Internships Open Doors to Jobs, Workplace Expectations

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek April 6, 2022
benefits of internships

Internships can give students an edge over other job applicants—"especially if the internship was with the specific company doing the hiring," according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

But that's just one of many benefits such an experience can offer.

"From my perspective, the most valuable part of an internship is a novice being introduced to a new world of work and the professions, where a skilled mentor can introduce them to the unique cultures and tasks of being a professional engineer, architect or project lead," said Matthew T. Hora. He is associate professor and co-director, Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and lead researcher for the paper, Exploring Online Internships Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020-2021.

"Otherwise, outside of classroom projects or personal experiences, a graduate is thrown into the world of work with little preparation."

Not all internships are created equal, though, Hora told SHRM Online.

"Some interns have excellent supervisors while others have none, and some interns engage in challenging work similar to entry-level employees while others unfortunately still do the equivalent of making photocopies," he said. 

"That said, the research indicates that internships can lead to more interview callbacks, higher wages after graduation, expanded professional networks and even higher grades while still in college."

For students looking to prepare for life after college, well-structured internships can be a worthy investment of time and effort. According to NACE and other sources, internships can:

  • Expose you to different areas of work in a career field.
When Chi Nguyen graduates in May with a human resources management major at Boise State University in Boise, Idaho, she will have multiple internships under her belt. One provided her with recruiting and supervisory experience; in another she explored generalist duties such as compliance and training.

  • Reinforce 21st-century skills of teamwork, problem solving, communication and leadership. But you may want to opt for in-person experiences rather than online internships: The University of Wisconsin-Madison study that Hora led found that students participating in a virtual internship reported a significantly lower level of growth in acquiring such skills.

  • Help you decide on the career or industry you want to pursue. 
Alexandra Cafferty, SHRM-CP, completed an internship that assisted local high school students with interview preparation and employment skill-building workshops. It helped her decide to focus on HR as a career, she told SHRM Online.

Interns get a real-world view of a particular industry or job before they devote significant time and money to qualify for such positions, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. This may help eliminate wasteful "false starts" in their educational and career choices.

  • Result in improved grades and job offers. Students enjoy 6 percent higher wages and 3.4 percent higher grades than those without an internship experience, according to the National Survey of College Internships 2021 Report, which cited various studies.



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