Students usually complete internships while enrolled in an on-campus college degree program, but some recent college graduates, as well as those looking to change career paths, also pursue internship opportunities. Described as “temporary” work positions, internships provide a unique type of employment as they provide students with hands-on learning experience. Various internship options are available, including part-time or full-time, as well as paid, unpaid, or for academic credit. Business, science, and engineering internships are generally paid opportunities, as are others in the technical field. The length of internships can vary from a semester to a year. Many students complete internships during summers and semesters when not enrolled in courses.
Benefits of internships:
- Enable students to learn more about a specific field.
- Strengthen written and oral communication abilities.
- Provide career-related skills.
- Strongly enhance resumes.
- Allow you to apply classroom instruction to real-work situations.
- Help you get to know career professionals.
- Help you decide if a particular job is the right career for you.
Many students lacking the necessary experience to gain acceptance into an internship program pursue externships to get some real-world professional experience while at college. Focusing on providing students with practical work experience in their chosen field, externships provide “externs” with quick experienced-based learning. An opportunity to shadow professionals and learn by proxy, externs are often paired up with a mentor in the professional setting. Although they are typically unpaid and come with no course credit, externships are still a great addition to your resume and interview topic once you graduate and hit the pavement looking for employment. Ranging from a day to a few weeks, externship meetings commonly occur in-between or after classes.
Benefits of externships:
- You learn more about a certain profession by observing everyday activities.
- You can ask professionals questions about the field.
- You are able to expand their network of professional contacts.
- Generally, there is no commitment to an extended amount of time.
Work-study, often called cooperative education, is a structured learning program that combines academic education with practical work experience. A type of federally funded work program, work-study usually involves a student’s working to help fund school-related expenses. Most colleges offer work-study programs to students already receiving federal financial aid for tuition reimbursement. To enroll in a federal work-study program, students must first apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Work-study programs usually include a part-time employment position on campus, typically at a school library or bookstore. Additional positions are also available through other employers affiliated with the college.
Benefits of work-study:
- You can actively participate in your education by applying course lessons to real-world context.
- You gain a competitive edge by gaining some work experience before graduation.
- Your work-study income is not included in determining your financial need which may increase your financial aid eligibility like scholarships and grants.
The Bottom Line
Giving you a better understanding of what it will be like to work in your chosen career field, internships, externships, and work-study programs ultimately provide you with the opportunity to apply what you have learned in the classroom setting. Along with helping you become more engaged in classroom participation, research shows that these programs positively affect a participant’s perseverance, intellectual and cognitive development. Participating in these programs may also speed up your overall educational experience, often leading to early graduation. Interns, externs, and work-study participants are known to generally improve in work-related abilities, and have a greater likelihood of gaining employment in positions related to their degrees. These experiences also help smooth the sometimes bumpy transition from college to workplace.