Technical & Professional Writing Internships

Successful internships benefit both students and the companies that sponsor them! Our program provides the preparation, connections and structure needed to make internships work as they should.

Internship Overview

Course Work

  • Enrollment in internship course:
    • TPW 695 (3 units)
  • Required prerequisites:
    • C or better in five TPW core or skills elective courses, including TPW 400, TPW 550 and TPW 555

Expectations and Assignments

  • Pre-placement review of resume and portfolio
  • Minimum of 120 hours of internship work over a minimum of six weeks
  • Supervision by a professional
  • Relevant work:
  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Writing-related research
  • Writing-related graphic design
  • Log of hours and activities
  • Final report
  • Required conferences with sponsor and TPW Internship Instructor

Academic Oversight

  • Minimum of four conferences with TPW Internship Instructor
  • Resume and portfolio review
  • Contract approval
  • Interim review
  • Final evaluation

Sponsor Evaluation

  • Minimum two reviews:
  • Interim written report and conference after 50 - 60 hours and minimum 30 hours and 3 weeks before internship ends
  • Written report and grading after 120 hours and within one week after internship ends

Detailed Guidelines for Student Interns


Plan your internship

  1. Complete TPW 695 prerequisites.
  2. Enroll in TPW 695 with TPW Internship Instructor's prior approval.
  3. Prepare your resume and a portfolio of writing samples.
  4. Reference (recommended) textbooks.
  5. Meet with the TPW Internship Instructor to review your resume and portfolio.
  6. Allow several weeks to locate an internship placement.

Check resume and portfolio requirements.

Identify placement opportunities

  1. Search the TPW internship book in the TPW program office.
  2. Subscribe to the TPW jobs and internships listserve by e-mailing your name and e-mail address to TPW.
  3. Check Career Center internship listings or Community Involvement Center postings.
  4. Develop your own contacts in your field of interest for future employment.

You should assume that paid positions may involve more demanding expectations.

Application and contract

Apply for internship positions

  1. The TPW program will not place you directly.
  2. Supervisors may request a resume, writing samples, recommendations and/or an interview.

Negotiate the internship contract

  1. Download a copy of the Student/Sponsor Contract.
  2. Complete the contract form in full (using a word processor, not handwriting). Be sure to specify and clearly distinguish both job responsibilities (what you will do) and learning objectives (what your job responsibilities will teach you).
  3. Get your supervisor’s signature on the contract form.
  4. Meet with the TPW Internship Instructor to request approval of the contract.
  5. Do not begin work until you, your supervisor and the TPW internship instructor have signed.

On the job

Begin internship

  1. Keep a log of your hours and activities (including only writing-related work).
  2. Notify the TPW internship instructor of any significant changes to the terms of the contract.
  3. Also contact the TPW internship instructor if any problems or questions arise.

Request an interim evaluation after 50 - 60 hours of work, at least three weeks and 30 hours before the internship ends.

  1. Ask your supervisor to complete the appropriate TPW internship evaluation form and to discuss it with you in person.
  2. Meet with the TPW Internship Instructor to discuss the evaluation, your log, and samples of your work to date.


Request a final evaluation after a minimum of 120 hours of work.

  1. Ask your supervisor to complete and route the appropriate TPW internship evaluation form directly to the TPW internship instructor.
  2. If appropriate, ask for samples of your work for your portfolio.
  3. If appropriate, ask whether you can use your supervisor as a reference.

Report to the TPW internship instructor on your internship experience.

  1. Write two pages about your accomplishments, learning and education-career connections
  2. Meet with the TPW internship instructor to discuss the final evaluation, your log, your report and samples of your work.

Receive a final grade for the course

  1. If all process requirements have been met, this will be your supervisor’s final grade.
  2. Document any special circumstances that might warrant an exception.

Detailed Guidelines for Internship Sponsors


List your placement opportunity as an available internship

  1. Use the Online Listing Form. If you have any problems completing the form, contact the Program Office.


Independently contract with an internship student

  1. Obtain a contract form.

Application and Contract

Review internship applications based on your own criteria and needs.

