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Why are Internships Important? Everything You Need to Know

College graduates are often expected to already have some level of professional experience when entering the workforce. That’s why internships are a crucial part of the college experience. While internships are valuable in getting your career off the ground, keep reading to learn why they’re important in other ways as well. 

See also: How to write a cover letter for an internship

Reasons why you should complete an internship (or multiple) before you graduate:

1. Hands-on learning experience 

Learning in the classroom is one thing, but taking that knowledge and applying it in the professional world is a great way to further your education. There’s only so much you can absorb from textbooks and teachers. Internships allow students to apply theoretical concepts in a workplace environment. Not to mention, internships are an excellent way to learn from professionals in your desired field. Ask a coworker or your supervisor if you can shadow them for a day, and request to sit in on department-wide meetings. Act like a sponge and soak up all the information you can during your internship.

2. Build your resume 

When hiring young college graduates, many employers seek candidates who have completed one or more internships. Even for entry-level positions, it’s common for employers to expect some level of professional experience. That’s why internships are so critical in launching your career and setting you up for success in the workforce. According to NACE’s class of 2019 student survey, graduating seniors who completed an internship received job offers at a higher rate than students who did not complete an internship. Having internship experience gives you an edge over other candidates when applying for jobs. 

3. Prepare for workplace culture

By getting your feet wet in the professional world, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect out of your first job. Internships are a valuable way to learn about employee relations, leadership structure, business etiquette, and workplace collaboration. Every workplace is different, of course, but you’ll get a feel for how companies operate in your specific field. In gaining exposure to the workplace, you’ll develop a sense of how you should conduct yourself on the job. You’ll also gain important soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, and teamwork. 

4. A path to full-time employment 

An internship can be a stepping stone to full-time employment. Many employers look to their internship pool of candidates first when considering new hires. If you and your employer are a good match for each other, you may have a shot at getting hired as a full-time employee. Even if what you’re doing as an intern isn’t exactly what you want, there may be other positions within the company that are a better fit. Knowing this, it’s important to put your best foot forward as an intern and develop relationships with people throughout your company. Think of your internship as a seed that you plant. If things turn out right, it could grow into a rewarding full-time job. 

5. Networking 

Even if you don’t get hired full-time, you’ll still get the chance to network with people who could set you up with a job down the line. Sometimes, securing employment isn’t so much about what you know as it is about who you know. By getting your name out there and connecting with professionals in your field, you’re building a path to future employment. If you have the chance, get to know some of your coworkers over coffee or a meal. You never know who could help you out in the future, so try to meet as many people as you can during your internship. 

6. Find out what you like and don’t like

Maybe you absolutely loved your internship, and it cemented your desire to pursue that type of work full-time. That’s great! But it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes an internship isn’t what you expected it to be, and you just don’t enjoy the work you’re doing. However, internships are still valuable even when the job isn’t to your liking. You may realize that a certain career isn’t right for you and decide to try something else. It’s much better to learn this while you’re still in school, rather than finding out when you’re already in the workforce. By figuring out what you like and don’t like, you’ll gain a better sense of direction for your life post-college. 

Related: Tips for finding a job after college

7. Personal growth 

Internships are a great way to build your resume and develop your career, but they’re also useful in helping you grow as an individual. Any experience in which you meet new people and experience new things is worth your while. By the end of your internship, you’ll have learned a lot about yourself and the world around you. 

Read more: Top financial tips for college students

Financial considerations 

Ideally you’ll end up with a paid internship, but that doesn’t always happen. Oftentimes internships are unpaid, which can put a strain on your budget. You may even lose money if you have to cover additional expenses (such as registering your internship for credit with your school). Not everyone can afford to complete an unpaid internship, but here are a few options for students with financial need:

Also see: How to save money in college

1. Look for funding

First of all, you should check with your college to see if they offer a funded internship program. Some schools provide a stipend to students while they complete their unpaid internship. If your school doesn’t do this, there’s foundations and organizations that offer funding to college students completing an internship in their field. Your school’s career services center may be able to point you in the right direction. 

Read next: How to make money through a side hustle

2. Find a part-time job

If you can’t secure funding, consider picking up a part-time job while you complete your internship. You can also try negotiating with your employer. Explain your financial situation and let them know you need some form of income to support yourself. They may not have the funds to pay you, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Internships are extremely valuable, so it’s worth exhausting all your options if you’re trying to finance an internship. Good luck! 

See also: How to find online jobs for college students

Next steps for students

Now that you know why internships are important, let’s help you find one! Our guide to landing internships is a great place to start. If you’re in college, you should make sure to take advantage of networking resources that your school maintains. High schoolers and college students alike will find valuable help through local community organizations. Oftentimes, community organizations offer positions or are connected to those who do.

There are also many online search tools you can use, such as Handshake, WayUp, and LinkedIn. Each of these tools might seem overwhelming at first, but as long as you use them strategically and take advantage of personal connections, you’ll be walking into internship interviews before you know it. Good luck out there!

Also see: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool