What is an Internship Anyway?
Internships combine work with education to give you real-life experience in a field that interests you. From a job perspective, an internship is a position with a real company where you'll be given tasks to do on a daily basis. In some instances, you might even get paid. From an education perspective, however, when you are an intern, you aren't expected to be experienced enough for a full-time role with the company.
The focus will be on training you so that someday you are ready for a salaried industry position. Internships are usually very demanding, but the harder you're pushed, the more you'll learn and the better you'll be prepared for a job in the future.
Internships are similar to apprenticeships. The main differences is that as an apprentice, you usually agree to work for the company after your apprenticeship end (assuming they want to hire you), where interns have more freedom to move on to a different company after the internship is complete. Apprenticeships are also typically only found in "craft" related careers, whereas internships are found in almost every industry.
Who can be an Intern?
In the United States, there are federal and state laws that regulate internship programs. Additionally, your college might have certain guidelines for students participating in internships. If the internship is paid, your employer has to treat you like an employee in terms of the hiring process, your workload, and benefits. Unpaid internships might be slightly more flexible in some ways, but in some states, you must be a student receiving college credit to take a position as an unpaid intern. Unpaid interns are also limited as to what tasks they can do, which we'll talk about more in the upcoming page on unpaid internships.
It makes the most sense for interns to be students, since the main focus of this kind of job is the education you'll be receiving. Almost all colleges offer credit for internships, so it can help you earn your degree as well. In some cases, it might make sense for you to take an internship position even if you aren't a college student. For example, if you're changing careers, an internship can help you learn about a new industry or if you're having a hard time finding a job, an internship can give you the resume boost you need to impress employers with your experience in a field.
Occasionally, companies make internships open to high school students. This depends heavily on the industry and whether or not the position is paid. Summer internships are your best bet as a high school student, especially if you're under 18 years old and subject to strict federal and state labor laws.
Most internships last at least nine weeks, though it depends on your college and the company that hires you - many are longer. Colleges usually have an hour requirement that you must meet. Sometimes, this can be stretched over the course of several semesters, but usually, it must be completed in a single semester, which usually lasts about fifteen weeks.
You can also consider a summer program. These internships start around the beginning of June and typically end mid-August. While they may be slightly shorter than other internship programs, you'll often work more hours with a summer internship, since you don't have to attend classes at the same time.
Why to Become an Intern
The educational experience you'll gain as an intern trumps the education you can receive in a classroom, so completing a program can not only give you some college credit, but it also makes you a stronger candidate in the future when you graduate with a degree in your field of choice.
Did you know? According to a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 67% of student interns receive job offers from the company after the internship ends.
An internship also has an added benefit - it allows you to explore a field without committing. If you're unsure about your college major, taking an internship in the field can help you make some decisions about your future that you'd be too unsure to make otherwise. Don't be afraid to complete more than one internship over the course of your college education to explore multiple fields or multiple facets of the same field. Without switching industries, you might find that one career path is not for you while another internship in a related area could lead to a job you absolutely love.
Do you think you'd make a good intern? Check out the next page for information about finding internship opportunities and landing the perfect gig.
- Internships combine education and work experience, without committing you to work for a specific company (like with an apprenticeship).
- Most interns are college students, though in some cases, high school students or non-students looking to transition to a new career can also participate in internships.
- Internships typically last the length of one college semester or your summer vacation.
- In addition to the money, internships can also help you explore industries and increase your chances of landing a job in the future.