  1. Listing does not oblige you to accept all students or to always have an open position.
  2. Request a resume, writing samples, recommendations, and/or an interview, if desired.

Negotiate the internship contract.

  1. Specify learning objectives, job responsibilities, schedule and pay (if any). Please see this 2010 article regarding California’s Revision of Rules on Paid Internships.
  2. Sign the form and wait for other signatures before work begins.
  3. The student should route the form.


Supervise the student’s work.

  1. Only writing-related work can count toward the internship.
  2. Contact the TPW internship instructor if you have questions or problems about requirements.

Evaluate the student after 50 - 60 hours of work.

  1. Complete the interim evaluation form at least three weeks and 30 hours before the internship ends.
  2. Discuss your comments with the student before signing the form.
  3. The student should route the form to the TPW internship instructor.


Evaluate the student within one week of the end of the internship (minimum 120 hours).

  1. Complete the required final evaluation form, then mail or e-mail it (from your own e-mail address) to the TPW internship instructor.
  2. You should assume that your grade will be the student’s final grade for the course.

Indicate on the form whether you would like another TPW student intern.

  1. You can maintain an open listing in the TPW internship book.
  2. Your internship listing can be renewed (for reposting to the list-serve) as often as once a semester.
  3. Your continued participation would be very welcome.

Online Listing Form for Companies Listing Internships

This online form can be filled out by companies/agencies looking for interns.

Student / Sponsor Internship Contract and Evaluation Forms

Thank you for your interest in the TPW internship program. To obtain the contract and evaluation forms for internships download the forms using the link below.

Internship Contract and Evaluation forms (MS Word document)

FAQs about the Internship (from Students)

Internship Course

Can I complete a TPW internship as a non-major?

Yes, you can, but you must first complete all the TPW 695 prerequisites. The prerequisites for TPW 695 are five TPW core or skill elective courses, including TPW 400, TPW 550 and TPW 555 (all with C or better).

Internship Placement

How should I find an internship?

You will be responsible for arranging your own internship, rather than being placed in one by the TPW program. However, the program does provide support to help students in their internship search. The program office keeps binders for active internship listings. The TPW program also maintains an internship and job leads listserve where students receive e-mailed information on available internships when companies contact the program with their listings. Please e-mail TPW with your name and email address to be added to the list-serve. The TPW program’s resource section on the website links to various job boards which will help in your internship search. Another good option would be to reach out and network with family, friends and TPW alums. Some students have had success “cold” contacting companies for which they would like to work and which they know employ professional writers or editors.

Will I be paid for my internship?

Maybe. While most nonprofit organizations rely on interns to volunteer, some will provide compensation, typically a stipend, though sometimes an hourly wage. (Others may offer contingency fees based on the outcome of grant proposals, but this is not recommended.) For-profit companies typically offer interns either an hourly wage or a stipend. For more information about the relevant law see this New York Times article regarding California’s Revision of Rules on Paid and Unpaid Internships. Internship compensation does vary (typically ranging from $10 to $25 per hour). Your compensation agreement with your sponsor will be recorded in your internship contract.

How can I do an internship if I already have a full-time job?

You have a few options. One option would be to do the internship at your job, if that is possible within the guidelines for doing so. Another option would be to negotiate with your employer to adjust your hours or days of work, so that you could fit in the hours required for an internship. The third option would be to intern for a nonprofit organization or business that is flexible about its hours and about your time on site, so that you can work evenings and weekends and put in much of your time off site. Nonprofit organizations are most likely to offer this flexibility to students who are interning on a volunteer basis.

Can a friend or family member supervise me in my internship?

No, because the person who supervises you assigns you a grade for the internship.

Can I do my internship with multiple sponsors?

No. All 120 hours must be at one place, with one supervisor and with one contract. If you start with one sponsor and that does not work out, then you will have to start all over again with another. So try to be sure that any internship you find is stable and appropriate before you sign a contract and begin putting in hours of work.

Can I do my internship at my current job?

