Internships provide ‘feel’ for careers

Rita Forbes

“Nothing can give a student a better feel for a career than an internship,” said Richard Spencer, assistant professor of criminal justice.

Spencer has been coordinating internships in the criminal justice department for seven years. He has placed Missouri Southern students in wide variety of internships, including police departments, juvenile courts, prosecutor’s offices, and insurance companies.

Although completing an internship is not a requirement for graduation from the criminal justice program, instructors strongly encourage it.

“These internships benefit the students,” Spencer said, “because they get to see the real-world side of a specific career, rather than just the theoretical, abstract side. . . . It really helps students decide what area of criminal justice they’re happiest in.”

Understaffed local agencies welcome the added help an intern can provide, but MSSU students are not limited to serving in the four-state area. Last year a student completed an internship with postal inspectors in Kansas City, investigating mail fraud, drugs, and pornography. Another student has applied for an internship in Glynco, Ga., at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Students have interned with fire brigades on the west coast.

“Many agencies keep coming back to us for more interns,” Spencer said.

Students must work at least 240 hours to receive four hours of academic credit for an internship. Most work 16 hours a week. While paid internships are few, many students receive job offers from their internship.

An intern’s tasks vary according to the agency and the individual student. Some students take on an observation role within their agency, but Spencer said others have received their own caseloads at juvenile court.

“Students have said it was the most enjoyable part of their college career,” he said.