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Work experience and internships: Internships

An internship provides direct experience of working in a particular role and is usually undertaken by those who know what type of job they want to do

Employers often use internships to assess a student's/graduate's capability and look to recruit employees from their interns rather than advertise their vacancies. Therefore you should apply for an internship in which you have a real interest or some prior experience.

How long does an internship last?

Internships can last anything from a few weeks during the summer holidays to a year depending on the sector and employer. Student internships tend to be shorter in length than graduate internships. In the case of medical training, for example, you might be labelled as an 'intern' until you progress to the next professional level.

Usually internships are not accredited by universities as part of courses but may be accredited or formally acknowledged by professional training organisations. For example, experience gained on an accountancy internship may count towards the ACCA Qualification , which is required to become a qualified accountant. 

Where can I work?

To find internships in the UK:

  • search for internships on this site;
  • Go Wales  - work experience opportunities and jobs, plus resources to help you make the most of your work experience and develop your career;
  • The Graduate  - sandwich course placements, internships and graduate recruitment options;
  • Graduate Talent Pool  - government website designed to help new and recent graduates find internships across the public, private and third sectors.

For international internships, search:

  • AIESEC UK  - facilitates international student exchanges through paid traineeships and other schemes;
  • CRCC Asia - Internships  - leading provider of internships with prominent Chinese and multinational companies in Beijing. Positions in legal, finance, business, marketing and more;
  • Intern jobs  - a global database of internships and entry-level positions for students, recent graduates and career changers;
  • Intern Options  - a specialist UK-based internship company that focuses solely on work placements and internship opportunities in Australia and New Zealand;
  • StandOut  - provides internships and professional development training in Hong Kong. Internships are offered in areas such as finance, law, engineering, fashion, marketing, journalism, graphic design, hospitality and consultancy.

How do I apply for an internship?

Applying for an internship can be as competitive as applying for a permanent job because there are certain industries where an internship is the main way in. For most internship opportunities you will have to complete an application form, attend an interview or assessment centre and demonstrate that you have the knowledge and motivation to benefit from the internship.

Photo: Woman and man sat in an office shaking hands

If you are an overseas student, find out everything you need to know about work permits from GOV.UK - Work Visas .

Why should I do an internship?

The outcomes of internships include:

  • increasing your skills and knowledge;
  • improving your understanding of a particular job or industry;
  • gaining an insight into the way organisations operate and the challenges they face; and
  • networking.

Internships also provide an opportunity for you to get to grips with working - meeting deadlines and working in a team. Internships give you and the employer a chance to ‘try before you buy’ and clarify whether this type of work is really for you.

The benefits of internships can include:

  • payment;
  • subsidised travel or lunches;
  • attendance at in-company training courses; and
  • a supervisor who might be able to act as a referee for you in future job applications.

Will I be paid for an internship?

There is a lot of controversy surrounding whether those carrying out work experience should be paid. You should be paid at least the National Minimum Wage in the UK if you are performing the role of a worker. The most telling factors of a worker role are set hours, duties, or responsibilities. However, you should consider the arrangement as a whole in determining your right to pay - work experience should be for your benefit, not the employer's. If you are a part of the commercial operation of a business, you're likely to be entitled to payment. 

However there are exemptions:

  • a sandwich placement that is part of a higher education course;
  • work shadowing;
  • working for a registered charity;
  • undertaking work experience as part of 'Back to Work', or similar, schemes with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) .

If you need clarification, contact the pay and work rights helpline on 0800 917 2368.

 
Written by Editor, Graduate Prospects
Date: 
January 2014
 
 

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