Maybe, if you can have relevant new learning experiences there. Usually this would require that you work in a different department or area, work under a new supervisor and/or complete a different type of project than you have done before. In such an on-the-job situation, for purposes of internship grading, your internship supervisor would only evaluate your performance in meeting the new challenge specified in your contract, not your overall job performance.

What if the internship sponsor wants me to do work that is not writing/editing related?

That’s up to you to negotiate with your sponsor. The only 120 hours that will be counted for the internship will be hours that are spent doing writing/editing related work. You may choose to perform other types of duties for your internship sponsor (especially if you are paid), but you cannot log such hours towards your internship. So, if you suspect that your internship sponsor may want you to do other kinds of work in addition to writing/editing, be sure to discuss this up front, so that there are no misunderstandings.

Can I do my internship working from home, rather than at the job site?

Yes, you can, if that is OK with your internship supervisor and if doing so will still provide you with a professional work experience. However, you would still need to be supervised by having your supervisor direct and review your work, giving you regular feedback on your performance. Typically, it is helpful to have at least some ability to meet in person for this.

How long does it take to find an internship?

That varies. Typically, finding an internship can take several weeks after preparing your resume and portfolio, because of the time required to apply, to be interviewed, etc. Although sometimes this process takes less time, it also can take longer, particularly if you are selective about pay, location, hours, type of work, etc. Of course, the availability of internships may fluctuate with the job market and time of year, as well.

Should I use a networking site?

Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn can be helpful. Be careful about using social networking sites. While these can be helpful, there are potential pitfalls with mixing your professional life with your social life. In fact, even if you do not use a social networking site for job hunting, be aware that potential internship sponsors and employers may search for your name on such sites, using them as part of the pre-hire screening process.


How do I need to annotate the samples in my portfolio?

Your annotations should provide brief (often bulleted) descriptions of each piece. Typically, an annotation should be positioned opposite the first page of each piece, with the annotation printed on a different color of paper, to clearly distinguish it from the piece. An annotation should both provide context for the creation of the piece (e.g., identifying purpose, audience and tools used) and highlight key features that demonstrate your writing/editing/design strengths (e.g., challenges met, strategies used, outcomes achieved). Design your annotations to be helpful in the interview situation by making them easy for both you and the interviewer to scan at a glance. That way your annotations can both inform and guide the conversation and also remind you of key features to mention about each piece. For more suggestions about annotating portfolio pieces, please refer to the section on “Document context statements” on page 77 of the recommended textbook for the internship course.

How should I organize the samples in my portfolio?

Organize your samples into groups. You may use the example grouping categories provided on the e-portfolio website or other groupings that seem logical to you. Make sure the samples that you choose show your range and flexibility, rather than just documenting one kind of writing/editing/design. However, also arrange the groups to prioritize the kind of writing/editing/design that you most hope to do in your internship. Include a table of contents that lists all of the groups and includes a brief title/description for each piece within each group.

Can I produce an online portfolio?

Though not required, this is recommended. You must develop a print portfolio for the course because of the interviewing advantages such a portfolio provides. You can include online work in your print portfolio by printing out a few representative pages. However, also having an online portfolio will be particularly helpful to showcase your online samples and provide a reference point. You may want to require a password for accessing your full portfolio, so that your samples are not misappropriated.

What if I am asked to provide writing samples by e-mail?

This happens frequently. You will want to have two or three PDF samples readily available, so that you can send them out quickly. Include an annotation as the first page of each piece and be sure that it is clearly labeled with your name and contact info (phone and e-mail). If a prospective employer/sponsor asks for additional samples, let them know that you would like to meet with them in an interview to show more samples and discuss your work (and the open position).

What if I go to an interview and no one asks to see my portfolio?

Offer your portfolio! Before the end of the interview, bring it out and say, “I’d like to show you my portfolio, so that you can feel confident about the standard of work that I could do for you.”

How should I package my portfolio?

Typically, you would package your portfolio in a high-quality three-ring binder with plastic sleeves for individual pieces. You may also find a different kind of presentation case in an office supply or art supply store. Just be sure that your portfolio is easy to manage for displaying pieces in an across-the-desk interview situation. You do not have to spend a lot of money on the packaging, but, as your own “personal sales kit,” it should appear professional.

