If your Masters studies and schedule allow you to pursue a student internship, it is highly recommended that you take advantage of the opportunity. The vast array of benefits that result from a successful student internship extend far beyond an improved resume or CV.
What is a student internship?
Many companies, small and large, have an internship programme that allows them to temporarily employ students to assist their staff or perform other duties. These programmes provide students with temporary, short-term assignments with real-life tasks and objectives. The internship may come with some level of compensation from the company, or you may offer your services to them gratis, in exchange for the value of the experience. In fact, some of the best internships are so competitive that no compensation is required or expected.
An internship differs greatly from an ordinary part-time job in that it is typically directly related to your field of study and often at a higher level within the company. And unlike a work study programme, in which a student receives discounted tuition or financial assistance in exchange for work, the internship is usually in the public sector, with the student’s work fully managed outside of the university system.
Benefits of a student internship
The benefits of a student internship programme simply cannot be overstated. It benefits the university by offering students better opportunities, strengthening its programmes by testing out its curriculum, and building stronger bonds with the community and local employers. An internship programme benefits employers by providing a continual pool of skilled recruits and the low-risk evaluation of potential employees. But most of all, a student internship programme benefits the student.
Some of the benefits an internship provides to a student include the following:
- Exposure to real-life job situations and environment
- Accumulation of experience that makes you a more attractive employment prospect
- Development of the necessary skills for your chosen field
- Opportunity to network with professionals within your industry
- Evaluation of a potential employer from the inside before accepting a job offer
- Potential to earn a higher initial salary after graduation
When is the right time for an internship?
As long as you are old enough to be legally employed, there are internships available for students at all levels of secondary and post-secondary education. A student need only seek out opportunities that exist already or find a willing sponsor within the educational system to help you develop your own innovative internship.
You may decide to complete an internship while taking classes, during summer or holiday breaks, or even after receiving your degree. You could decide to pursue one or more internships during the pursuit of your Bachelor’s degree, and then another with your Master’s programme. In fact, completing one or more internships during your graduate studies can help you narrow down your career interests by exposing you to a variety of job scenarios.
An internship is valuable experience to anyone who expects to hold a full-time job at some point in their lives, but an internship as part of a Masters programme is likely to be the most valuable to someone seeking real-world experience. Employers expect a much higher level of performance from a Masters student than a lower-level student, and thus will likely offer an opportunity that is more challenging and more similar to what a Masters graduate will experience with a full-time job after graduation.
How to select an internship
To begin to select an internship, research some of the opportunities that already exist. Typically, an adviser at your university will be contacted by companies seeking interns, so start there. Find out who at your school is responsible for the coordination of internships and ask about the types of positions currently available.
Some employers do not communicate internship opportunities to universities, and they certainly do not advertise the positions with all universities, so you may miss the chance for a great one if you do not seek one out directly. Find employers in the field of study you are pursuing and see if they either offer an internship programme already or are open to creating one. Remember, internships benefit employers as well by paying lower wages and benefits (if any), from hearing fresh, new perspectives, and by freeing up staff time to allow them to pursue endeavours they might not otherwise have time to do.
As you research the internships available, do not be afraid to be selective. This is your valuable time you will be giving to a potential employer, and you want to get as much out of the experience as they do. Put as much effort into this as you would a full-time job offer, because it may very well turn into long-term employment. Regardless, the type of hands-on experience you will receive from an internship cannot be found within a classroom or textbook, and might just have value for you beyond the price you pay for your degree.