When should you apply for an internship and how do you know if it’s a good fit? Ask these questions to find out more about the different types of internships and how they affect your job prospects.
What Is an Internship?
Internships are a great way to gain valuable work experience and build connections in your field. However, not all internships are created equal. Make sure you know what an internship is, what it isn’t, and how it can help you land the job of your dreams.
An internship is a professional learning experience that offers meaningful, practical work related to a student’s field of study or career interest. An internship gives a student the opportunity for career exploration and development and to learn new skills. It offers the employer the opportunity to bring new ideas and energy into the workplace, develop talent and potentially build a pipeline for future full-time employees. A quality internship:
- It consists of a part-time or full-time work schedule that includes no more than 25% clerical or administrative duties.
- Provides a clear job/project description for the work experience.
- Orients the student to the organization, its culture, and proposed work assignment(s).
- It helps the student develop and achieve learning goals.
- Offers regular feedback to the student intern.
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Differences Between Internships and Co-ops
Internships can be a great way to gain experience in your desired field, but there are some important differences between internships and co-ops. Here are the key points to keep in mind:
- Internships usually last for around six months, while co-ops can last up to two years.
- Interns typically receive a lower wage than employees, but they may be able to earn credit that can lead to a higher wage or even a job offer.
- Interns typically do not have the same benefits as employees, including health insurance and retirement savings.
- Co-ops are excellent ways for people who want to start their own business, as they often receive a percentage of the company’s profits.
Internships are supervised, structured learning experiences in a professional setting that allow you to gain valuable work experience in a student’s chosen field of study. Internships require a minimum of 120 hours (typically, at least 10 hours per week during the fall and spring and either part-time or full-time during the summer).
Co-ops are paid positions that require students to alternate semesters between full-time work during the academic term and full-time academic study for at least two semesters. Students are often, but not always, offered full-time employment with the organization upon graduation. Co-ops are not shared at UMBC, but some students are interested in them as applied learning experiences. If you are interested in a co-op, we recommend speaking with one of our staff to develop a structure for the knowledge that will be the most workable for our students.
Research opportunities are available both on- and off-campus. These experiences offer a unique way to better understand a student’s academic interests and consider how graduate school may play a role in future paths. Funding may be available for these experiences through organizations like the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Student Interns Expect:
- To gain real work experience and provide meaningful assistance to the company. They don’t want to be gophers!
- To have a mentor who provides guidance, feedback, receptiveness, and models professionalism.
- To gain experience and skills in a particular field.
- To develop professional contacts.
- To gain exposure to upper management.
- To receive an orientation to the company for which they are interning. This introduces the student to the company’s mission and goals and provides them with information about company rules, regulations and procedures. It also introduces the intern to fellow employees who they can go to in the future with questions.
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Benefits of Hiring an Intern:
- Ease workload of regular employees
- Enable employees to focus on higher-level tasks
- Meet short-term staffing needs
- Complete “Priority C” tasks/projects
- Utilize a cost-effective employment strategy
- Obtain access to highly motivated students who can fill staffing needs
- Complete finite projects
- Develop a pipeline of future employees
- Prepare tomorrow’s workforce
- Inject enthusiasm and fresh ideas into your organization
- Provide practical learning opportunities to students
- Take advantage of students’ tech and social media savvy
How to qualify for an internship
Internships can help you build your resume and network. Make sure to research the company you’re interested in interning for and find out what their internship requirements are. Most companies have online application forms or websites that list their internship requirements.
To qualify for an internship, make sure you have the following:
- A valid driver’s license
- Excellent communication skills
- Strong work ethic
Tips on how to get a job from your internship
When you are looking for a summer internship, make sure to dress the part. Attractive interns are more likely to be called back for interviews. Also, make sure to bring your best work ethic and attitude to your internship. If you can find a way to contribute to the company or department while you are interning, your chances of getting hired after the summer are much higher.
If you’re applying for a summer internship, make sure to emphasize your skills and accomplishments in your resume. Include any unique experiences you’ve had that would complement the company you’re interning for, and don’t be afraid to give examples. Be professional and avoid bragging, but do let employers know what you’re capable of. And always dress professionally—a well-groomed intern will stand out and look more qualified.