In many cases, employers specify that interns need to be currently enrolled in a university program.

I am currently in between my M.S. and Ph.D.. I have been admitted to a university and have deferred my admission for a year. Since I deferred admission, I am matriculated in the university but not enrolled.

I have a few questions about how I am effected by the employer's requirement:

  1. Does the employer have a legal obligation to hire enrolled students only? (In the United States)
  2. Does the definition of enrolled students extend to students on academic leave or with deferred admission?
  3. Does the interpretation of such a requirement vary from employer to employer?
  • Welcome to the workplace Cecilia. As written your question title ("do I qualify?") is off-topic on this site since it's too specific to your situation and, as you suspect, this probably differs from employer to employer. Would you mind rephrasing your question to something more generic? I'd suggest some variation of "Will employers accept students on academic leave or with deferred admission for student internships?" As long as it's worded properly I think your core question is both on-topic and useful on this site.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 12:36
  • Why do an unpaid job when you have a good qualification under your belt? Hve you considered paid employment for a year?
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 15:47
  • @ed The internships that I am interested in are paid. Because I am only looking for a year many employers are not interested in the effort required for a normal hire, such as multiple interview s
    – 2cents
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 0:16

3 Answers 3


The rules regarding the hiring of interns vary greatly from company to company.

In the case of unpaid internships most employers will require proof of being registered in a class that will award credits for the internship. They expect that the university will send them paperwork that they need to comply with regarding scope of duties and number of hours.

For a paid internship there is a great variety of rules. Some will take students between high school and college. Others will make them complete the first year. I know of one government internship that makes it clear that they don't want you if you will have already graduated, they ask that you apply for a full time position if you will no longer be an undergraduate.

The unpaid internships have the credit requirements to make sure that they aren't using slave labor, the student is getting credit for their work.

For the paid internships it is strictly up to the employer regarding the rules they want to establish for the program. They are deciding the type of program they want, and what types of students they want to use. In some cases a university may have some say in the requirements if they setup an arrangement with a local employer.


I did an internship between degrees. I was technically not a student at that point. So it's definitely possible.

Make sure you figure out (if needed) insurance, etc. That was the main complicating factor for me, I didn't have any insurance anymore for that period of time.

Does the employer have a legal obligation to hire enrolled students only? (In the United States)

Employers can hire whoever they want. People will frequently do "internships" even after graduation (or without a degree). In general, "internship" means more "shorter term duration work for early experienced employees."

Some places seem to use "internship" to underpay people otherwise doing FT work. Occasionally they are unpaid.

As stannius points out, this may be complicated if you are in the USA on a student visa (and not an American citizen).

Does the interpretation of such a requirement vary from employer to employer?

Most employers will not care about this. Their primary concern is if you say, "I am going to do degree X" that you are actually doing it.

Unless you run into an incredibly pedantic HR department, most will not care if you are doing that program in the future or currently.

You may get questions about why you deferred enrollment and the answer to that might matter. It probably will matter more than the nuances of whether you are "currently" a student or "in the future."

  • It's possible the student would care; e.g. for an student in the US on a student visa. And the employer is responsible for ensuring the people they employ are employable (authorized to work).
    – stannius
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 17:48
  • @stannius great point, I edited to add a bit on that.
    – enderland
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 17:57

Consider looking into an internship "agency" or organization. I did a lot of work with AIESEC in college. Their only rule is that you have been in school sometime in the last 2 years. This applies globally to their internships. Perhaps unfortunately, they can only provide you opportunities in countries other than your own, as they operate on an "exchange" mentality. Run a google search to see if there's a chapter in a university near you, they could be worth a conversation.

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