Internships - What is an Internship?

An "internship" is an opportunity offered by an employer to potential employees, called "interns", to work at a firm for a fixed, limited period of time. Interns are usually undergraduates or students, and most internships last for any length of time between one week and 12 months. Internships (also called "placements", "work placements" or "industrial placements") may be part-time or full-time. They are usually part-time if offered during a university semester and full-time if offered during the summer, winter or Easter holidays, when they typically last 4-12 weeks. Placements are usually full-time, and take place irrespective of term time or holiday time.

The Internship Experience

Internships offer students a period of practical experience in the industry relating to their field of study. This experience is valuable to students as a means of allowing them to experience how their studies are applied in the "real world", and as work experience that can be highly attractive to potential employers on a candidate's CV.

Who are Interns?

Interns are usually university students, or university graduates who have not yet found employment. Interns are less frequently college students (under 18) or older "career changers".

What do Interns do?

An intern is someone who works in a temporary position for an employer who operates in an industry they are interested in working in. Unlike conventional employment, internships have an emphasis on training, rather than employment itself.

Why do an Internship?

An internship provides a great opportunity for prospective employees to gain experience in a particular field or industry. determine if they have an interest in a particular career, create a network of contacts, or gain university module credits. Interns may also have the possibility of putting themselves forward for forthcoming opportunities for paid work, during their internship.

Why Companies offer Internships

Companies offer students internships for a variety of both short and long-term reasons.

Short-term

In the short-term, internships provide employers with cheap (and sometimes even free) labour, for what is usually low-level office based tasks, such as photocopying, filing or report drafting.

Long-term

Long-term, employers can use internships as an effective way of advertising their graduate jobs and/or schemes to students. Graduate job surveys suggest that almost half of all graduate employers hire at least 20% of their ex-interns for graduate jobs and training schemes. It is highly likely that graduates will return to the organisation that hired them as an intern for full-time employment after leaving university.

The prospect of hiring ex-interns after graduating is also very appealing to employers because these graduates already understand the company and the job they will be doing. Ex-interns require little or no training.

Salaries on Internships

An internship may be paid, unpaid or partially paid.

Paid Internships

Paid internships are most common at engineering, legal, business (especially accounting and finance), technology, medical, science, and advertising sectors. Internships in the media (radio, television, print) and non-profit organizations are often unpaid.

Unpaid Internships

Many employers in the highly sought after professions, such as TV and politics, demand that graduate level job candidates undergo a period of unpaid "work experience" before being able to get paid work. In most cases this "work experience" is actually simply unpaid work and is contrary to the Minimum Wage regulations if unpaid. Such is the demand for this kind of work that very few complaints are made about this, and so the practice continues albeit illegally.

Research Internship

A research internship (also sometimes known as a "dissertation internship") is usually undertaken by students that are in their last year of academic study. For a research internship a student will undertake research for a particular company. The company may have something that they feel they need to improve, or the student may be able to choose a topic within the company themselves. The results of the research study will need to be accumulated in to a formal report and presented to the company and to the university institution the student is studying at.

For more information about graduate internships see: