Internships – What Are They?

Internships are at the forefront of many career development plans. Employers want to hire interns and students want to do them. Therefore, over the next few weeks, I will be writing a series of posts related towards internships and how to get them.

First off, I would like to start off with the question of “What is an internship?”

An internship is essentially a form of experiential education, or hands-on learning. Typically, within the parameters of experiential education there are other position types that are similar in nature to internships.

Some popular types of experiential education are:

Internships – A work or service opportunity where you do work that is closely related to your academic major or career field. These can either be full or part-time opportunities.

Co-op – A co-op is similar to an internship in its nature. The slight difference is that it is usually connected to a class or more formally structured environment.

Externship/shadow program – Typically a short-term (one day to 2 weeks) opportunity to gain an understanding of a field by observing a professional at work.

Field experience/Service learning/Volunteering – Often unpaid but may be in conjunction with a class room experience. Some fields such as human service or non-profit seek out individuals who show some service to their community.

Internships and their other forms are a great way to do quite a few things including:

  • Gain practical work experience in your college major
  • Develop and expand your skills beyond the university experience
  • Build stronger interpersonal and communication skills
  • Make valuable professional contacts
  • Explore different companies and organizations
  • Evaluate different career alternatives and choices
  • Test your chosen field outside of the classroom
  • Boost self-confidence and professional credibility


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