Are Internships Overrated?

For some careers, on the job training is a must. Some degrees require it as well. You need to student teach for your education degree and you have to do internships or rotations for most healthcare related degrees. But what about all those in-between careers where you don’t need an internship to graduate? How do you figure out how important an internship really is to your chosen field, and what can you do about it if you’re not sure how to get one or if you need to?

You really might want to consider an internship if you’re on the fence, because they can pay off. In fact, if you’ve interned as a student, you’re 51% more likely to get a job offer. That’s a very compelling reason to look into them. Even if you don’t receive a job offer from the company you interned for, you will gain experience in the “real world” of your profession that will help you interview better and sound like you know what you’re talking about. Not to mention that you’ll probably do some of the all-important networking required to really advance in most fields by meeting people in the same role at a different company.

An important thing to remember about internships is that most are unpaid. That alone puts the option of interning beyond the reach of many students. If you’re living on your own and working part-time or full-time to put yourself through school, you probably don’t have 5-15 hours a week to put into an unpaid internship. Let alone those 30 hour per week internships many people get in the summer. Unfortunately, the structure of internships in many industries makes them very difficult for lower income people to access.

Paid internships do exist, and there is more push all the time for more companies to pay their interns. As attention is drawn to the inequity of opportunity for lower income students, more and more paid positions are becoming available but, as you might imagine, the competition for those spots is fierce.

The first thing you should do if you are uncertain how to approach internships for your major is to talk to your academic advisor. They should be able to give you an idea of what is expected for your degree or planned profession, and if for some reason they’re unable to, they should be able to help you talk to someone who does know. Your school may also have a career center or counselor to help you find and apply for internships, and may actively work with companies and organizations looking for interns who are pursuing your major.

Also consider that not all internships are advertised positions. If there’s a company you’d like to work with and you don’t see any information on their website talking about applying for internships, consider contacting their HR department and asking if any internships are available. Some companies will take interns occasionally, but not necessarily seek them out.