The Value of an Internship: Definition and Examples

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An internship is an ideal way to gain experience before starting a career. Internships are rising in popularity because as interns gain experience, employers gain a reliable pool of workers from which to fill permanent positions in their company. Learn about the value of an internship and see examples, skills you’ll need and tips for finding an internship.

What is an internship?

An internship is a job in which the primary form of payment is work experience. Entry-level positions for many careers require some relevant experience, and internships are the most common way for workers entering a career to fulfill those experience requirements. Various sectors use internships, including private businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. 

Because work experience is the main benefit of an internship, many don’t offer any kind of monetary compensation. That’s why businesses often team up with colleges and universities to offer internship positions that simultaneously earn the intern work experience and college credit. Paid internships are an option, but they’re much rarer than unpaid internships. When internships are paid, the compensation typically isn’t as high as it is for an entry-level position within the same company. 

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, a position must meet strict criteria to qualify as an unpaid internship. Paid internships, on the other hand, are most common in highly-skilled industries like technology, medicine and science. You may also find virtual internships available, as an increasing amount of business is conducted online.

Popular internships

Internships are available throughout a wide variety of industries, so you’re likely to find one in your chosen field. Some fields use interns more than others. 

Consider looking for an internship in one in the following industries:

Business operations

Business operations encompass a wide variety of positions, including everything from project management to business administration. Customer service and general economics positions often have internship opportunities.


Marketing is a growing industry, as more business is moving online due to the consistent rise of social media. Social media marketing likely has the most internship opportunities, but market research and graphic design positions are also available.


Most engineering careers are likely to have internship opportunities. These include electrical engineering, AutoCAD, mechanical engineering and computer engineering.


The world of finance is always looking for interns to help with budgeting, accounting and analysis. While much can be taught in a classroom, dealing with real-world situations and consequences can provide experience that the intern would otherwise be unable to obtain.

Best skills for internships

When employers are looking for high-quality interns, they usually seek individuals with the following skills:


Both written and verbal communication are necessary for most industries. You’ll often be working as part of a team, and you’ll have to be able to communicate effectively to ask any questions you may have about the work.

Customer service

In internships, you’ll often find yourself interacting with customers and clients alike, so customer service skills are important. These interpersonal skills are more innate than anything that can be taught in a short period of time, so employers like to see interns with these skills.


In many positions, workers are responsible for a variety of tasks, and the specifics of those tasks can change on a daily basis. By demonstrating your ability to adapt, you’ll be in a better position to handle the ever-changing demands of the workplace, and you’ll be more useful to the employer if you’re able to complete the tasks of various positions.

Technical proficiency

Technology is an essential aspect of any workplace, so general computer knowledge is important. Many internships serve to teach potential employees the specifics of special programs many companies use. While you’re certainly not expected to know those programs beforehand, you should have enough knowledge of computers to be able to learn them quickly.

Tips for finding an internship

There are multiple paths you can take to find a suitable internship. Being a student at a college or university makes it easier, as the school often has connections, but there are other options as well. 

The following methods can help you find an internship:

Use internship finders

There are special search engines specifically designed to help you find internships. You can see local results by entering the geographical area where you’d like to work and any other requirements.

Visit job fairs

Graduates usually avoid job fairs, but you should visit them when looking for an internship. Taking time to talk to employers is beneficial to understanding the industry and job requirements.

Network to meet people in your area of interest

The value of networking cannot be understated. Whether you’re cold-calling companies you’d like to work for or requesting informational interviews, establishing contacts in various industries goes a long way in helping you find internships.

Resumes for internships

You’ll need a resume when applying for an internship, but a lack of job experience can be a challenge when writing one. There are ways to fill out your experience section without formal work experience, such as including your accomplishments in work similar to the industry you’re looking to enter. Like all resumes, an internship resume should be focused on the specific position you’re applying for.

Consider including the work you’ve done in school and any odd jobs you’ve had. These can go a long way in demonstrating that you have the transferable skills necessary to succeed in a particular internship, and they can exemplify your work ethic. Keep in mind that in an internship resume, an impressive education section can be more important than your job experience.

Related: How to Include Relevant Coursework On a Student Resume

Cover letters for internships

When writing a cover letter for an internship, you should specifically reference the position you’re applying for and explain how your education and coursework make you suitable, in addition to any relevant skills and abilities you may have. Be sure to include how hiring you would benefit the company. Search for popular keywords for the industry so the employer will recognize that you’re familiar with the work and have the necessary skills to do it properly.

Related: 7 Powerful Ways to Start a Cover Letter (With Examples)