BioSci Careers' Policy on Internships

Internships can provide unique opportunities to gain meaningful and practical work experience in order to make Biosciences Trainees more competitive for the next phase of their career. However, participation in an internship requires time away from academic work, navigation of university & external policies, and requires approval from research and academic advisors.

All biosciences trainees who seek an internship are strongly encouraged to:

  1. Attend a quarterly BioSci Careers Internship Workshop focused on specific policies, paperwork, and action items associated with securing and returning from an internship.
  2. Complete the BioSci Careers' Internship Agreement form to outline leave of absence, funding, and transition agreements between the trainee and department supervisor. Retain a signed copy and provide a signed copy to BioSci Careers Assistant Director.
  3. Start discussions with an advisor and relevant administrator, at least 3 months in advance of the internship to assist in navigating deadlines and policies related to funding, health insurance, housing, and leaves of absence.

Considering an Unpaid Internship?

Students often assume that any internship is better than none, even if it is unpaid. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the hiring rates for those with unpaid internships were only 1.1% higher than those without any internship at all (NACE, 2014). Furthermore, internships are only legal if they benefit the intern (not the employer), are not a job "tryout," they don't replace paid employees, and are educational. More on Department of Labor internship standards are here.

BioSci Careers believes that an educational internship includes:

  • Interactions with potential colleagues
  • At least 50% of time spent at the employment site
  • Intentional mentorship by a designated supervisor
  • And a project (or projects) which can teach, and later display, field acumen. 


Stanford trainees have myriad options available to them. If you choose to do an unpaid internship, be sure it is both legal and in line with your academic and professional goals. You do not have to settle for the first thing to come along. 

Additional Opinions and Resources on Free Internships


Trainees seeking assistance with the process of securing an internship are encouraged to utilize BioSci Careers' resources including:

  • One-to-one career counseling to address individual needs including policy, approaching an advisor to discuss internships, interviewing, and negotiation.
  • Handshake, Biosciences, BioSci Careers' exclusive job and internship database.
  • FAQ section on the web site.


For questions or concerns, please contact at