What Is an Internship?

What Is an Internship?

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An internship is a position wherein an undergraduate or trainee will work for an organization — usually without pay — to gain on-the-job experience for a certain amount of time.

Internships are also part of the hiring process by several high-paying companies as a prerequisite for their candidates. They only hire from their pool of interns, regardless of whether they are graduate students or not. 

The length of an internship will last from a few weeks to as long as an entire year. However, most employers today will only provide a three-month internship. 

Internship goals:

  • To gain first-hand, real-world work experience
  • To boost one’s resume
  • To start a professional network before graduating college
  • To get a job out of the internship program

In a nutshell, an internship is like any job but without the financial benefits. You may consider it as unpaid training that provides the same tasks as the actual position. 

Nonetheless, the intern will benefit due to the experience the internship provides. The company, on the other hand, will also profit due to the intern’s overall contribution. 

Most organizations will not require a lot of paperwork for the intern to submit. Only when the employer chooses to hire the intern to be a full-time employee will the intern submit the required documents. 

The Different Types of Internships

Not all internships are created equal. Some internships are required for university credits while an internship abroad is the key to learning another language.

Internship for Credits

The first and most sought-after type of internship is the one driven by acquiring course credits. The majority of college programs today require students to get an internship with a certain number of hours — averaging 240 hours. 

However, one should take note that not every internship is driven purely by acquiring credits. Some are in an internship program as part of their application. 

Credit-driven internships usually entail interns taking note of their hours along with specific objectives relevant to their field of study. Thus, it could mean that the intern might have to take two or more jobs to accomplish them throughout the program.  

Summer Internships

From the name itself, this internship takes place during summer where there are usually no principal semesters available (depending on the program).

These internships are usually driven by credits too. However, some college students purely take internships during this time plainly because they’re free from formal academic studies. 

It’s also advantageous to take summer internships to lighten the load during the fall and spring semesters. The only thing that’s not so good about summer internships is that several universities will still ask for a tuition fee to get credit. 

Co-Operative Education

Co-operative education or “co-op” is an extended form of an internship with more complexity. Not every college program will have a co-op, but when it does, it usually is an integrated long-term internship with set hours per day for a longer duration. 

A typical internship will only last for a few weeks to a couple of months, while co-ops will span for a year or two. Furthermore, co-ops will usually come with low salaries. 

Again, only very few students are privileged enough to participate in co-ops. However, they do exist and will consume more than just the summer semester to complete. 

Service-Learning Internship

Another rare internship is service-learning. These are employers that will only need the intern’s presence during projects. 

The credit reward for this type of internship depends on the university.   Most universities only credit this type of internship when the student finishes the goals required by the institution or their program.

Paid Internship

Last but not least are paid internships. These are like any other internship. The only difference is that it comes with a small salary.

This internship is, of course, the best choice out there. 

However, only large corporations provide this opportunity with more rigorous requirements. 

Most paid internships will end up with the employer asking the intern to work for the company. It is quite beneficial for the organization to have paid interns as they become more dedicated and eager to learn the trades. 

Are All Internships Paid?

Not all internships are paid, around 43% of internships are unpaid internships (source). However, for summer internships, the likelihood of not being paid is even higher. This is because co-op education, where payment is very likely, was included in the survey.

Many interns are not paid — not to the extent that you might define as a salary. The main purpose of an unpaid internship is to gain experience and practical skills. However, there has been a lot of movement towards regulating internships in the job market. Many politicians argue that full-time employment should not be unpaid.

The average salary for interns is just about $13. But it can go as high as $19 or drop to as low as $7. The latter is more common for most industries, while the former is what bigger companies in the tech space offer — Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. 

What Are the Advantages of Internships to Students

Internships provide numerous benefits to students. They can:

Gain real-life experience

Students can sense whether or not their study is truly the one they desire to complete. College is incredibly different from the application — real work. 

Most students, especially freshers, will take an internship just to gauge if their field of choice is what they actually want to pursue. On the other hand, the experience interns gain is still valuable on its own.

Refine your skills

Internship programs will hone your skills not just through abstract but real-life work. If you are a marketing major, you will only learn what works, why it works, and how it works in theory.

Internships allow students to develop soft skills that they can’t learn in the classroom.

Boost your confidence and resume

The problem most undergrads face is a lack of experience. An internship solves that and builds your confidence. 

Being able to work as an actual full-timer will make you feel like an equal. This gain will remove your insecurities and will make you see yourself as more valuable to your next employer.

Improve your network with professionals

Allowing yourself to dive into the corporate world, regardless of being paid or not, allows you to connect with professionals. Some of them may give you windows to greener pastures in the future. 

Help you financially

Again, payment is unusual for any summer internship, but it is possible to land one. Getting a paid internship can help with your finances as a college student and may even be your key to landing a decent job after college.

What Are the Disadvantages?

Perhaps, the only biggest downside to an internship is the lack of pay. You may start with poor, irrelevant tasks, but you will always have the option to choose a different employer. Other than that, an internship will do wonders for you. 

What Skills Are Needed for an Internship?

Employers are not exactly looking to hire perfect interns, but they are looking for those who possess these skills and traits:


As an intern, you must understand instructions quickly. Since they expect that you don’t have any real-work experience, they at least want someone who can easily understand what they want to be done. If you can communicate well and show that to them through the interview, you are likely going to land the internship. 


In school, people want you to be punctual and responsible enough. Being so just means you are organized and disciplined enough to stick to a schedule, which a lot of employers desire. You will have deadlines for the tasks. Your employer expects that you meet them on time to keep their operations smooth. 


Unlike school where most of the information you need is spoon-fed by your professors, real jobs do not. Your employer can’t afford to instruct you on everything. You have to be resourceful enough to get your assignments done with minimal to no supervision. 

Technical proficiency

Of course, you are likely going to take an internship that is related to your college degree. Most of the tasks you are assigned will require what you learned from school. You need to demonstrate that to your employer.


Last but not least is your flexibility. Work and school are very, very different. Employers prefer students who can adjust themselves to the new environment without supervision. If you can work with their ways and people, it’s possible for you to get the internship with ease. 

Final Thoughts on Internships

Some students hold more than one internship throughout the course of their studies. Internships can open future opportunities, they can even have an influence on their career path.

Many employers hire interns to scout future employees. However, some unpaid interns are getting scammed by their employers: they fulfill clerical duties without learning any relevant skills. To avoid these kinds of traps, it is crucial to make sure that the internship either provides valuable experience or some kind of compensation (salary, network, knowledge, etc.).

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