When are internships available, where are they, and how long do they typically last?
The 2011 SIOP Graduate Program Benchmarking Survey reports that many internships occur during the summer (39%), however, a substantial percentage also occur in the fall (29%). For master’s degree students, internships tend to happen at the end of the first year and into the second. For doctoral students, the internship is typically in or beyond the third year. The majority of internships are with private sector businesses (53%) although consulting firms and the government account for substantial percentages (25% and 18% respectively). Local organizations provide the majority of the internships (52%), so it may not be necessary to relocate. The duration of internships varies substantially. Eleven percent of internships last eight weeks or less, 28% are completed over an entire semester, 20% last 9-12 weeks, 20% last nine months, and 20% last one year.
Pay & Benefits
As a graduate student, most internships are paid. Just like full time jobs, pay can differ greatly depending on the type of internship, where you are located, your experience, education and also the specific organization you are working with. Some offer an hourly rate, while others give a flat stipend or pay on a project based agreement. The 2011 SIOP Graduate Program Benchmarking Survey reports significant variability in pay, ranging from $10 per hour to $29 per hour, with a midpoint of $18 per hour. Since internships are about learning, experience and opportunity you should not expect to be paid the same as full time employees with degrees and/or experience. Although you should expect to be compensated for your work as an intern, it is recommended to accept an internship that will benefit you the most professionally not necessarily the one that will benefit you the most financially.
Typically interns do not have benefits packages like full time employees such as healthcare, retirement programs or paid vacation.
Contracts are common in many internship opportunities. Depending on the type of work it is not uncommon to have the same expectations of full-time employees. For example, if you are involved in sensitive government work (whether interning for the government directly or for an organization that does work for the government) you may be required to pass a background check in order to obtain a certain level of security clearance. Some companies require all employees to undergo drug tests, submit fingerprints, or receive a medical physical. Also, it is possible to be asked to enter into a non-disclosure agreement. Interns are typically temporary employees, so organizations may put in place measures to protect sensitive information.
Similar to pay, the hours expected or contractually required can differ substantially depending on the situation. Part-time internships (5-10 hours a week) are common as are full time internship (40 hours a week or more).
Interns are universally expected to have a strong work ethic. Interns have less seniority, as they are working towards gaining more experience and education. In exchange for giving interns experience or educational opportunities, it is common for interns to be required to work long hours and produce high quality work. Organizations invest in interns by giving them the opportunity to learn and gain experience, and in return, interns are expected to show professionalism and exceptional performance.
How should I handle my interview?
Interviews may be conducted over the phone, or in person. In some cases, you might have multiple interviews for the same opportunity. Treat internship interviews as you would a job interview. Make sure you dress professionally if you are meeting face-to-face. Do your homework about the company and the position so you arrive to the interview prepared.
Since many interns may lack formalized work experience in a professional environment, it is a good idea to have examples of any relatable experience that would help the organization determine if you would be able to add value. For example: you worked as a server in college, you may have a few really good examples of how you handled an irate customer or picked up slack when a co-worker didn’t arrive to work on time. Often, college students have examples of project work from school that can be used to demonstrate knowledge in a particular area or understanding of a particular topic.
Even if you do not secure the position, the experience of interviewing (tailoring resume & cover letter, applying, publicly speaking, verbalizing your career goals and interests) is valuable. Use interview experience to prepare for future interviews. Often employers will ask similar questions during an interview process so keep notes of your experiences so you can be better prepared for the next interview.
Important: Organizations understand that you are trying to gain experience and job knowledge and do not expect you to be an expert at this stage of your career. If asked a question you do not know, it is better to answer honestly. It is assumed that you have the ability to learn and organizations understand you are there to expand your skillset and knowledge. Highlight what you do know and focus on your strengths.
Every organization’s internship hiring process is different. Organizations may decide to offer you an internship within a few days to a few weeks. Other organizations may wait a month or two before making a decision.
How should I prepare my resume?
It is important that your resume is well written and appropriate. Resumes should be modified to fit the position for which you are applying. In many cases, less is more. Typically you are starting your career so multiple pages may not be appropriate.
Can I expect to obtain recommendations from my internship?
Recommendations are not always guaranteed from internship opportunities but are a reasonable request. An employer’s willingness to write a recommendation hinges on the intern’s performance during the internship. Although an internship is a learning opportunity, there will be opportunities during the internship to produce high quality work and prove you are willing and able to add value to the organization.
In addition to securing recommendations you could also ask if you are allowed to use some of the deliverables and projects that you worked on during your internship to put in your professional portfolio. Having work samples to show to a future employer that you have done high quality work can be a tangible take away from your internship experience.
During the Internship
During the internship, make sure you are professional at all times. As with any job, it is important that you:
- Show up on time
- Conform to the dress code of the organization
- Follow through on all projects and requests
- Check your work to make sure you are providing high quality
- Ask questions so you ensure you understand what you are supposed to be doing
- Ask for clarification on tasks you are unsure about
- Be respectful of employees
- Be respectful of the organization’s culture
- Do not be overly aggressive about a full time opportunity or recommendation
- Do not assume you will receive a full time job offer as a conclusion of the internship
- Be aware of how you are perceived by others and work on establishing a positive reputation
- Experience will help you look and be more qualified in an I/O position after grad school.
- Experience with I/O responsibilities that grad school courses & text books cannot give you
- Even if the company that you intern at doesn’t have a full-time position they may recommend you to other employers
- Experience with a recognizable company that another employer may respect
- Experience and understanding office politics in a real work setting
- Confidence in future job interviews after going through the process yourself
- Understanding the pros and cons of what you do while in your internship in order to help you succeed in your first job after you graduate
- Having a better idea of whether you want to have a career in something similar to what you do in your internships
- Establishing a network with the coworkers you interact with
You are there to learn. Take full advantage of the opportunity. Often employers will increase responsibility and give more opportunity to you if you work hard and produce high quality results. Although a typical internship may not end in full-time employment, you never know what can happen if you show you can add value to the organization.