FAQs for Students


“This program does an excellent job of preparing students for real work in public history- teaching students to make history relevant, interesting and accessible to the public.”

- Jon Oldham, Archivist, Peterborough Museum & Archives

What is the purpose of the internship?

The public history internship is intended to provide students with the opportunity and experience of applying theory to real-life public history work settings; to allow students the chance to work and learn under the mentorship of experienced and knowledgeable public history professionals; and to enable students to continue to develop both hard and transferable skills to better prepare them for a career in public history.

When does the internship take place?

For at least 12 weeks during the summer academic term (May-August). Some may extend beyond the summer, though the formal internship period will end on 31 August each year when interns cease to have full-time student status.

What steps are involved in the process of setting up and completing the internship?

This is a very straightforward process:

Students will, in consultation with their host supervisor, create a 1-2 page work plan prior to their first day of work that includes contact details for both student and supervisor; start and end dates of the internship; an indication of the weekly work hours (approx. 35 hours per week), days of the week worked, and the number of weeks worked; a description of their proposed duties and responsibilities; an indication of the institution’s WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) status; and a statement describing how the internship as outlined will assist in one’s development as a public historian. The work plan will be submitted to the Internship Coordinator, who will confirm the details therein with the internship supervisor.

Supervisors will provide the Internship Coordinator with both a verbal and a written evaluation of the student intern’s performance by the conclusion of the internship period. The Internship Coordinator will endeavour to meet with the intern and supervisor either in person or via phone or Skype to discuss the student’s progress.

Finally, students will submit a 15-20 page final report to the Internship Coordinator, usually by the third week of August, which will describe the evolution of the internship over the term and reflect upon the challenges and lessons it produced.

Will the program find me an internship?

We play a significant role in identifying opportunities, establishing employer relationships, and counselling students about their options; however students ultimately have the primary responsibility for securing an internship that will be most suitable for them. It is important to understand that students are guided by a variety of concerns and priorities when searching for, and deciding upon, an internship. These will differ for each person. Some may choose an internship based primarily on remunerative arrangements; some will favour location and institutional profile over all else; and some will place particular value on the nature of the projects and their associated deliverables.

Each student is different in terms of their personal situation, interests, wants and needs. Ideally, we encourage students to take an internship that will best position them for a career in public history upon graduation. .

What is the role of the Internship Coordinator?

The Internship Coordinator supports each student’s efforts to secure a high quality learning opportunity for their internship. He engages employers through regular contact and promotion of Western’s M.A. Public History Program, communicates information about employer visits and job postings, and assists students with resumes, cover letters and mock interviews through sharing relevant resources, leading career skills workshops, and conducting one-on-one meetings with students.

Numerous aspects of the program’s Professional Development Series also will help prepare students to secure summer internships as well as post-graduate employment positions. Our students learn about professional behavior, ethics, etiquette, effective oral presentations, and teamwork culture. They also consider career choices, learn their personality strengths/weaknesses, and work to develop their emotional intelligence. These workshops also cover resume writing, applications, networking, and technical and behavioural interviews.

The Internship Coordinator is also responsible for confirming all internship arrangements, requesting and processing student evaluations from supervisors, and grading student internship final reports.

Has any student not been able to secure an internship?

No. We are proud to report that we have a 100% placement rate!

How is the internship graded?

It is a full-credit course, HIS9802, in which students will be graded on a PASS/FAIL basis. In order to receive a PASS, students must meet several criteria over the term of the course in addition to completing the equivalent of 12 weeks full-time work in the field of public history. These supplementary components to the internship are: a work plan, a final report, and both a verbal evaluation and a written evaluation from the student’s site supervisor.

Can I split my time between two institutions?

Yes. Numerous students have taken on internships at two different institutions over the term, usually working full-time hours for two consecutive six-week periods. The usual reasons for doing so are to hone various skillsets, make more contacts across the industry, and to offset expenses incurred while working an unpaid half internship with a paid half internship.

Are their internship opportunities at the same host institution each year?

Yes. Several institutions regularly post internship opportunities with our program each year. Some of these internships, such as The Robert Cochrane Lambton County Fellowship (tenable at The Oil Museum of Canada in Oil Springs, Ontario) and the Nobleman Scholar Award (tenable at Canada’s History in Winnipeg, Manitoba), are offered exclusively to students in our program.

Is there any provision that the internship must be paid or unpaid?

No, as long as the criteria for the summer internship can be met by both the student intern and the host institution.

Why would anyone prefer to take an unpaid internship over a paid one?

Financial remuneration is usually how most people indicate the value of one’s work, and we are definitely in favour of having students getting used to being paid for their services. That said, one should be cautious about making this non-negotiable. Students may find they have less influence over the nature of the work they are able to pursue once they become employees, and therefore sacrifice the possibility of acquiring invaluable experience and training gained through an unpaid placement.

Students often choose an unpaid internship over a paid one if the nature of work and/or the mandate and reputation of the institution better suits their needs and interests, and therefore in their estimation may lead to long-term benefits following graduation than would otherwise be the case. For many reasons, including existing labour agreements, very high-profile institutions generally do not offer paid internships to full-time students. They do, however, offer excellent training, letters of reference, and the opportunity to be hired on contract for a lengthier term, for they commonly hire from their internship pools.

It should be noted that in serving a summer internship, students of course are fulfilling a compulsory credit for their degree, not unlike their unpaid counterparts in other graduate programs, including the M.A. Cognate and M.A. Thesis programs.

How difficult is it to secure a paid internship?

Our students have experienced a great deal of success in securing paid internships. There is usually a competitive process for these of course, so our students enter an applicant pool with students from a wide variety of programs. We assist students with their applications and help guide them through the interview. We also connect students with institutions that generally offer paid internships through our contacts and alumni, and some institutions have offered our students exclusive access to paid internships.

Can I serve an internship outside of Canada?

Certainly! Our interns have served summer placements in Australia, parts of Europe and the United States. A valid passport and a student visa is a must. The process will vary depending on the destination and there usually is a fee involved. The Internship Coordinator will assist in the process of preparing the necessary paperwork.

Do you offer funding support for students serving an unpaid internship?

Yes. Students are able to apply for The Graduate Internship in Public History, two offered at $5,000 each, and the John D. Wilson Graduate Internship Award in History, valued at $4,000. Preference may be given to those serving an unpaid international internship. Public History interns have also successfully held the United Empire Scholarship for Local History, and have been awarded support funds for collaborative projects under the Ley and Lois Smith Military History Fund. For additional details, please refer to the “Awards and Scholarships” section under Financial Information for Graduate Studies in the Department of History.

When should I begin looking for a summer internship?

It is never too early to begin thinking about and researching internship possibilities. We encourage students to give their courses and both life and work experiences as a graduate student some time before committing to an internship for the following summer, but students should also get into the habit of networking, making email introductions, requesting informational interviews and asking for assistance with their cover letters and resumes early in the fall term.