The Down-Low on Internships
By the age of 18, most students are familiar with the idea of an internship. However, many people do not understand the true purpose of an internship. The purpose can change depending on how far along a student is in their collegiate career, but for the most part it is fairly consistent. Companies need new, young talent and they see internships as a trial of sorts.
The most common internships occur during the summer each year, but you can read more about other types below.
The majority of internships offered in the United States each year occur during summer. You finish your spring semester sometime in May, begin the internship by mid-June at the latest, and wrap things up in August at some point leading into the fall semester. Additionally, the majority of internships are offered to juniors in college. If a company sees that a student is a good fit for their organization, they may offer a full-time position upon graduation before you even begin your final semester(s).
A smaller percentage of internships are offered to graduating seniors with the idea that you’re going to intern, prove yourself, and then begin working as a full-time employee after a few months. This is an older model, but does still exist.
Internships are offered to younger students mainly because they are competing for talent down the road. Many companies, like the Deloittes and Exxons of the world, are trying to convince top-tier students earlier in their career that they should work for their company after graduation. Also, smaller companies are using this tactic as well since they are having to compete against larger corporations for the same talent.
FALL / SPRING
Although the majority of internships take place between each spring and fall semester, some internships and/or “co-ops” are offered during the spring and fall semester. This typically is the case for very specific majors (architecture, engineering, etc), but outlier cases come around from time to time.
Most students are not aware of “winternships”, but some companies are using them well. They are not the most desirable internships due to the shorter time frame, but it is a way to differentiate your resume and grow in experience.
The last category to be aware of when it comes to internships is a bit vague. Continuous internships are most often made available by smaller companies who have employed you as an intern for a summer and feel you are contributing enough to warrant keeping you on the payroll indefinitely as an intern. If you can make this work with your class schedule and keep up your grades sufficiently, it is a pretty good gig to have.
Paid Or Unpaid?
Most people probably just skipped to this section. Money is important, but it should not be the driving factor (regardless of debt) for accepting an internship or full-time job. Paid internships are on the rise, which is wonderful. However, certain industries are known for very few paid internships such as journalism and fashion.
If you can manage to receive a paid internship offer from a great company who is willing to give you notable responsibility then take it! Some students will need to agree to unpaid or stipend-centered internships in order to get the experience they need to leverage in the future towards full-time jobs, which is perfectly fine.