Short answer: yes. This basic introduction to internships explains why you need one.
Your college classes will equip you with skills that will last a lifetime, from major-based things like the principles of marketing or accounting to abstract things like critical thinking, analysis, and the general ability to “learn how to learn.” But when it comes to getting that first job after you graduate, you’re often best served by hands-on work experience outside the classroom. This is where internships come in.
Internships help in the post-grad job search
Internships are usually an optional part of a college curriculum that allows you to spend a good chunk of time in your chosen field; you might even be able to earn college credits for them. Yet, despite the experience that internships provide, you, like many students, might be wondering if internships are really worth the time.
According to a 2013 study from Marketplace and The Chronicle of Higher Education, most employers specifically look for work experience that takes place outside of student lecture halls, particularly internships. In fact, 63% of paid interns had at least one job offer when they finished college, 23% more than students with no internships at all. Senior reporter Dan Berrett of The Chronicle found that the internship experience has more value to an employer than the college that was attended, a student’s GPA, and even the student’s declared major.
Internships help you evaluate your career choices
Beyond preparing you for your post-grad job search, internships also help you explore and evaluate the field you’ve chosen. It’s common for students to have a career path in mind and declare a major they believe will lead them down that road, even before testing out the waters. However, often unrealized is the fact that many of these career paths may not be what you originally imagined. For example, a number of films and television shows portray glamorized careers like thrilling criminal investigation or prestigious magazine writing, where characters are strong, heroic, and love their jobs. Many of the job’s downfalls, from late nights to excessive paperwork, are never portrayed.
When embarking on an internship, you will be able to immerse yourself in your chosen field and learn firsthand if you are actually interested in what the work really entails. You’ll be thrown into a fast-paced world of high demands and deadlines—sometimes even higher demands and stricter deadlines than you’ve experienced in college thus far, believe it or not. It’s a great way to test out the industry before committing to it in the “real world.”
Of course, internships aren’t a perfect microcosm of the field; the work interns do varies a lot depending on the company, though you’ll probably be doing very basic, entry-level work. But you can also observe the work happening around you and still get a pretty good sense of what it’s all about. If you finish your internship and are excited about the work, then the career may be just the right one for you. However, if the experience is a bad one, then you potentially saved yourself years of frustration, toil, and a career change later on. Now, this isn’t to say that one bad internship should mean you give up on your dreams; if you loved your architecture classes but hated your first internship at an architecture firm, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should change your major right away. However, it should get you thinking about what you did and didn’t like about the job, and it reinforces the idea that getting more than one internship is ideal.
Internships are worth the time and effort
When you’re balancing college classes, projects, papers, and exams, fitting an internship into your packed schedule may seem impossible. But they are well worth rearranging your schedule. Eliminate what isn't necessary to make room for an internship, and you’ll be thanking yourself after graduation. According to the University of Hawaii’s website, an internship experience often results in “learning, confirming, impressing, and positioning.” This not only shows that internships can result in learning experience and whether or not one wants to pursue a field, but they may even result in employment upon graduation. Steve Canale of General Electric (GE) spoke with the school, mentioning that 70% of his own full-time employees had completed an internship with GE. (Check out our “Internship Do’s and Don’ts” to learn more.”)
With such a heavy emphasis on internships, it only seems reasonable to make time for an internship before receiving the diploma. As a golden ticket into a successful future, what are you waiting for?