What pieces should I include in my portfolio?

Typically 8 - 20 pieces should be included in your portfolio, at least one from each of your TPW courses. You may also include samples of work developed on the job and/or for other courses (though you should not include too many examples of creative writing or academic papers). Obviously, you should choose pieces that you feel proud of and/or for which your received your best grades. You should proofread everything before it goes into your portfolio and you may even want to rework some pieces to reflect your more advanced skills. While the number of pieces is not fixed, make sure that, together, the pieces that you include demonstrate your ability to write, edit and design in a range of genres and using multiple production tools. For very long pieces or for those designed for online presentation, you may include printouts of just selected pages or screenshots (if you do this, indicate the length of the total piece in your annotation).

How should I describe documents done for class based on source documents?

Avoid using “class assignment,” “homework,” “course project” or other terms that emphasize your student status. Instead use terms such as “based on a realistic scenario,” “prototype project” or “revision of an industry source document.”

Can I include documents from current and previous employers?

Yes, as long as there is no confidentiality restriction with your company. Be sure to inquire with your company about this beforehand. If there is a confidentiality restriction, ask your employer if you can mask out certain details before including them in your portfolio. If even that is not possible, include a brief description of some pieces and an explanation of why you cannot include them.

Resume, References, and Cover Letter

Do I need a reference list?

Yes. Your reference list should be on a separate document, as a supplement to your resume. You should list three to five references. At least one or two references should be from professors and at least one or two references should be from your employer. Personal/character references are not required; if you include them, one or two should be the maximum. Be sure to include both phone and e-mail contact information for your references; verify that all names and job titles are listed correctly. If it is not clear what your relationship is to a contact, indicate the relationship as well. Also check to make sure each person is comfortable being included on your reference list. After you have completed an interview, it is a good idea to give your references a heads up about the job description before an interviewer contacts them.

What should I include in my cover letter/application email?

The cover letter should not simply repeat the same information that is in your resume. Typically, this structure will work well:

  1. The first paragraph identifies the job or internship for which you are applying and states briefly how you are a good fit for the position, identifying the benefit for sponsor/employer in hiring you. While you may also explain why your are excited about the position, try to make the letter less about what the employer/sponsor can do for you and more about what you can do for the employer/sponsor.
  2. The second paragraph details the specific ways in which your background fits the opportunity.
  3. The third paragraph references the resume attached, requests an interview at which you can show your writing samples and offers to provide a reference list, on request. This paragraph also may suggest a date when you will follow up on your application, reiterate your interest in the position, and/or thank the reader for considering your application.
  4. Throughout the letter, try to write in your own professional, yet conversational voice, avoiding clichéd bureaucratic phrasings.

How specific should I be in my “objective” statement in my resume?

Your objective statement should be one clear sentence that explains what kind of writing/editing position you hope to find (e.g., technical documentation, grantwriting) and also indicates the key skills or strengths from your education and/or experience that prepare you do that kind of work.

How should I represent my education in my resume?

In the education section of your resume, list your TPW degree or certificate first, indicating (the “expected” date) and, if you are a TPW major, identify your focus. Because many hiring managers may not be familiar with the kind of curriculum taught by a technical/professional writing program, it also may help to include a brief list of topics studied in your TPW courses. List other degrees and/or training certificates (usually in reverse chronological order). Usually, you should not reference your high school education, unless you received a prestigious award or attended a notable institution.

Should I include non-writing/editing experience on my resume?

Yes, you can include non-writing/editing experience on your resume, although typically you will want to subordinate this to education and skills relevant to a career in technical and/or professional writing.

In what order should items appear on my resume?

For most, this organization works well:

  1. Objective
  2. Education
  3. Skills
  4. Experience (employment and volunteer)
  5. Awards and memberships
  6. Personal (optional and, if included, should be brief)

Across the bottom of the resume, indicate: "Portfolio of writing samples and references available."

How many years of experience should I include on my resume?

