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What is an Internship?

01 May Academic
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With more people going to university now than ever before, having industry experience on your CV is becoming more important for graduates to ensure they have a competitive advantage over their peers.

There are various methods of gaining experience as a student or graduate. One of these is through an internship. Internships are becoming a more popular option for employers in the graduate recruitment space, but what exactly are they?

The word internship conjures up many thoughts – what exactly is an internship? will I be paid or is it voluntary? How long does an internship last? And will I have a permanent job after it?

Let’s take a closer look at internships and answer some of those questions.

What exactly are they?

An internship is a period of work experience offered by an employer for students or graduates to provide exposure to the working environment in their specific industry. They are usually offered to students in the penultimate year of their degree or who have recently graduated. However, in recent years employers have started to loosen restrictions on the selection process to include students in first year as well.

The purpose of an internship is to provide an insight into the industry and how it works in the real world. It is a chance to apply some of the knowledge gained through study and develop some of the practical skills needed in the field of work, such as communication, interpersonal skills, and problem solving.

Internships are offered across a variety of sectors, from the world of media, tourism as well as engineering and finance. Employers offer internships that vary in duration, although they typically last around 6 months or longer, but some may only last a few days or weeks. Internships can be full-time positions, however, the nature of the position means that some may be part-time or have some sort of flexible work pattern, taking into account the intern may still be studying or have another job.

Will they benefit me?

Internships are beneficial for a number of reasons.

One of these is that it is almost like taking a ‘test-drive’. If you are thinking about a certain career, an internship can be a good way to gauge if you think it is the right career for you, by gaining an understanding of what it is all about before you enter into it in the real world.

It is also a good chance to network or build connections with people who are in the industry. The chance to speak directly to these people can benefit you in that you can learn from them, but they can also be someone who may be able to provide career advice and help you get a job after the internship is over.

Having additional experience on your CV is also a major benefit. It provides real-life experience which you can talk about in an interview, as well as showing a dedication to your industry, by ‘going the extra mile’ to secure experience.

Will I be paid?

Yes, you should be. Research by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) found that 21% of employers paid their interns a salary equivalent to £21,500, which is the median starting salary for all UK graduates according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency. That is pretty good! This will vary depending on the length of the internship and the hours required, however many will offer some sort of payment.

Unpaid internships are (thankfully) becoming a thing of the past. Obviously it is important to do your homework on the company and what experience the internship is offering you if it is unpaid, making sure that you are going to receive some sort of value from the work experience. If you are doing an unpaid internship, you should ideally only do it for a short period of time.

What’s the chances of getting a permanent job after?

Recent research by the Institute of Student Employers found that 74% of employers made a job offer straight away after the internship had finished. 87% of interns who are offered a job accepted.

This demonstrates the benefit of doing an internship. As the competition for graduate programmes and jobs intensifies, it is important to consider other options and routes to employment.

Where can I apply for internships?

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