Frequently Asked Questions about Practicums at Carnegie Mellon University - Silicon Valley
Why sponsor a practicum?
Many times a company will have a pet project that they would like to try out (an idea), and they would like to either test it or do a trial, but the company may not have enough resources to actually test it to see if it's valid. Your company can ‘contract out’ to a software consulting team. However, in this case, the team consists of Carnegie Mellon University master’s students near program completion.
What makes for a good practicum?
If you have an idea for a practicum, our faculty advisors will work with you to see if the idea is feasible as a practicum. Review practicums from previous semesters or contact our practicum advisors:
What if my practicum will take longer than a semester?
The student team will negotiate with the client for a reasonable scoping of work for that semester. What remains can be used as a practicum course for a future student team.
Are practicum courses offered year round?
Yes, Software Engineering practicum courses are offered in the Spring (January start) and in the Summer (May start). Software Management practicum courses are offered only during the Summer semester. Information Technology practicum courses are offered in the Fall (August start) semester.
Can I hand-pick the students on the team?
As this is still an educational endeavor, priority goes to student preference. Students rank the practicum proposals according to their preference. Faculty will assign teams based on student preference. If specific skills are required, please indicate that in your proposal and the faculty will match accordingly.
What is the difference between participating in a practicum and hiring your students as interns?
The practicum is different from an internship in that the sponsor is not responsible for an educational component. Sponsors act purely as the client to the contracted team.
Can I require students to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements and/or Intellectual Property documents prior to the start of a practicum?
Yes, however, these requirements must be made clear prior to the student agreeing to work on the team. As most of our part-time students already have existing contracts in place with their current employer, they will be able to determine which practicum they are eligible to work for. Carnegie Mellon is not involved in any of these agreements, the contracts are strictly between the client and student.
Do I need to provide office space for the team?
No. You may want your team to meet you onsite for weekly meetings, however, the bulk of the team’s work can be done elsewhere. Keep in mind that some of our students are part-time and may be working on your practicum during evenings and weekends. About a third of our students are remote students, your practicum team might be a distributed team.
What time commitment is expected of me as a practicum sponsor?
You, as the client, are expected to provide a representative to work directly with the team on a weekly or more frequent basis. Each student on the team is expected to work 15-20 hours a week on the practicum for the duration of a semester.
What oversight does the university provide for the practicum team?
A faculty member acts as a team advisor, providing guidance when needed.
How much does a practicum cost?
While there is no cost to the client for sponsoring a practicum, there are expenses for us in running an educational program. We appreciate sponsors who are able to make a donation to Carnegie Mellon University Silicon Valley in the form of an undirected, monetary gift. Each student will invest roughly 300 hours into your idea over the course of a semester. (A four person team will invest the better part of a person-year into your project.) While any gift is appreciated, sponsors wonder how to value that kind of contribution. Given the limits on discretionary funds in established, for-profit companies a suggested guideline might be $10,000 per student on your project. That being said, some of our best projects come from non-profits and new ventures. If you are not in a position to give a donation, we still would love to hear about your project.