What is an Internship? Your Basic Questions Answered on Intern Programs

What is an internship? This post gives you a comprehensive understanding of the internship definition in an easily digestible read.

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Trying to decide if an internship is right for you? Or, are you skeptical of internships because of all the jokes about interns going on coffee runs?

Not to worry.

In this short guide, we’ll discuss what an internship is, as well as what an internship isn’t.

Read on for a full internship definition as well as an explanation as to what an internship entails.


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What is an Internship?

An internship is a limited-time work program offered by an organization to an individual, often a student or recent graduate, looking to build experience or skills in a particular field. A person accepted into an internship program is called an intern.

In essence, internships are segue jobs, a stepping stone on your career path. The most common scenario is of a college student or recent university graduate looking to get their foot in the door of the industry they want to base their career around.

An internship program gives this individual the opportunity to get first-hand experience in their chosen field, develop crucial skills they’ll need, and add some important work history onto their resume.

Internships are temporary affairs and tend to attract those with no existing experience but looking to gain some expertise in a particular field. However, as internships get more competitive, say for a Google internship or one at Facebook, some companies find interns who do have existing experience, making an internship position at top brands quite difficult to land.

What’s the difference between an internship and an apprenticeship? An internship may sound similar to an apprenticeship, and it is, in a way. However, internships are much more lenient and have less oversight than apprenticeships, typically.

How Does Each Party Benefit from an Internship?

There are several ways in which a college student or recent graduate benefit from internships:

  • Develop hard skills and soft skills necessary for the desired industry.
  • Build actual work experience to fill up an empty resume.
  • Offers the opportunity to explore a career path without going “all in.”
  • Gives a prime chance for networking with key players in the field.
  • Provides an advantage over other candidates when applying for full positions in the future.
  • The possibility of the internship program ending with a request to sign on as a full employee.

However, the company benefits, as well:

  • Find possible future employees through a no-obligation trial period.
  • Increase productivity around the office by having more hands on deck.
  • Gain valuable insight and fresh perspectives from recent graduates and current university students.
  • Lower-cost labor compared with experienced personnel for the same tasks.

Related Read: How to Prepare for an Interview: 10 Ways to Get Ready for Your Big Day

Do Internships Pay?

Whether an internship pays or not will depend on the company. Some companies hire interns on a low or entry-level wage. Other companies might only pay travel expenses and some might expect you to basically volunteer. 

Affording to do an unpaid internship can be difficult or impossible for some people. Just be sure to remember that you do have rights. Always check the job ad or ask the HR team if an internship they’re offering is compensated in any way. 

Struggling through college but found an unpaid internship that would really benefit you in the future? Check out our guide: 15+ Easy Ways on How to Save Money in College (Tips & Advice for 2020)

What Do Interns Do?

The point of an internship is for you to gain valuable work experience. While there are horror stories of a few companies exploiting interns by using them as free labor for menial tasks, most companies nowadays have an internship scheme in place which offers useful training. 

As an intern, you’ll do just about everything. From shadowing employees to being given your research and reporting assignments, interning duties are as varied as the rainbow.

However, think positively—remember that the more you learn as an intern will pay itself back in dividends later on in your career journey!

Related Read: Best First Jobs: 65+ First-Time Job Ideas for Teens & College Students

How Long Do Internships Last?

Internships can last from a couple of days or weeks to several months in length.

Some companies provide six-month or year-long internships to give interns a comprehensive learning experience, as well as to reduce the burden of constantly locating new intern replacements. Others might offer prospective candidates a week or month-long internship to provide a simple overview of the business and determine if the intern and the company are a fit for possibly moving forward together.

While you can apply to an internship of any length, decide first what you hope to get out of it. Then, match that up with current internship job ads to see what’s available.

Related Read: What to Bring to an Interview? 10+ Things to Take for Your Big Meeting

Will You Get a Job After an Internship?

Plenty of companies offer their interns full-time, salaried positions after their internship is over. If this is something you’d like to pursue, you can ask the HR team or interviewer if it’s a possibility, if it doesn’t already say it outright in the internship job description.

Impressing your supervisor, whether or not you’ll remain at that particular company, always pays off. Don’t burn bridges! 

Related Read: 25+ Books for College Students to Read in University

An Internship is a Stepping Stone on Your Career Path

So, is an internship worth it? 

Internships are temporary roles that offer a wide range of benefits if you decide to pursue one. Not only will an internship look good on your resume and cover letter later on, but you’ll get hands-on knowledge of a role and industry you’re interested in. (Or determine that it’s not for you, which is still a win!)

You’re not guaranteed a job offer at the end, but working to impress the company could have big benefits in the future. As you never know who you might meet, internships can be stepping stones to your future roles. 

Read Next: How to Land an Internship in 5 Easy Steps

Well, that’s our post on what an internship is, and we hope you found it helpful and informative! Got any questions, feedback, or something to add about our internship definition? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!

Oh, and check out our career blog to get the latest advice on finding the right job for you, even if you’re new to the workforce.

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Christian Eilers
Written By Christian Eilers
is a writer and expert on the topics of education, entrepreneurship, career advice, travel, and culture. On the Goodwall Blog, he covers topics including self-improvement, social impact, college preparation, career development, climate action, and more. Christian is originally from New York City and now resides in Warsaw, Poland. At his desk, you're sure to find Pickwick, his Devon Rex cat, either attacking his fingers as he types or the monitor as the mouse pointer moves around.

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