When you think of the ‘typical’ college experience, what do you picture? At one time, lectures, residence halls, and cafeterias may have come to mind. These days, however, another important element deserves attention: the college internship.
Meant to supplement students’ learning with real-world experience, internships provide much-needed career prep above and beyond what students can obtain in the conventional classroom.
Why Are Internships Important?
There is no simple answer to this question, as the reasons for pursuing (or offering) an internship vary dramatically from one person to the next.
From the student’s perspective, internships capture an intangible aspect of higher learning that is often lacking in classrooms and textbooks: the value of real-world experience. While this can be conveyed, to some extent, with class projects, case studies, and clinical observation, nothing quite compares to the experience of being immersed in a fast-paced work environment.
For employers, internships provide a powerful recruitment opportunity. Through these programs, organizations can capture fresh talent and shape a new generation of hardworking employees. The risk of taking on an intern is minimal, as employers only commit to working with interns for a few short months. If they are pleased with the intern’s performance, employers can make a greater commitment while streamlining the recruitment, hiring, and onboarding processes.
Benefits of Internships
Any student can benefit in some way from completing an internship. The scope of these benefits, however, depends on what, exactly, students hope to achieve. Advantages can range from strictly professional to deeply personal, as we explain below:
1. Apply Theoretical Knowledge in the Real World
You have learned a great deal in a classroom environment, but this knowledge will prove far more valuable if you are able to apply it within a professional setting. While this is technically possible at any stage in your career, you will find application opportunities far more salient if they are available immediately after you have mastered new concepts in the classroom.
There is no denying the value of timing, as internships are often scheduled concurrent with college enrollment. Others may occur during summer break or immediately following graduation — but these still provide the chance to quickly apply new information before theoretical knowledge has a chance to fade.
2. Expand on Your Transferrable Skills
From verbal communication to problem-solving and even empathy, a variety of transferrable or soft skills can quickly be developed through your internship program. Yes, you have had the opportunity to flex these qualities through your college coursework, but they will look a lot different as you transition to the world of work. As an intern, you will have numerous opportunities to practice soft skills in a completely different setting. You will learn the subtle differences between academic and business communication — and you will quickly discover which skills you still need to develop.
3. Develop Professional Connections
Few networking opportunities are as powerful as internships, which introduce you to professionals at all levels and from numerous departments or niches. The relationships you cultivate during your internship could prove vital as you seek references or leads for the best job opportunities.
If possible, try to find a mentor during your internship. This helpful professional can provide valuable feedback not only during your internship, but also as you make the transition into conventional, full-time employment.
4. Make New Friends
This may not be an oft-cited benefit of internship opportunities, but it is an important consideration, nonetheless. Your professional community could potentially transcend the workplace, providing friendships that stand the test of time. This is frequently a reality with internship programs, which expose you to people you may otherwise never get to meet.
If you work closely with other interns, you may find that navigating this experience together serves as a powerful source of bonding and support. Many previous interns still make a point of meeting their former coworkers for happy hour or at other networking events.
5. Boost Your Resume
While the college internship was once regarded as a nice bonus, it is increasingly viewed as an essential resume item for the most competitive sectors. Without this key entry, you may find your carefully crafted resume making its way to the bottom of the stack. A solid internship, however, can make your resume stand out.
The resume-related value of an internship is best evidenced by the annual Job Outlook survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). In the 2022 survey, respondents cited internship experience as the most influential factor worth examining while making tough hiring decisions. This applies to both internships within the hiring organization and those completed elsewhere.
6. Direct Job Offers Are More Likely
Not all internships lead directly to jobs, but this remains a strong possibility worth considering. Survey results from NACE reveal that nearly eight in ten employers extend job offers to their interns. The acceptance rate is even higher: an impressive 83.1 percent.
7. Better Job Stability
While internships are inherently short-lived, the jobs they lead to can provide a stable income and strong career trajectories. In particular, intern hires with internal experience can be expected to stick around. NACE references a one-year retention rate of 71.4 percent. That being said, outside hires also have an excellent retention rate of nearly 60 percent when they have completed internships prior to scoring full-time jobs.
8. Higher Salary Potential
Not only do internships give applicants a clear edge, but they can also help college graduates achieve higher pay once they officially enter the workforce. While this differs greatly between professions, many graduates with internship experience find that they can negotiate higher starting wages based on their previous work experience.
9. Refine Career Goals
During your internship, you may come to realize that a specific niche or trajectory you once found enticing no longer captures your passion. If you realize this early on, you can change course before you find yourself enmeshed within a certain career path. Making such changes can be a lot more difficult down the road. There is no better time to shift your approach and aim for a career or niche that really sparks your passion.
10. Build Confidence
As you graduate and embark on your career, it is only natural to experience a bit of trepidation. As with any major transition, this requires a leap of faith. You may find the transition a bit easier, however, if you have had the opportunity to take baby steps via an internship program.
Internship opportunities can expose you to a lot of people, settings, and situations. Along the way, you will discover that you have all the skills necessary to make your mark after graduation. This newfound sense of confidence will make the shift from college student to full-blown professional a lot easier.
Excited to Start Your Future?
At Post, the Center for Career and Professional Development offers valuable guidance to assist students seeking internships that will provide work experiences in which they can apply the skills taught in the classroom. We work with a network of employers to connect Post students with internship opportunities. Ready to take the next step? Contact us today to learn more about our career and academic.
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Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.