Many internships are full-time and include salary or stipend support for the intern. Trainees who pursue full-time internships, especially those including a paid stipend or salary, are encouraged to take a leave of absence from their academic program during their internship. A leave of absence for an internship opportunity is typically no longer than 10-12 weeks, or one quarter. During summer terms, petitioning for a leave is not always required although trainees should still review plans with their adviser/PI and make sure their funding is not affected. This may also vary by program.
A leave of absence will help trainees focus completely on their internship projects and goals, maximize their learning outcomes and gain a thoroughly immersive and first-hand experience of roles and functions in careers of their choice. Trainees on a leave of absence can explore a wider range of companies and sectors, and avoid potential funding conflicts as well as avoid having to juggle dual responsibilities in their lab and at the internship. For these reasons, we strongly recommend that trainees pursue full-time internships by taking a leave of absence, especially when the internship’s pay structure provides full stipend support.
A leave of absence does not count toward a student’s time to complete their degree, or postdocs’ overall training time.
However, postdocs must be aware of potential issues regarding career transition award eligibility and may not be eligible for the institutional portion of their benefits, which they would need to pay themselves.
In some cases, an internship may involve work at a non-profit organization or other career context that does not provide full stipend support. In such special cases, trainees may consider internships without a leave of absence, or on a part-time basis; this includes International students, or students with fellowship or grant restrictions, for example, who need to remain enrolled per their visa/financial requirements.
Part-time or un-paid internships may give trainees the flexibility of maintaining their access to Stanford facilities and their lab projects. But they may impact trainee dedication to and efficiency in both internship and lab work, and may not provide the most useful introduction and mentoring at the internship site. In previous surveys, trainees who have pursued short-term or undefined internships have reported receiving skills development, but not the mentoring/supervision and networking experiences necessary to fully understand the company, sector or the job. We believe that part-time internships may also have the same impact on trainees.
Before pursing these part-time initiatives, trainees must also be aware of potential funding issues that may arise related to their graduate program or other funding sources.
We currently do not have funding to support unpaid or nonprofit internships, though we hope to obtain it in the future.
Regardless of the type of internship trainees are pursuing, they are encouraged to discuss their research goals and requirements with their advisors/PIs beforehand and plan their time accordingly.