Please read all of the attached information completely before beginning your search for a field experience. See the Field Experience Requirements for complete information about the field experience process.
Purpose of the Field Experience
Why field experiences are important
Virginia Tech Service Learning
Strategies for an effective field experience search
Help finding a field experience
Registering for the field experience
Procedures, Forms and Requirements
Purpose of the Field Experience.
The purpose of the field experience is to obtain valuable experience, apply skills and knowledge you’ve learned in classes, and to gain exposure to various learning opportunities. A field experience is a structured experiential learning opportunity on location with a company, organization group, or academic department. Examples would be an internship, study abroad, undergraduate research, or service learning.
Why field experiences are important?
Attending college, getting a high GPA, and taking appropriate coursework are all important to employers and graduate schools. In today's society, this isn't enough. More is expected from students than just a college degree. They expect to see evidence that students can apply what they’ve learned in the classroom in a real-world setting off campus. The field experience increases your marketability to potential employers and graduate schools and allows you to make contacts that may lead to a fulltime position upon graduation.
Four Types of Field Experiences you can choose to gain credit:
- Study Abroad GEOG/MTRG 3954
- Internship GEOG/MTRG 2964 or GEOG/MTRG 4964
- Undergraduate Research GEOG 2994 or GEOG/MTRG 4994
- VT Service Learning
Students who have the opportunity to study abroad attain personal growth, broaden their intellectual experiences, and further develop their global world view. It’s exciting to gain first-hand knowledge and understanding of another culture and broaden your understanding of your own culture. In addition, study abroad is an excellent resume builder and gives you a competitive edge in the job market. Please contact the Virginia Tech Study Abroad (Education Abroad) and view other listed study abroad resources on this website.
One of the most important aspects of doing an internship is that it gives students an idea of what to expect when working in a chosen field and helps students decide if that area is a fit for them. An internship may or may not be paid, but gaining the chance to meet people within the organization who can give you advice on how to be successful in the field and who can possibly help you find a future job in your field of interest often outweighs any monetary benefit. Students who obtain internships also gain career related experience that distinguishes them from other applicants. To count for a geography field experience, the internship position must be para-professional meaning that you must work at the side of a professional.
Students can receive field experience credit for doing research on an approved topic under the guidance of a Virginia Tech faculty member. Talk with professors doing research in which you are interested and check here for posted opportunities within the Geography Department and College of Natural Resources and Environment. Work with your professor to fill out the following form for your undergraduate research credit.
Virginia Tech Service Learning
VT Service Learning enables students to perform important community service projects related to their major course work and develop community partnerships and address community needs. In addition, students develop important leadership skills. For more information contact Virginia Tech Service Learning.
- See the Field Experience Requirements for complete information about the field experience process.
*Please note that if you plan to do a study abroad, service learning, or undergraduate research as a field experience that contacting companies, preparing cover letters, and resumes isn’t required as mentioned below.
- Begin searching early: Begin your field experience search at least six months or two terms prior to your estimated field experience start date. Many organizations hire their summer interns in the late fall or early spring.
- Conduct a Self- Assessment first: Knowing what skills and abilities you have along with those you need develop will help you identify the best type of field experience for you. Identify the skills you have that field experience sponsors would be most interested in and document how you’ve developed and used these skills.
- Conduct Research: Identify your preference in work type, industry, environment, and geographical location. Obtain and review company profiles and contact information.
- Prepare a resume and cover letter/letter of interest: Update and tailor your resume and letter of interest for internships/field experiences you are applying to. Always include a cover letter with your resume or application materials. Contact Virginia Tech Career Services for additional assistance
- Networking is key: Networking is making new contacts and gathering information from theses contacts regarding possible intern/field experience opportunities. Let your friends and family know that you’re actively pursuing a field experience. Attend career and internship fairs hosted by Virginia Tech.
- Be active in your search: Many field experiences/internships are in the hidden job market meaning they are not advertised in want ads or other traditional avenues. This is why networking is so important. Generate potential opportunities for internships. Search for employers contact information. Just because an organization has no positions posted does not mean that it doesn’t have opportunities available.
Help finding a field experience
To assist you in finding a field experience, you need to make contact with possible sponsors or organizations. Below is list of possible avenues to research in finding a field experience sponsor:
- Read your email from the department as many notices are forwarded
- VT Geography alumni employment list
- Posted Undergraduate research calls
- Field Experience Resources & Job listing
- VT Service Learning Center
- Study Abroad
- Ask fellow students about their internship experiences and how they went about locating a sponsor.
- VT Career Placement Services
- Other departments here on campus may have their own internship programs; browsing through their materials may produce some leads.
- Newman Library - Researching Company Information
Contacting A Sponsor
After researching the type of field experience you choose, you should have a list of possible sponsors and their contact information. The prospective field experience you seek should relate to geography, your interests, and your career goals. When contacting a sponsor, be prepared to describe your background, skills, and interest in the type of work their organization offers. Briefly mention your course work and speak of your writing, data-gathering, statistical, geospatial and research abilities, along with your career goals.
*If applying for an internship, begin sending your cover letter and resume to sponsors/organizations that interest you.
When seeking an internship, most organizations will want to see your cover letter and resume. The cover letter
should be tailored for each intern position you seek. (draft of sample cover letters & resumes)
Setting up the field experience
When you set up the field experience make sure that all of the arrangements between you and your sponsor are clear including the length of the field experience, hours per week, pay (if applicable), supervision, and the specific duties you will be performing. Menial tasks and answering the phone are not appropriate field experiences. Make sure that you will be doing work which will give you practical experience in the field of geography or meteorology.
* Internships or field experiences already completed cannot be retro-actively registered. You must have completed a minimum of 15 hours in geography and be in good academic standing. All students will be registered for three credit hours for the specified term. Students will be registered for field experience credits during the semester before they plan to begin the field experience (*with the exception of summer session field experiences which may be registered for the upcoming fall semester.)
** Procedures are given above
*** Please note the Assignments & Receiving Credit section below applies only to students who choose an internship. Study Abroad and Service Learning assignments are determined by the professor or program coordinator.
Assignments & Receiving Credit
Two items must be turned into your faculty advisor by the end of the semester in which you will receive credit in order for the advisor to submit a a grade/credit for your field experience:
1) Field Experience Supervisor's evaluation form
2) Student's two page essay (may be substituted by bi-weekly emails throughout the experience at the discretion of your advisor)
At the beginning of your field experience assignment, provide the field experience supervisor's evaluation form to your field experience supervisor. Before the end of the field experience, turn in the supervisor's evaluation form to your faculty advisor.
*Please note: For semester experiences, these requirements are to be completed by the end of the semester in which you are receiving credit. For summer field experiences with credit in the fall, these two required assignments will be due within the first two weeks of the fall semester.
VT Geography Department
115 Major Williams Hall
PH: (540) 231-6886
FAX: (540) 231-2089