Typically, it is best to reference all experience, summarizing employment that occurred more than 10 years ago. Usually, it is distracting to include months of employment (just state years).

Do I need to explain a gap in my experience on my resume?

If the gap is not attributable to attending college, then you may want to indicate a reason for it (family, health reasons, personal break, etc.), but this is not required.

Internship Logistics

What are “writing-related production” and “writing-related research”?

Although, in general, most hours that count toward your internship must be spent directly in writing or editing tasks, you also can include production (e.g., graphic design, desktop publishing, document formatting or coding) or research (e.g., meetings, interviews, observations) if and only if these tasks are done for a project for which you also do some writing or editing. For example, putting a Word document into a Framemaker template would not usually count, but it could if you also proofread and corrected that same document. Similarly, attending a general company meeting typically would not count, but attending a publications department staff meeting in which an article that you wrote was discussed would count.

What if the supervisor who signs my contract leaves the organization or if I’m assigned to a new supervisor?

In that case, the new supervisor should contact the internship instructor as soon as possible, explaining the reason, verifying familiarity with the contract terms and confirming the new supervisor’s ability to evaluate all of your work for the entire internship.

What if multiple people supervise my work?

That may happen. However, only one person can sign your contract and the evaluation forms. That person should coordinate with your other supervisors to get their feedback about your work.

Can I “meet” with the internship instructor remotely, rather than in person?

Typically, no. However, if there special circumstances arise, please contact the internship instructor to explain.

How should I log my hours?

The log should be in a table/spreadsheet format, as follows.

  1. Column 1: Date and duration of work on that day (e.g., 6/14, 9-noon)
  2. Column 2: Brief description of each task/activity. In just a phrase indicate:
    1. project/section/document you worked on (e.g., Product X spec sheet)
    2. what you did (e.g., proofed figures and checked for accuracy)
    3. who you worked with, if anyone (e.g., Product X design engineer)
  3. Column 3: Time spent on each activity (e.g., 30 minutes). The smallest time increment should be 15 minutes and the largest a few hours (if you spend more than a few hours on a task, break down the description of your activity in more detail).

This format will allow your instructor to quickly scan your log to identify topics for discussion.

What will determine my final grade?

Your final grade is usually assigned by your internship supervisor. However, the instructor may make exceptions based on the professionalism of your process, your portfolio and resume, the content of your meetings with your instructor and/or other special circumstances. If you believe that exceptional circumstances should be taken into account when assigning your grade, please talk to the internship instructor.

Can I miss one of the required instructor conferences?

Not usually. Under special circumstances, and at the instructor’s discretion, sometimes the portfolio and contract meetings can be combined; the midterm and final evaluation meetings must be held separately. The midterm evaluation must be held after 50 - 60 hours of work and at least three weeks and 30 hours before the internship ends.

What should I bring to the first instructor conference (resume and portfolio review)?

  1. Portfolio, including a draft table of contents, most of your samples and annotations for at least several of them, all packaged
  2. Resume (draft) developed for a writing/editing position
  3. Reference List (located above under Resume, References, and Cover Letter)

What should I bring to the second instructor conference (contract approval)?

  1. Completion/revisions of portfolio and resume (as specified by instructor in initial meeting)
  2. Printout of fully completed contract (filled in using a word processor, not handwritten), signed by you and your supervisor. Be sure to distinguish clearly between learning objectives (what you will get out of the internship) and the job responsibilities (what the sponsor will get out of it).
  3. If available, information about the sponsor and/or sponsor-provided examples of the type of work that you will do on the internship (optional, but helpful for your instructor in evaluating whether the internship is appropriate).

What should I bring to the third instructor conference (mid-term evaluation)?

  1. Mid-semester evaluation form, completed and signed by your supervisor and then discussed by you with him/her face to face before this meeting with your instructor.
  2. Printouts of samples of representative writing/editing work (completed or in-progress/marked up). You also may bring in a flash drive or laptop to show additional online samples.
  3. Log, in required format, documenting at least 50 - 60 hours of writing/editing work.

