• By Check-a-Salary
  • Posted Monday 27 th September 2021

What is an Internship?

An internship is the opportunity to work for a company for a fixed period of time, to give students, graduates and prospective employees the chance to get to know the company and gain an understanding of the working environment.  Internships can vary from as little as one week, to a month, up to a full year, and are viewed as a learning experience, as well as actual work experience. 

Internships are available in businesses, not for profit organisations and government departments.  Companies often end up recruiting their 'Interns' rather than advertising externally, so it pays to get an Internship under your belt.

What is the difference between an Internship and a Work Placement?

Though often used interchangeably, internships and work placements refer to very different things.  In contrast to the nature of internships, which are often undertaken during the summer holidays, or following graduation, work placements form part of a degree course and are often referred to as a 'year in industry'.  The work placement will usually carry an academic credit, which will go towards the person's final degree score.

How to get an Internship

  • Once you've established what industry you'd like to pursue an internship in, speaking with your university tutors, if you have them, is a good place to start
  • College and university careers advisors will also be able to help you to find relevant companies offering internships, and will know of any internship schemes available locally
  • Social media is a valuable source of information for internships - try searching using relevant hashtags. Both Twitter and LinkedIn will provide you with information on potential employers and suitable schemes
  • Contact the HR departments at companies you are interested in. They will be able to tell you whether their company runs internships, and how you can apply
  • Job sites often have a dedicated internship section, so spend some time looking through these
  • Career fairs will regularly be attended by companies looking for prospective employees, as well as prospective interns so be sure to attend
  • Internships are available abroad as well as in the UK. This may be particularly suitable if your degree course is foreign language based

How much does an Internship pay?

There was a time when internships were not properly remunerated, if at all, but thankfully it has been acknowledged that interns doing a job should be adequately paid for doing that job. 

  • You should be paid the National Minimum / Living Wage, if you are expected to perform the same duties and work the same hours as paid members of staff
  • Likewise, if you've been promised a contract for future employment once the internship is over, you should be classed as an employee, and this should be reflected in your pay
  • If your internship doesn't involve any independent work, and you are spending your time shadowing someone (this is obviously more common on 1 or 2 week internships), then you shouldn't expect to get paid as you are there to observe
  • Those embarking on a sandwich work placement as part of their degree course should also not expect pay
  • Some companies will only cover your expenses, so it is important to get this all clarified before you start the internship
  • If you're not getting paid for your internship, then you shouldn't be expected to follow fixed working hours and the position should allow for a lot more flexibility - that said, remember an internship will benefit you in the long run through the experience and the valuable addition to your CV, so being cooperative, whilst not being taken advantage of, is probably the best route to follow

What are the benefits of an Internship?

The majority of well-run internships will:

  • Prepare you for the world of work, giving you a taste of what it's like and giving you confidence
  • Provide you with contacts within the industry which you otherwise wouldn't have had
  • Give you the opportunity to further your knowledge of the industry
  • Allow you to understand the pressures your given industry faces on a day-to-day level
  • Enable you to develop transferrable skills which you will take on into your next position
  • Help you to improve your CV through the experience of the internship
  • Open your eyes to roles you might not even have known about before

Can I get an Internship without experience?

The majority of applicants for internship programmes will be university students, either looking for an internship for their summer break, or students who have recently graduated and are looking for an internship before they enter the real world of work.  Subsequently there is no expectation that applicants will have 'real-world' experience, but employers will expect you to be able to draw on the skills and experience you've gained during your university degree course.  Depending on the type of internship, these could be basic computer skills, which in no way reflect your degree, or more specific skills learnt as part of your degree.

Some internships are age restrictive, and only open to those of student age, for example 18-25, whilst others don't have an age limit, and are therefore open to mature students, or those who studied a while ago and are now looking to change their career path. 

Will doing an Internship mean I get a job offer?

Some companies relish the opportunity to 'try out' their potential future employees through an internship scheme.  They will be able to judge your work ethic, your ability to fit in with the existing team and your overall attitude to the job. 

This means that as an intern, you need to create a good impression at all times -

  • Turn up on time
  • Be smartly dressed
  • Display a positive attitude to everything asked of you, however minor or tedious the task
  • Be enthusiastic and easy to have around
  • Show what a good team player you are
  • Engage with other members of your team and show an interest in their roles within the company
  • Demonstrate your ability to work independently
  • Be polite and pleasant to have around
  • At the end of the internship, show your gratitude for the opportunities afforded to you during your time with the company, either through a letter or email
  • Make yourself indispensable!

Not all companies view interns as walking job applicants.  Many companies employ interns for their lower salary costs, or because they have an abnormally large workload and need some extra help for a short period of time.  If you are keen to gain experience in the world of work but aren't worried about securing a long-term job with the same company, a short-term internship will be useful for both you and the company.  If, however, you have your heart set on working for a specific company, it's worth checking whether they are in the habit of offering employment to successful interns before you start, to avoid disappointment.

To start learning about what internship you might like to do, read information about career advice across different sectors


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