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Intern Recruiting and Employment

First a note about labels. Many universities and students, directly connect the word "intern" to meaning "summer intern." Employers and others may use the word intern and be thinking about a student working while enrolled in classes in fall and/or spring.  

Similarly, "co-op" might mean employment during the academic year but might also refer more narrowly to university-employer sponsored employment programs where students rotate and cycle full semesters or quarters in-school and off-campus for work.  For this document, we will use the word intern to be all-inclusive.

In practice, employers, be extra precise especially if you do not mean summer.  Consider always saying, "summer intern," "fall intern" or "spring intern" to minimize misunderstanding.


  • Campus interview scheduling might take place in the fall before the summer you want to them to work and then you conduct the interviews in that spring.
  • The Michigan Career Educator & Employer Alliance provides a detailed Intern Toolkit to help organizations develop their recruiting.
  • Options for student worker compensation:
    • Unpaid – see if your situation meets the government’s wage standards for unpaid.  Audits and vigilance in this area has increased quite a bit.  No one, students included, can volunteer to work unpaid if the government deems the job ineligible for an unpaid status.
    • Hourly rate – so long as all worked hours are reported, any number at or above minimum wage is acceptable but overtime will likely be required when paying on an hourly basis.
    • Salary-Exempt – Be sure to use their core, scheduled hours and confirm the hourly equivalent is minimum wage or higher.  The position must also qualify as “exempt from overtime.”
      • There is an important law that often does not impact workers but is critical for part-time employees.  If a person is not paid as a rate of $455 per week (or for example, $1,971.67 per month), then the individual is likely eligible for overtime.
    • Salary-NonExempt – A person can be eligible for overtime though still be paid on a salary basis. If hours-worked exceeds the schedule, then the person reports their time and is paid overtime for excess hours. 
      • This is sometimes called, overtime-exception reporting.  The employee only reports hours worked if they are in excess of the limit (for most jobs, 40 in a 7 day period regardless of the frequency of paychecks.)
    • Independent Contractor / 1099 – if a person’s duties and working conditions qualify for such a designation, then no taxes are withheld and minimum wage does not apply.  However, review the requirements for 1099 status.  It is not enough to merely agree with the individual to pay in this manner.
    • Lump Sum – This is not an IRS classification so determine which of the above is the actual method behind the lump sum payment.
    • Whatever the pay method, don’t forget to put the student worker through the same processes as others: intellectual property agreements, new hire notification to the state, W4 forms, etc. 
    • Check with the CS offices for salary data.
  • Startup companies with legal addresses in the City of Ann Arbor (not merely with an Ann Arbor address), who are in key industry clusters and whose business plan meets additional criteria can request the Entrepreneurial Services of SPARK Central consider their eligibility for a 50% intern pay-match.
    • Each year we attempt to support a limited number of sponsorships.
    • These might be summer interns and sometimes part-time, mid-year.
  • Companies in the area may assign their summer interns to SPARK’s “Intern Connections” program which increases the individual’s likelihood to seek employment in the area.  We connect interns to one another across the community, schedule a number of events and invite them to hang out at others. 75% of the interns in 2013 said their participation in the events and connections caused them to be more likely to remain in the area upon graduation.
    • For startups and entrepreneurial companies in the City of Ann Arbor, participation is free.  For others, the expected cost for summer 2014 is $50 per intern.  Call or email the SPARK Talent Team for more information.
    • Check out a few Facebook photos.

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