Internships: Previewing a Profession
An ounce of experience can be worth a ton of research—especially when it comes to exploring careers. Internships are one of the best ways to get that experience and to test a career choice. And later, when it’s time to get a job, internships attract employers.
Internships provide short-term, practical experience for students, recent graduates, and people changing careers. Most internships are designed for college students, but many are open to
high schoolers; others welcome career changers seeking exposure to a new field.
Internship positions are available in a number of disciplines. They can be arranged through your school or the organization for which you’ll work. And they often provide either pay or academic credit—sometimes, both.
Regardless of how it is coordinated, completing an internship increases your chances of getting a job that you’ll enjoy. Not only do you discover your job likes and dislikes, but you enter the job market with experience that is related to your career goals. This overview is geared toward college students. It discusses the who, where, which, and how of pursuing an
Who should pursue an internship?
Almost anyone—both students and non-students who have yet to settle into a career—can benefit from doing an internship, no matter what their motivations. A liberal arts major, for example, may have a less obvious career path than, say, a nursing student. But even well-directed students can benefit from the practical experience that an internship provides: After all, a hospital emergency room, a pediatrician’s office, and a nursing home each provide different work environments for nurses. College students often take part in a summer internship
after their junior year. Other students might work as interns during the school year, receiving academic credit toward their degree. Some students participate in more than one internship over the course of their academic careers.
Part of an internship’s value comes from the opportunity for experiential learning. Whether students have some, little, or no idea about the kind of work that they want to do, they can get firsthand knowledge about a particular type of work or work environment.
Where are internships located?
Internships may be located anywhere in the world. It’s probably easier for students to arrange something closer to their homes or schools than to set up something halfway around the world. But with a little effort, an internship can be created just about anyplace. There are several ways to locate available internship opportunities. Public libraries, career centers, and
offices of school counselors usually have resources that contain hundreds, even thousands, of national listings. These internships include positions with fashion designers, publishing companies, biotechnology research firms, software developers, and Federal and State government agencies, to name a few examples.
Job fairs can also be a source of information about internship opportunities, as can the Internet. For example, the U.S. Government has a list of available internships online at www.studentjobs.gov/d_Internship.asp.
In addition, colleges and universities usually maintain local listings of employers who hire interns. Career counselors and academic advisors may be aware of possibilities, and professors may know what types of internships students in a particular field of study have had in the past. Programs that offer academic credit typically have an internship coordinator who oversees placement and monitors interns’ progress.
Some companies have formal internship programs. Others accept informal arrangements. Directly contacting companies, or visiting the career section of their Web sites, is usually the best way to learn whether they offer internships. Students might also be able to propose and set up their own internships.
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