement Event helps provide a central location for internship organizations to meet with our newly admitted MPA interns, as well as conduct interviews with all interested candidates.
If the MPA Internship Program interests you or you have any questions please call the Division of Public Administration office at (815) 753-0184