What should I bring to the fourth instructor conference (final evaluation)?

  1. Not the final evaluation form, which must be received by your instructor beforehand, directly from your supervisor. (He/she may email the form from his/her own email account or send it via postal mail.) Check with your instructor to be sure this has been received before coming in for the final conference.
  2. Printouts of samples of representative writing/editing work (completed or in progress/marked up). You also may bring in a flash drive or laptop to show additional online samples.
  3. Log of hours, in required format, documenting at least 120 hours of writing/editing work
  4. Final report (see below)

What are the requirements for the final report?

  1. Two pages in business single spacing (single spacing with double spacing between non-indented paragraphs)
  2. Discussion of three subject areas:
  3. Accomplishments: Do not just summarize your log of tasks/activities, but identify the highlights of your performance and explain which pieces you created that you plan to include in your portfolio, and why.
  4. Learning: Refer back to the objectives in your contract (explaining how they were achieved or, if not, why not); also identify supplemental/unexpected areas of learning (e.g., regarding writing process and working relationships).
  5. Education-career connections: Evaluate your internship as a transitional experience between your academic studies and your professional life. First, explain how TPW helped to prepare you for your internship (or perhaps fell short of that mark), identifying specific classes, topics, or projects that were important for your internship performance. Next, identify your career goals for the next two to five years and explain how your internship either can contribute to those objectives (or, if not, why not).

Should I request a written letter of recommendation from my supervisor?

You can ask, but understand that many sponsors may not be comfortable writing such a letter or may not be able to dedicate the time to do so. In that case, you could offer to draft the letter yourself. Most importantly, whether you ask for a letter or not, you should ask your supervisor for permission to put his/her name on your reference list. You also could ask your supervisor to recommend you on a professional networking site (such as LinkedIn).

FAQs about the Internship (from Sponsors)

How and Whether to Sponsor an Intern

Will you recommend potential interns?

We do not advance the names of any particular students over others. However, we will distribute information about your internship to all of our interested students. If you decide to interview any of them, then, after the interview, you may call or e-mail our program to request a reference (or multiple references, if you interviewed more than one student from our program).

Do I have to pay an intern?

Typically, no, if yours is a non-profit organization and, yes, if it is a for-profit business. However, there are exceptions. Please refer to this New York Times article that discusses California law regarding payment of interns.

What can I do to be sure that I get an intern?

If you can, offer to pay an intern as much as your budget allows. If you cannot pay an intern, you can offer flexible hours and/or allow some work to be done off-site. Of course, posting an internship description on our online listing form that makes it clear how the intern will benefit from the experience and that does not expect too much in the way of skills and experience should help, too.

How frequently should I post my internship listing?

You may repost your internship listing as often as three times a year: in the fall semester (late August to mid December), in the spring semester (late January to mid May), and in summer (early June to mid August). Every time you post, we will send the listing out to our internship/job leads listserve for advanced students and recent graduates. Even if you do not repost your listing, we will continue to include it in the binders of internship listings that we maintain in the TPW Program office, which interested students often consult. If you want to remove your listing from that binder, just contact the TPW program office. Our staff also may contact you periodically to confirm that the listing still is valid.

What qualifications is it reasonable to expect interns to have?

In addition to basic writing, editing, and design skills, you can expect our students to be familiar with a range of workplace genres, standards, processes, and issues. Before TPW students can earn academic credit for an internship, they have to complete (with a C or better) at least five of the core and skills electives courses for our programs, including an introductory survey, a desktop publishing lab class, and a professional editing course. Most will have completed specialized electives (e.g., in technical documentation or grantwriting). Students also will have prepared a portfolio that showcases samples of their writing/editing/design work. However, most interns will not previously have been employed as professional writers and editors and may have had limited access to lab courses that teach relevant software skills and programs. Therefore, it is not reasonable to expect advanced tools skills or years of experience working in the field.

Are internships limited to summertime?

No, interns are available year-around. The most popular times students are looking to do internships are during the summer and near the beginning of the fall and spring semesters (i.e., early September and early February), but you may post a listing and find an intern any time.