Philosophy Internship Programs for Undergraduates

Does your philosophy department have an internship program, whereby an undergraduate can get credit for being an intern with a non-university organization or business?

The question comes from a reader whose department is considering starting an internship program, as there appears to be student demand for them, and departments in other disciplines offer them for their majors and minors.

Further questions:

If you do have such a program, what does it provide for the students participating in it? And what must the students do, apart from their activities as an intern, to get credit for it? Is there anything about the program—where it places students, what is asked of the students, etc.—that has much to do with philosophy?


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Jean-Paul Vessel
1 year ago

We in the Philosophy Department at New Mexico State University are currently initiating a Law and Philosophy Internship for our students. Students will be able to register for these internships come the Fall semester. At this point, the internships are fairly competitive. We have about 80 majors (in both Philosophy and our newer Justice, Political Philosophy, and Law program), but so far we’ve (recently) secured just about six or seven local attorneys to direct these internships. We’re looking for more. So far, we have one private practice and five or six attorneys in the Public Defender’s Office, the executive leader of which will give a presentation and overview of these internships to our majors within a couple of weeks. In addition to assisting the attorneys and dedicating at most of 120 hours of work with them, we will be requiring the interns to write short essays (perhaps about ethical puzzles the students confront during their experiences in the law offices) and a reflective essay at the end of the semester. This will put our undergraduates in position to gain some valuable experience, to develop further their philosophical and academic abilities, and hopefully to do excellent work for an attorney who will provide a strong recommendation for their next steps in life. Students must meet certain GPA and credit hour requirements, and they must submit letters of intent with their applications for the program. I’m eager to see how this action plays out.

M Brook
M Brook
Reply to  Jean-Paul Vessel
1 year ago

We had a similar program at Sacramento State University (my undergrad). It was an extension of an existing program housed with the criminal justice department, and while we took a distinctly philosophical approach to the supplementary material and activities, we definitely benefited from the structure/relationships that had previously been built between the school and local legal institutions.

The internship included special court badges that permitted students to move around the local court and identified us as interns for judges and attorneys as they went about their work. Students were to finish about 80 hours of self-directed observation at the court house over the course of the semester, and then there was an additional 45 hours allocated for brown bag lunches and informational interviews with judges, practicing attorneys from a variety of specialty areas, and court officers administrators. The program was known and warmly supported by the local court, so judges and attorneys would often permit students to sit in on procedural matters where other parties were asked to leave the room, and would invite interns back to judges’ offices to answer questions about the nature of the case or other court processes that arose during official proceedings. We had opportunities to observe at every level of California courts (superior up through supreme) as well SD the Sacramento federal court. It offered a very broad introduction to law and its variety of specialties. In addition, our philosophy section completed readings in legal philosophy and jurisprudence, learned legal research methods, and participated in a mock trial of an appellate level case that was decided by sitting judges.

There’s a bit of a chicken or the egg problem where philosophy majors do better than average when it comes to law school admissions, but the program gave students interested in careers in law a chance to see and learn more about it first hand. I think this was particularly valuable at such a diverse and public serving institution like Sac State as so many students were on track to be first generation college graduates, much less having graduate or professional degrees.

The philosophy professor who ran the program was a JD-PhD, and it definitely benefited from this level of dual expertise.

I would highly recommend the program to any other student considering it, and find it promising to seet philosophy departments developing their own.

Patrick Greenough
1 year ago

We have a University-wide research internship scheme at St Andrews. In philosophy, we currently have about six interns working with different faculty members. Topics researched include: wonder, Aristotle on moral development, chatGPT, state consent, civic virtues, and a topic on curriculum development for logic. All our interns are paid — because, well, unpaid internships are morally dubious.

Further details: