Interns and Observers

The breadth of research at Vanderbilt University creates an array of opportunities for individuals to participate in enriching educational experiences. These opportunities, whether paid or unpaid, are intended to be enriching educational and/or research experiences with a defined educational purpose. This site provides policy information and guidance to those within Vanderbilt University who wish to allow someone who is not a student or employee of Vanderbilt to serve as an intern or observer. Due to the educational nature of these experiences, these positions are not employment positions, and those in them are not considered Vanderbilt employees.

Faculty interested in serving as faculty sponsors for interns or observers should first contact their department chair to discuss plans for the experience. They should then complete the necessary forms and submit them prior to having the intern or observer arrive on campus. After forms have been submitted to and reviewed by the appropriate department chair and dean's office and applicable safety training has been fulfilled, the intern or observer is eligible to begin an intern or observer experience.

Policy Scope

These guidelines govern all areas in Vanderbilt University, both on and off campus study sites. For an intern or observer to participate, the laboratory, studio, or facility must be in full compliance with all applicable Vanderbilt University safety programs and regulations. If the intern or observer is a minor, the minor must be directly supervised by the faculty sponsor or designated supervisor at all times while in the laboratory, studio or facility. See the Protection of Minors webpage for additional guidance on working with minors.

Forms and FAQs

Registration Form

  • General Applicant and Sponsor information.
  • Describing the logistics and educational objective of the experience to be completed.

Statement of Agreement

  • To be signed by the faculty sponsor, department chair, intern or observer, and the student's parent or legal guardian (if the student is under 18 years of age).
  • Specifying agreement to and compliance with guidelines for Intern & Observer programs.

Support Documentation

  • Undergraduate or graduate students must provide a copy of their transcript demonstrating their status as a currently enrolled student
  • High school students must provide a letter from their guidance counselor or principal confirming enrollment at their home institution
  • Visiting K-12 teachers must provide a letter from their principal or superintendent.

Participation Agreement and General Release

Library Privileges for Interns and Observers

  • To be signed by the faculty sponsor.
  • Process for obtaining borrowing privileges and other library services.

Frequently Asked Questions 

  • Frequently asked questions for interns and observers.


These opportunities, whether paid or unpaid, share the following characteristics:

  • They are intended to be enriching educational or research experiences with a defined educational purpose;
  • They are designed to inform an individual about the nature of endeavors at the university and potential career paths;
  • They are time-limited and generally do not exceed one academic term;
  • They are not applicable to students currently enrolled at Vanderbilt, current Vanderbilt employees (temporary or permanent), or subjects in studies approved by the Vanderbilt Human Research Protection Program; and
  • They are not to exclude a qualified employee from his or her employment.

Hiring Procedures

Stipend (taxes are not withheld for US persons)

  • When paying via stipend, use Stipend Request Form 60-002-551, available from the Standard Register Catalog on eProcurement. Generally, stipend payments do not have taxes withheld (this can vary for international recipients).

Payroll (taxes are withheld)

  • If paid via the HR system, one of the following job codes is used:


9247 - Visiting Research Intern MonthlyFor those with Bachelor's degree or higher
9246 - Visiting Research Intern HourlyFor pre-baccalaureate interns
9270 - J-1 Visa InternFor foreign nationals


  • A New Hire PAF will need to be completed.

Interns and observers who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents may face different requirements, depending on their visa status. It is important to consult with International Tax before bringing someone to campus, to be sure they are eligible for payment. For additional information, contact the International Tax Office at (615) 343-7102.

  • These procedures should be followed, regardless of whether the intern is paid through the Vanderbilt payroll or stipend system. In general, interns are paid via stipend if permitted by the sponsor. If hiring an intern, the department will also fill out the necessary forms to ensure payment.
  • Please note, these are temporary positions and as such neither salaried positions nor those paid a stipend come with benefits

Safety and Compliance Requirements

Interns and observers are expected to complete all safety training normally required for faculty and students working in the laboratory, studio, or facility. Additionally, Federal law prohibits minors from working with and having access to certain hazardous workplace settings. If the faculty sponsor or designated supervisor has any questions concerning potential hazards, proper personal protection equipment, or training, they should contact Vanderbilt Environmental Health and Safety (VEHS) directly at 615-322-2057.

Anyone interacting with minors must comply with relevant department, school, and institutional policies regarding background checks.

  • A background check completed and accepted by Vanderbilt prior to beginning work with minors.
  • Complete information about working with minors can be found at the Protection of Minors website (vunetid and password required). For additional information, contact the office directly at 615-936-5935 or

Faculty sponsors and designated supervisors must also ensure appropriate training in the following circumstances: