Navigating the World of Internships
Internships are an extremely valuable experience for students of every major. It's important to understand the role of internships as you plan for your future career. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about internships to help you get started.
Even though the term internship is used interchangeably, you may also come across the following terms:
- Academic Internships: Students receive academic credit for an applied experience that builds professional level skills through projects and activities. It is possible for this experience to also be paid.
- Paid Internships: Students receive pay for an applied experience that builds professional level skills through projects and activities.
- Service Learning: Applied experience is integrated into academic learning within a specific course.
- Co-op: These positions are typically paid, course-related, supervised, and highly structured in nature.
- Externship and Shadow Programs: This form of experience provides the opportunity to spend anywhere from a day to several weeks observing a professional at their job.
There are multiple benefits to an internship. You can:
- Explore Careers: Internships give students the opportunity to explore career fields and determine if the work content/environment is the right fit.
- Gain Experience: Not only are you developing skills relevant to a particular field, you are also gaining important transferable skills that can be used in many careers.
- Earn Credit: Students may have the opportunity to earn academic credit for their work.
- Financial Income: Many organizations pay their interns.
Your junior and senior years are the most desirable for gaining practical, hands-on experience. At this level of your education you have most likely completed some upper-division courses and have more skills to offer the employer. Some employers, however, are willing to start as early as your freshman or sophomore year. These early internships will be more exploratory in nature but will offer you the added advantage of doing multiple internships before you graduate.
Some nationally recognized programs have opportunities specifically for graduates. And as a Master’s level candidate, you will often enjoy a competitive advantage in the internship job market, as you will have some advanced skills in your major.
Many factors should be considered when it comes to deciding where you should do an internship. Learning how to research employers will help you locate companies that you may be interested in interning for.
Your academic advisor can also refer you to employers in your field of interest. If you are going to do an internship for academic credit, you should check with your department's faculty internship adviser/director to determine whether or not there are any restrictions or guidelines concerning employers.
If you are doing an internship for experience only, you may need to assess your personal attributes in order to best determine what kind of learning situation will work for you.
The answer to this question varies depending on your major. Your department is the best source to determine if you'll be able to receive academic credit for your internship. Some departments have mandatory internship programs, while others may have no formal program. In departments such as these, faculty may agree to supervise your experience and award you credit.
Generally the length of an internship depends upon the employer. Find out ahead of
time how long your internship is projected to last.
Internships and other related forms of experience can also involve varying numbers of hours worked per week:
The Part-Time Plan
Work 20 hours per week in your work assignment while you pursue full-time studies. Parallel assignments usually last one year and often become full-time during the summer period. This plan is great, especially if you have to work part-time anyway for financial reasons. This way you obtain practical experience in your major, plus you earn better money than in a typical part-time student job. Part-time positions are filled on a continuous basis.
The Full-Time Plan
Work 40 hours per week in your training assignment for a period of six months. To protect your student status, you either officially step away from your studies for one semester to focus on work projects returning to school the next semester, or enroll in evening classes on a part-time basis while you work. The advantage of the full-time work plan is that you usually assume much more professional responsibility than if you were working part time. Full-time work assignments usually begin in January or June.
The Summer Plan
Work full-time during the summer. This work plan is best if you prefer to have different short-term experiences that expose you to your chosen field.
It is possible. Many internship positions are reserved for current students and it is highly recommended that you seek internships in your junior and senior years rather than waiting until after you graduate. Either way, an internship is a great way to gain experience in your field and/or explore a career of interest.