Internships: Go Beyond Coursework and into the Workforce

Internships allow students to gain real-world experience in a work setting, often mirroring the experience of a full-time career in their chosen field. Through internship opportunities, students gain critical mentorship and supervision from professionals in the field, and can test out potential careers to see if they would be a good fit. Internships require students apply their coursework to real-world problems, making them a great complement to their traditional college education. 

For placement, schools often have alumni networks or business relationships that help facilitate student placement in internship programs.

If an internship is taken for course credit, students may produce detailed written reflections on their experiences or use their new knowledge for a final project. They also benefit from these experiences when they graduate and find themselves on the job market, as many employers look favorably upon internships as experience in the field.

Many majors and programs require internships, practicums, or co-ops, such as medical, nursing, and education programs.

Examples of Internships

Internships are frequently part-time versions of career jobs. Students might serve as an assistant to a professional in their field, working in fields as varied as marketing, law enforcement, engineering, or biochemistry. They might also engage in research to support a grant proposal or advertising campaign. Some interns might serve under a member of city government or state government, working to research new regulations and laws. In some cases, interns can even work full-time, temporary capacities (often in the summer) within large agencies or companies in entry-level roles. For example, movie studios, television networks, Disney World, and other organizations frequently hire a large number of summer interns.

What Can Students Expect?

Internships can be full- or part-time, paid or unpaid, and sometimes may be taken for course credit depending on the type of program and the policies of the home college or university. Internships generally have the same expectations of the interns as regular employees, and provide college students with professional experience in a career field. The goals of internship opportunities are to provide training and experience a student can take to a future career, while offering insight into a career field, providing mentorship, and allowing for professional networking. Students may work with both a faculty member for academic credit and an on-site supervisor or mentor at the internship placement. 

Internships also offer the chance for self-reflection: is your college major in the field you’re interested in or equipped for? Are you prepared to start your career, or has your internship convinced you to head to graduate school or law school in the future? Whether you’ve got a paid internship or it’s just for credit, getting these answers during your college experience is critical to finding a fulfilling future career. 

How Do Internships Improve Student Outcomes?

Because internships are hands-on experience in a professional capacity, college students gain insight into how their academic work translates into a career. Internships often give students higher levels of professional responsibility, including opportunities for research and leadership, than part-time retail or service jobs. They also offer room for students to use advanced problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication skills. Because the process of landing an internship is so competitive and often mirrors the full-time job search, students who have completed internships have an edge in recruitment for full-time positions. At the conclusion of successful internships, students will have valuable professional connections that can serve as references for careers after graduation or for graduate school.

How Schools Implement Internships

Bethany College, Bethany WV

Bethany College offers a Washington Center Internship Program. By spending a semester in Washington DC, students can work within governmental agencies, with members of Congress, or in various companies. Past interns have worked with organizations such as the U.S. Department of State, Amnesty International, CNN, and the Middle East Institute.