Skip to main content

Undergraduate Students

Internships

Overview and General Information

The Forensic & Investigative Science major at West Virginia University is a practitioner-based program. The forensic faculty are committed to the training of professional forensic personnel. This commitment requires that students have the opportunity to translate classroom experiences into direct services in an appropriate law enforcement agency or institution. 

WVU’s internship program in the department of Forensic and Investigative Sciences is the largest in the United States. For most students, the internship experience is the gateway to their first job. Students often receive job offers from their internship site as soon as they have completed their degree. At the very least, the internship supervisor provides an invaluable first professional reference. The internship program at WVU is coordinated by Robert O'Brien, but is ultimately overseen by department chair, Casper Venter.

Internships provide students with an opportunity to make practical application of information and refine knowledge gained in previous classroom experiences and laboratory experiences. Internship experience makes a graduate more attractive to future employers because they anticipate less time and effort in training and orientation. Prospective employers tend to network candidates and are more likely to hire those with positive recommendations received from professional counterparts at internship sites.

A successful internship is a three-way partnership. The department will work with you to find a site that complements your interests. We will assist with all paperwork and will work with sites to ensure that they provide you with a meaningful experience. The internship sites and coordinators will show you the real world of forensic and investigative science. However, the single most important factor in a successful internship is YOU. Take the initiative from the start, help find a site, work with the coordinators to make it happen, and make all required deadlines and meetings. What is expected of you here is no less than will be expected of you when you take your first job; in fact, the internship is your first forensic job. Make sure to approach it that way.

Students should check with their advisors to ascertain that they have completed all of the necessary course pre-requisites. Enrollment does not guarantee admittance or placement. Decisions regarding placement are made in the formal application process. Internships such as volunteer work outside the oversight of the department cannot substitute for the required internship hours. Any and all internships MUST be approved by the department.

What is an internship?

We define an internship as a professional experience consisting of a minimum of 270 hours (effective Summer 2015). The internship will typically last about 8 weeks, at 35 hours/week. This translates to 6 hours of WVU credit. In some cases, internship sites will only accept students who are able to work more than 270 hours (i.e. full-summer internship) and in some situations, students will have the opportunity to accrue more than the required 270 hours if they choose to do so. 

Full-time students must complete their internship in the summer between their junior and senior year. Exceptions to this rule must be approved, in writing, by the chair of the department. 

The internship must be completed in an approved agency, laboratory, or institutional setting. The actual hours required may be slightly adjusted by the director. The internship is expected to provide the opportunity for students to function as full-time employees with a full range of professional activities. All activities normally conducted by a full-time forensic specialist at an approved agency will be considered appropriate. 

However, students must realize that they are not full-time employees of the hosting site. They are guests that the site has agreed to host and assist and students must remain mindful of the significant effort that sites and internship coordinators invest in the internship experience.

Expenses 

The expenses for the summer internship include summer tuition and special fees. All students are responsible for their own living costs associated with their internship. Occasionally students receive paid internships; however, most internships are unpaid.

Internship Statistics

During the summer of 2022, seventy-eight (78) students completed internships. In the summer of 2023, one hundred (100) students completed their internships at Federal, State, and local forensic laboratories, police departments, crime scene units, and Coroners/Chief Medical Examiner’s offices.

Out of the 100 students who completed internships, 65 students worked in local units, 14 worked in an industry setting, 8 worked in state units, 8 worked in research, 3 worked in federal units, and 2 worked in other areas.

The following states represent where our students experienced a fantastic summer internship:

Internship States

Undergraduate Internship and Research Opportunities

Both internships and research augment the education that students receive in the classroom while providing the opportunity to translate classroom experiences into direct services in an appropriate law enforcement agency or institution. Furthermore, the experience provides an opportunity to make practical application of information learned and refine knowledge gained in classroom and laboratory experiences.

Undergraduate research is another avenue to enhance and apply the education gained within the classroom. Research can be done with faculty members (areas of interest) or with agencies or institutions in the field.

In addition to the 200+ agencies and institutions our students have served through the completion of their internships, several more opportunities are listed below:

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

  STEM Student Employment Program (SSEP)

  https://www.nrl.navy.mil/careers/students/ssep/

  This program provides paid positions available for freshman through seniors with full-time work in     summers.  Applications are taken at any time.  

  Pathways Internship Program

  https://www.nrl.navy.mil/careers/students/pathways/

  Similar to SSEP.  Applications accepted quarterly

National Institutes of Science and Technology (NIST)

  Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship

  An excellent paid opportunity ideal for students looking to graduate school. 

  www.nist.gov/ohrm/staffing/students.cfm

  NIST Internships

  Available on occasion; same weblink as above

Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education

  A range of opportunities in federal laboratories, including some in forensic science

  https://orise.orau.gov/

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

  Nuclear forensics is one of several opportunities available for summer internships.

  https://www.dhs.gov/homeland-security-careers/students

  Check the links under “Health and Science,” “Intelligence Analysis”, and “Law Enforcement”.