Not All Internships are Created Equal: Sorting through the Fine Print

Have you started looking yet? March is the peak month for landing a summer internship, so now is the time! This is the second blog post in a series on summer internships – make sure you check out our first post on how to find an internship. Here are a few questions to ask as you sort through the job descriptions.

What will you learn on the job? Keep in mind the purpose of an internship. An internship is NOT analogous to other summer jobs. You are meant to be learning about real-world professional practices, and you should understand the culture and characteristics of a firm and industry after completing an internship so that you know whether or not you want to purpose a full-time career in that industry after graduation.  Evaluate internship job descriptions carefully and write down the key skills you think you’d be learning. Which ones give you the most bang for your buck?

Is the internship paid or unpaid? If the internship is in a non-profit organization, it may be unpaid. For-profit companies can also offer unpaid internships, but ensure that the internship meets these federal guidelines. Internships should always add value to your resume, but make sure you are even more rigorous in your evaluation of the organization and job description before taking an unpaid internship. Ensure that you will leave with a strong network and a truly meaningful addition to your resume.

Will you be getting college credit for the internship? It is possible to get course credit for both paid and unpaid internships, but there are pros and cons. It can be a great way to knock off some of your required credits before graduating, and your college or university will be involved in ensuring that the internship meets educational guidelines. However, not all colleges have clear systems in place to help you set up a credit-worthy internship, so it may take some digging on your part to figure out the process. Ask your advisor or department chair if you are unsure where to start. Keep in mind that the internship credits may not be covered by your regular tuition dollars, which means you could be paying thousands of dollars extra to get credit for the internship.

Make sure you read our other posts on internships! For more help finding and evaluating internships, or other career-related questions, contact us for a free evaluation to see if career coaching is a good fit for you.

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