What is an Internship?
Internships are opportunities to gain practical work experience and develop skills within
a desired occupation or profession. Internships have a lot of the same qualities as your typical job, and there is a
lot that makes them unique. As a person thinking about applying for an internship it is important to know how
they are the same and what differentiates them as learning experiences.
Top 5 Reasons to Intern
- Gain Experience — Experience is incredibly valuable
in the real world. Studying a subject and practicing one are two completely different things.
Average starting salary of students with internships is higher than those without.
- Improve Your Skill Sets — Many skills are best
learned while on the job. This includes soft skills like communication, having a positive
attitude, and working well in a team. Internships give you a chance to prove yourself and
excel through practice at improving such skills.
- Get Insight — Maybe you aren't sure in which direction
you want to go for your career. An internship gives you a chance to test a field before
committing to a position.
- Expand Your Network — People you work with will
likely serve as references for future job applications. Most jobs require professional references.
- Future Possibilities — When you intern, you have
your foot in the door and are no longer just a name on a resume. Many companies use their
interns as their main hiring pool.
What You Should Know Before Applying
Congratulations! You've made the decision to start exploring a career pathway with an internship, so you may
have some big questions. There are many decisions that have to be made and explored before applying for
What do I want to learn? Does it have to be paid? Is school credit non-negotiable? What time of year? Where
can I find funding if I need it? Where do I find internships?
Paid versus unpaid internships?
Internships typically fall under 2 categories — paid or unpaid. Employers might offer an hourly wage
for their internship program, a stipend for living expenses if it is away from home, or possible student credit.
Before you apply for an internship you need to determine if you require being paid or if you have the financial
resources to take an unpaid internship. Taking an unpaid internship means you might need some kind of financial
support coming from elsewhere like a part time job, parents/guardians or a scholarship program. Just like a job,
an internship will require money for transportation, food, and professional attire.
An internship provides invaluable work experience. In a
published in the January 2016 journal Labour Economics by the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, it was concluded
that an internship was more helpful in getting a job than a business degree. If you are offered an internship you really
want and are on the fence because it is unpaid, its value is tremendous.
Do I need school credit?
Internships are offered with or without school credit as compensation. If you need school credit then most likely you
will want to search for internships through your school's career services or college major department. For school credit
to be offered with an internship there will be a curriculum with assigned school work to follow by the employer.
If you are interested in an internship and the employer is not offering school credit, it doesn't hurt to ask them if they
would be open to working with your school to provide credit. Many employers are interested in providing school credit but
don't know how or what channels to go through to create an internship program school credit as compensation. You can
provide them the contact information for your school's career services or college major department.
Where can I find scholarships for an internship?
You want to intern, but taking an unpaid internship would be difficult for you. If you are enrolled in high school check
with your guidance counselors or teachers to inquire about internship resources. If you are enrolled in college, checking with
department of your major or your career services office could also connect you with potential resources. Being proactive
and inquisitive about available resources with your peers and adults in your life is one of the best ways to find resources
you may not be aware of.
What is my availability?
Internships can be seasonal, offered over the summer or winter breaks, and they can also overlap with your semester
or smaller breaks. It is important for you to determine the best time of year for your internship based on your school
workload and financial resources.
What is a "virtual internship"?
A virtual internship is completed from an offsite location rather than a typical office. There are lots of virtual internships
out there but they can be more competitive because the hiring pool is much larger with greater competition. If you want
to complete an internship with a company that is not in your geographical location and are confident that you can keep up
with your work without being in an office every day this might be a good choice.
How intense do you want your internship to be?
Career exploration opportunities including internships are generally categorized as high and low intensity experiences.
After you think about what you want to learn and your availability, it is important to give some thought into how intense
of an experience you want.
What you get out of your internship experience is largely up to you. How will choosing a high intensity experience affect
other responsibilities you might have including a part time job, school work, and family obligations? High intensity internships
usually require more time, but the payoff is big.
What are "career ready" skills and how do they relate to internships and future jobs?
An internship can help you decide if a career path is right for you or learn about a pathway you didn't know existed.
It is like sampling a job with the opportunity to learn new skills. Job skills fall into two categories- technical skills and soft
An internship is an opportunity to explore a specific career and apply what you are learning in the classroom. What you
are learning in the classroom is usually linked to technical skills. If you've declared a major and taken required classes, the
next step is to decide what you intend to do with your degree. What jobs are supported by what you've learned in college
and how do you want to expand on that knowledge through application in a professional setting?
Employers are also looking at candidates with strong soft skills. Soft skills are typically not learned in a
classroom setting and are acquired through experience in the world of work and social settings. A career exploration experience
can help you build on your soft skills and increase your chances for future employment. They include:
- written communication skills,
- problem-solving skills,
- work ethic,
- analytical/quantitative skills,
- verbal communication skills,
- technical skills,
- and being detail oriented.
Think about which soft skills you want to strengthen with your internship and which ones you can use in demonstrating
you are a qualified candidate when interviewing.
What other options do I have to demonstrate my skills for my resume?
The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions offers job seekers assessments called WorkKeys that you can
take to validate your current skill set. Your scores and an explanation for each WorkKey test can be put on your resume to
demonstrate your qualifications.
You can also practice these assessments for free at any computer with online access to improve many job required skills.
To take the actual assessments there are many locations throughout the state including New Mexico Workforce Connection sites
and Albuquerque public libraries.