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 that 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.
Internships are supposed to be educational and teach interns skills that they otherwise could not have learnt.
Why Companies offer Internships
Companies offer students internships for a variety of both short and long-term reasons:
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, 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 are most common at engineering, legal firms, accounting and finance, technology, medical, science, and advertising sectors. Internships in the media (radio, television, print) and non-profit organizations are often unpaid.
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.
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.
Importance of Internships
Student and graduate “internships” are very important, because they substantially increase the chance of graduates finding employment. To an employer, a candidate who has spent time working for a firm within a particular industry shows dedication to a particular career, enthusiasm for a particular job and importantly, has experience.
Internships are Great Experience
Internships are also very useful to interns themselves as they offer the chance to find out what working for a particular company, or within a certain industry, is really like. Internships also allow interns to make contacts with managers and recruiters, which can later be used to negotiate full-time employment.
Salaries During Internships
Companies also usually pay interns for their time during an internship, and salaries can be very good indeed. The highest recorded pay for an internship in 2008 was £800 a week, offered to interns at BarCap.
Getting an Internship
Internships can be highly competitive, in fact most internships receive more applications than employer’s graduate schemes themselves. Often candidates are required to visit companies for interviews and/or assessment days where they must impress recruiters sufficiently in order to be offered the internship.
Internships can get you Hired
It is not unusual for graduates to return to the organisation who hired them as an intern, for full-time employment. Graduate recruitment surveys have found that almost half of all employers convert at least a fifth of their interns into permanent staff members.