Internship Expectations

Business team working together with an intern
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Internships afford opportunities for those seeking to gain the skills required when seeking a full-time job in today's competitive job market. Many students who are looking to do an internship don’t know what to expect or what they should do first. 

What Is an Internship

An internship is a pre-professional experience whereby individuals get the required experience to get hired in a career field of interest. By completing an internship, students will develop the knowledge and skills employers seek in this competitive job market.

Although courses taken in college can help prepare for a future career in a specific field, it is the experiential component that provides the skills necessary to enter a field and be successful. There are many types of internships available.

An internship for an art student seeking experience in a museum will look very different than the internship that an environmental studies student might do to help improve the water quality in a local community. Just like jobs, internships come in all shapes and sizes, and there is no limit to the types of internships available since they can be anything that suits one's imagination.

In addition to college students, there are many career changers who opt to do an internship to learn more about a career and get the necessary experience. Rather than going back to school immediately, doing an internship is a way to try out a new job or career without making a permanent commitment. Testing the waters by doing an internship may open doors and could lead to a new career that’s satisfying and rewarding.

The Value of Doing an Internship

Internships can open the door to getting a job. For college students, it’s important to complete the required courses to get a degree, but often it’s not enough to be able to crack the job market and get hired in the field. In addition to gaining the required knowledge and skills, internships also provide a snapshot of what it would be like working in a particular field.

Researching careers and even doing informational interviews with people currently working in those fields can only provide a certain level of information but cannot give a true picture of the day to day activities of a marine biologist or financial analyst in its true form.

Internship for Credit Requirements

Internships for credit may be a requirement for a particular major or even graduation which leaves no choice on if an internship should be done for credit. Meeting the academic requirements of a college curriculum is an important reason for doing an internship for credit. Internships for credit also add an academic component to an internship for credit.

A faculty sponsor usually sets the criteria for students who are doing an internship for credit and may require a journal, essay paper, research project, or class presentation as an additional aspect of the actual internships. It’s important to realize that employers don’t usually have a preference that a student complete an internship for credit or that a student gets paid for their internship experience.

Employers are usually more interested in hiring an applicant that has the necessary knowledge and skills and finding someone who has had exposure to the field which hopefully reduces the likelihood that the new employee will leave because the job wasn’t what they expected.

Fitting an Internship Into an Already Hectic College Schedule

Internships may require anywhere from eight to 40 hours per week. Internships for credit usually have a set number of hours that are required to meet the requirements of the college. Usually, it is between 130 and 150 hours required to get 3 college credits. Many employers, especially those near college campuses, offer very flexible hours for students to be able to attend classes while also completing an internship.

Finding an Internship

There are many ways to find an internship. The top three ways are networking, online databases and listings, and prospecting.


Since networking is considered the top job search strategy, it also can be very useful when searching for internships as well. Contacting family, friends, faculty, previous employers, and college alumni from your college may provide valuable leads on internships available. Don’t overlook this valuable technique when looking for an internship.

Online Internship Databases and Company Websites

The internet has provided a wealth of information for those who are looking for an internship. Checking with the Career Services Office at your college is a good place to start to find local, national, and international internships. The Career Services Office will generally devote a specific section on their website for students to find internships.

If You Can’t Find an Internship You Want to Do

Prospecting affords an opportunity to seek out unadvertised internship and job opportunities. If there is a specific employer you'd like to work for, but you don't see any advertised openings, why not try contacting them directly to see if there are any potential internships or jobs opening up in the future.