Graduate Internship Program Setting Up Students for Success

Kristen Norton thought she needed a PhD to pursue her goal of a career in industry. She dutifully applied for a PhD program, but on the way she found a more direct route through the UO’s Graduate Internship Program. A master’s degree program that offers a 54-credit blend of real-world training and graduate-level instruction, the program fast-tracks students into scientific careers.

“The UO program is a fantastic way to get your feet wet in industry, but it also sets you up for success in your field of interest,” says Norton, who earned a master’s degree in applied physics through the program. “The hardest part of landing a job in industry is getting your foot in the door. The Graduate Internship Program has staff members whose entire job is to help you land an internship.”
 
Norton is now a laser and optics engineer at Electro Scientific Industries (ESI), where she completed her graduate internship in optical materials and devices through the UO program. Prior to that, Norton graduated from Willamette University in Salem with a major in physics and a minor in mathematics. She was accepted into a PhD program but elected to defer her acceptance so she could pursue the UO master’s program. She began the program immediately after graduation, during summer 2012, and completed her course work in the fall and spring terms of the academic year, while simultaneously interning at ESI.
 
Norton was hired by ESI before she even completed her internship. The Graduate Internship Program did for her what it has done for hundreds of students since it launched in 1998— helped to bridge the gap between an advanced degree and real-world experience. The program offers students in chemistry and applied physics the opportunity to earn between $2,500 and $5,400 per month while enrolled at Oregon. Four tracks are offered: polymers and coatings, photovoltaic and semiconductor device processing, optical materials and devices, and bioinformatics. Students graduate with their master’s degree in about a year, simultaneously engaging in a targeted training program by serving as interns in companies.
 
The Graduate Internship Program currently works with more than 100 companies to place graduate students. The program has historically placed about 98 percent of its students in internships and boasts a job offer rate of around 90 percent, significantly higher than the national average of 67.7 percent reported by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
 
“A strong part of this master’s program is the focus on soft skills,” Norton says. “It helps you work through your résumé and forces you to practice tough but realistic interview questions.
It sets you up for success. I work on cutting-edge research and development every single day, and couldn’t be happier.”