What Are Internships and How Do You Find One?

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 11 August 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Internships are an opportunity to gain real-world experience in the career you are pursuing. By interning with an organisation, you can learn more about what your daily responsibilities may look like in a particular position. Knowing the process for pursuing an internship can help you find one with your dream company. In this article, we explore what are internships, discuss what an intern does and explain how to become one.

What Are Internships?

Short-term work experiences with an organisation to gain experience in a career explains, what are internships. Employers offer these to potential employees to provide a professional understanding. Often these are for students or entry-level individuals looking to learn more about an industry. This experience can help individuals learn more about the daily functions in a particular role and can serve as a way to develop their resumes. Universities often require students to complete an internship to earn a set amount of credits.

Related: Writing an Internship Cover Letter (With Examples)

How Are Internships Different From Apprenticeships?

While both internships and apprenticeships help individuals gain experience in an industry before becoming a professional, the two vary. Apprenticeships are vocational programmes where a trainee spends time with an employer in a training centre to build their portfolio. These are traditionally for trade jobs, whereas internships are for a variety of roles. Internships are also typically shorter than apprenticeships, which can last for up to a few years. Another difference between the two is the amount of structure. Apprenticeships tend to be more structured and focused on mastering a skill while internships focus on gaining entry-level experience.

What Do Interns Usually Do?

Your daily tasks vary depending on the type of internship you are pursuing. Those doing a research internship spend this period researching a topic for a university, while those doing a traditional internship complete tasks to prepare them for a full-time job. Some common job duties for an intern include:

Shadowing professionals

A large portion of interning involves shadowing professionals as they perform their job. This allows you to learn indirectly and see what daily operations look like in a real-life setting. Organisations often assign interns with a mentor to follow around and ask questions during their internship.

Related: How To Answer "Why Should You Be Hired for This Internship?"

Assisting with day-to-day tasks

Interns often perform daily tasks for organisations, such as completing clerical duties like organising files. This also may include updating the company's social media pages, researching for coworkers and organising events. During their internship, they work on projects related to the career they are pursuing to help them develop in their role.

Gaining experience

During an internship, you develop hard and soft skills related to your job. Hard skills are the technical skills specifically related to your job, such as drafting a company report. Interning also strengthens your soft skills or those that help you interact with others, such as communication. Improving these skills can help you develop a strong skill set for your future job. Internships also help build up your work experience and confidence to perform certain job duties.

Related: Hard Skills: Definition and Examples

Is An Internship Paid?

Since an internship is like a job, you often get paid. The amount of pay depends on the type of company you intern with, and other factors such as the reputation and size of the company and the industry. For instance, those interning with a technology company tend to earn a higher stipend than interns working in some other industries. The average salary of an intern is ₹1,86,976 per year. Usually, companies pay their interns enough to cover their basic expenses for food and travel.

Some industries may offer experience and education with little to no financial reimbursement. Typically, these are non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or non-profits since they may not have the money in their budget to pay interns. But, sometimes these unpaid internships can lead to a second paid internship or even a job with the company. The knowledge learned through the internship may also be worth more than a stipend.

Related: Salary Negotiation Tips and Examples

What Do I Want Out Of An Internship?

When pursuing an internship, consider what your goal is for completing it. You may want to complete an internship to build relationships with professionals at a particular company. Internships can also allow career exploration to help you decide if the current career path you are working toward is something you want to continue. Another purpose for internships is serving as a way for you to gain knowledge in your industry outside of the classroom setting. Some other benefits of completing an internship include:

  • Helping you find a job in your industry

  • Providing an advantage over competitors when applying for jobs

  • Networking and building connections with other professionals in your industry

  • Developing relevant work skills

  • Gaining mentorship from a professional

  • Earning recommendations from internship supervisors

Related: How to Find Your Desired Career Path

How Do You Become An Intern?

To become an intern, first look for internship opportunities in your related industry. Begin your search online at job sites and company websites. If you are still in school, consider using your campus resources, such as the career centre and a school-specific job board. You may also want to reach out to your network to let them know you are looking for an internship to see if they know of any opportunities for you. When preparing to find an internship, plan ahead since many companies select interns a full semester prior to the start date of their internship programme.

Once you find an internship that interests you, prepare your resume and curriculum vitae (CV) for your application. In those, highlight your experiences and achievements. For instance, if you won a math competition, include that in your resume or CV. Think about what you can offer the company. You can also customise your resume to highlight certain skills mentioned in the company's internship description. After completing your resume, practise potential internship interview questions and research the company to prepare for the interview.

Related: How To Write a Resume for Internship (With Template and Example)

Why Is Interning A Career Networking Opportunity?

Interning can help you expand your professional network. This experience can introduce you to others in your field of study while working with a company. The different types of internship networking include:

  • Mentor: often interns have a mentor who they can use as a role model for what characteristics and skills to develop in their position to be successful.

  • Peers: having a group of peers at an internship can give you someone to relate to in the experience and create lasting relationships beyond the internship.

  • Supervisors: building strong relationships with supervisors can help lead to positive recommendations for future positions and the potential for a job opportunity with the current company.

Related: How to Get the Job You Want

How Long Do Interns Work?

The amount of hours interns work typically depends on when they are pursuing it. Interns often work part-time during the spring and fall while pursuing school and full time in the summer months. Employers tend to be more flexible during the spring and fall since they assume participants have classes during those times. An intern's hours also depends on the type of employer they have. Some employers may request a set amount of hours, whereas others may allow flexibility as long as the intern completes the work assigned to them.

A typical internship lasts between a few weeks to a few months. Since it is often part of university credit, it tends to exist for the duration of an academic semester. In some instances, individuals have long internships where they work for up to two years with a company. An internship is a fixed, one-instance occurrence that employers may sometimes renew for another internship period with the same company. Sometimes interns may have back-to-back internships with the same company, with one during a particular semester and one during the following semester.

Tips For How To Have A Successful Internship

Here are some tips to help you have a successful internship:

  • Set goals. When beginning your internship, create a clear, personal purpose for why you are there so you have a motivating factor to keep you focused throughout your internship.

  • Stay organised. Since employers assign interns with various tasks, it is helpful to have an organisational system that works for you, such as using a calendar or agenda.

  • Be professional. While an internship is sometimes more casual than a job, it is still important to remain professional and consider how you present yourself to others in the organisation.

  • Fill your downtime. Let your supervisor know if you are out of tasks so they can find something else for you to do to keep you busy and productive with the company, allowing you to continue learning.

  • Ask questions. As an intern, take advantage of your status as a student to ask your employer and peers about areas you are having trouble understanding to show your motivation in learning more about the industry.

  • How To Apply for an Internship (And What To Do After Applying)
  • 17 Industries That Offer Internships for College Students

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Explore more articles