What Is an Internship? (With Benefits and Responsibilities)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 5 November 2022

Published 7 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Internships may be a valuable experience for individuals just starting in the professional world or those looking to change careers. Internships may help you garner industry experience, enhance your resume and cover letter and get a sense of what it's like to work in a particular role. Internships are a good way to start your career because they usually provide professional contacts and remuneration. In this article, we look at what an internship is, describe what an intern does, explain the benefits of participating in an internship and outline how to get an internship.


  • Internships vs. Apprenticeships: The Main Differences

  • When to Apply for Internships (Plus Tips From a University Career Coach)

What is an internship?

An internship is short-term work that is generally designated for university students and recent graduates to gain entry-level exposure to a specific field. Interns typically work in return for academic credit or a basic salary. Students can learn about the day-to-day operations and culture of a firm industry through an internship. The duration of an internship can range from a few months to a year. Internships are particularly beneficial to students who haven't yet decided on a professional path. You can take your time deciding whether a job is appropriate for you by working in a sector temporarily.

Related: Interview Questions for Students (With Sample Answers)

What does an intern do?

Many internship programmes may have you working on a project, directing a small group and even collaborating with executives. It's critical that you approach your internship with the proper mentality. The scope of your work highly depends on the industry you're in and your internship role. Generally speaking, an intern serves as a support role. As such, your primary responsibility is to help, learn and grow. Listed below are some common duties describing what an internship is:

  • Undertaking clerical and administrative duties

  • Conducting research

  • Studying and gathering experience

  • Cultivating technical and soft skills

  • Managing emails and social media

  • Shadowing a more experienced personnel

  • Establishing a peer support group

Read more: What Is The Importance of An Internship?

What are the benefits of an internship?

Internships allow you to work on relevant projects, learn more about the industry, establish and build professional connections and develop both hard and soft skills. With all of the advantages of an internship, it's an excellent choice for university students and other people entering the workforce. The experience and tools you acquire can assist you in establishing a fulfilling career. Internships offer numerous advantages to college graduates, including:

  • Cultivating and enhancing your skills: Internships can help you understand your industry's strengths and shortcomings. This information may be used to establish personal professional objectives that may help you grow over time.

  • Obtaining a better starting salary: Having appropriate experience can help you make more money at every stage of your career. Because you already have a certain degree of relevant expertise, the firm may be able to save money on training expenditures, which you can address when negotiating your beginning salary.

  • Networking: Some internships lead directly to full-time positions inside the firm. If the firm doesn't offer a job following an internship, you might still establish a professional network with that firm, granting you the potential for additional employment opportunities.

  • Transitioning more smoothly into the professional landscape: The move from university to a professional career might be challenging if you don't know what to anticipate. An internship may help you grasp the fundamentals of the corporate world and how you may contribute to the company.

  • Exploring your potential professional path: Internships allow you to get experience in a certain sector or profession. Even if you don't particularly enjoy the internship, you may be able to apply what you've learned while looking for another job or deciding on a major or career path.

  • Earning an income: Many internships pay you for your time. You may also be granted school credit. If you're doubtful, consult with the employer to see how you may be compensated for your contribution.

Related: 6 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Internship Law

How to get an internship

The process of looking for an internship is similar to that of looking for regular employment. To secure an internship, you can undertake the following measures:

1. Draft an internship resume and cover letter

When applying for an internship, most organisations demand a cover letter and a resume. Because you're likely to have little to no professional experience when you're looking for an internship, your cover letter serves as a critical context for the hiring manager. Your internship cover letter can be a platform allowing you to explain why you're the best fit for the role. It's also a good chance to discuss what you can contribute to the organisation. Include instances of your work ethic and essential abilities, as well as relevant experience that applies to the position.

Incorporate an objective statement at the start of your internship resume outlining your professional career ambitions. Also, add any relevant experience you possess that the hiring manager may find useful, such as completed courses, community service and leadership roles in extracurricular activities. Examine the internship job description for keywords that pertain to your experience and qualifications and put them on your resume. Most universities provide free resume and cover letter review services if you need assistance writing or improving your materials.

Related: How to Write Your Internship in Your Resume (Plus Tips)

2. Request for a referral letter

A letter of recommendation entails a statement written by a qualified expert that explains why an applicant would be an excellent candidate for a post. Many students request a letter of recommendation from a professor. It's a good idea to select someone familiar with you and your work. When asking for a letter of recommendation, you can provide the internship's work description as well as your resume and cover letter.

Read more: How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation (With Steps)

3. Create a list of firms

Make a list of firms you believe would provide you with a valuable learning experience based on their products, core beliefs, industry knowledge or other characteristics that excite you. Check their websites to see if they provide any internships available for the duration you prefer. Finding an internship with a firm you might want to work for in the future allows you to see if you like the industry and enable you to form connections inside the organisation. Some firms may offer full-time employment to interns based on their internship performance.

4. Offer to work as an intern

If you want to work for a firm that doesn't have an internship programme, you can still give it a try. You may consider reaching out to the firm's human resources department to see whether employing an intern in the near future may help them. They may also offer you additional possibilities other than internships, such as part-time jobs, workshops or other career prospects.

Related: How To Write An Email Asking For An Internship?

5. Prepare for your interview

If a firm asks for an interview, examine the job description, plan responses to typical interview questions and study the organisation thoroughly. Understanding the firm's fundamental principles, mission statement and history might help you convey your enthusiasm for the position. Also, be mindful to practise so that you may be better prepared for the interview.

Related: How To Prepare for an Interview

How long is an internship?

The length of an internship varies according to the field, organisation and job scope. In many situations, people choose internships that allow them to balance their schoolwork and internship hours. The following are the average lengths for various sorts of internships:

  • University internship: You can start by finding a university internship that's based on your campus. These roles are often designated for scientific, health care and research students, as well as those pursuing a master's or PhD.

  • Externship: Externships are essentially short internships. Externs often work for their organisation only for a few days to a few weeks.

  • One-year internship: Consider a year-long internship to be equivalent to two semesters; the first part is often unpaid and lasts one semester. The employer assesses your potential and decides whether to invite you back for a second semester; if you're invited to return, the second semester of your internship is usually compensated.

  • Semester internship: During a semester internship, you can expect to work 10 to 20 hours per week for two to three months in exchange for school credit or hourly compensation.

  • Summer internship: Many students choose a summer internship since it allows them to focus only on work rather than juggling internships and school. Summer internships vary in length, but they typically last two to three months.

Related: What Is a Virtual Internship? (With Skills and Tips)

Do you get paid as an intern?

Interns may or may not be monetarily compensated, depending on the role. Unpaid internships are frequent, particularly when the work contributes to academic credit toward graduation. In this case, universities require a clear link between the intern's educational curriculum and employment duties. Having said that, many firms compensate their interns. Some businesses understand the benefit of training someone who may go on to become a permanent employee. The pay for interns varies greatly by industry. Interns usually don't receive the same benefits as full-time employees due to the short-term and temporary nature of their work.

Read more: Do Interns Get Paid? (Plus Salary, Duties and Benefits)

Does an intern have to be a student?

There's no requirement that an intern has to be a student. A student is someone who studies a certain academic topic, while an intern might be a student or recent graduate who works to obtain professional experience in a specific industry. While the majority of interns are university students, recent graduates may perform an internship for the same reasons as their student counterparts.

Related: 8 Benefits of an Internship (With Tips to Help You Excel)

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