How To Find Internships While You’re Pursuing Your Graduate Degree

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Updated: February 28, 2024, Reading time: 13 minutes

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Pursuing a master’s degree is a crucial step toward reaching your educational and professional goals. However, knowledge taught in classrooms alone may not be enough to prepare students for the challenges of the professional world. 

Most colleges and universities require their graduate students to render several hours of internship. Internships are short-term work experiences offered by companies and organizations for students to gain work experience while earning a master’s degree. They allow students to apply the theoretical knowledge they have gained to solve real-world problems. 

Additional Resources:

As NACE or National Association of Colleges and Employers affirms, internships are an excellent opportunity for students to gain endorsements and connections that they can leverage when applying for a job. These opportunities help develop valuable 21st-century skills, such as communication, reliability, and ethical behavior, providing them with a competitive edge and finding full-time employment easier. 

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

What Are Internships?

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Internships are a professional learning experience that provides graduate students with meaningful and practical work that is relevant to their chosen field of study or career interest. Practicum training can be part-time or full-time in varying durations. Interns perform clerical, administrative, technical and other tasks depending on the business. 

In these supervised and structured learning experiences in professional settings, mentors from within the organization or company provide guidance and feedback.

How Do Internships Benefit Graduate Students?

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Here are some more reasons why internships are important to graduate students:

Gain hands-on learning experience. 

One of the major reasons why internships are important is that they bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application. Internships or apprenticeships allow students to put their knowledge to good use in real-world situations, gaining them learning experiences that lectures and textbooks can never provide. 

Develop marketable skills. 

Internships can be a way for graduate students to fine-tune their skill sets.

For example, conducting competitor analysis research can enhance students’ knowledge of business and marketing theories, transforming them into practical techniques and skills that can be used to solve real-life business scenarios.

Some of the most valuable competencies that interns build during their internships include:

Form valuable networks and connections.

One of the major benefits of internships is the benefit of networking. 

Being an apprentice for a company teaches students to build relationships and community with other people. They will learn how to professionally interact with their colleagues, share their knowledge and skills with business owners and other stakeholders, and even ask the right questions to develop a deeper understanding of the business and the marketplace. This process will help develop networks and connections, which will be greatly beneficial in their professional lives.

Build confidence. 

Students gain practical experience during internships, which can boost their self-confidence. This is because working in a real organization exposes them to real-world challenges, allowing them to apply the theories they learned in graduate school. This gives them more confidence to handle complex problems. 

Understand workplace culture.

Being a part of an organization gives students a chance to observe colleagues and the culture of a business. This teaches them how to engage and interact with other people to help accomplish tasks and projects. Aside from that, they will learn how to work harmoniously with other team members to achieve specific goals.

Exposure to the real world.

Acing examinations and earning a degree are not enough to make a good impression on prospective employers nowadays. This is because companies want to know from the get-go whether an applicant is in the right career field and that they can contribute to the success of the company. 

Provide valuable insights about themselves. 

Internships allow students to immerse themselves in the field they are interested in. IT teaches them a lot of things about the industry and the challenges they are likely to face in the future. Because of this, students will learn more about themselves, including their strengths and weaknesses and whether it is the career that they want to pursue. 

Strengthen students’ resumes.

Employers scrutinize an applicant’s resume upon application. They look into the candidate’s educational attainment and, more importantly, work experience. They rely heavily on an applicant’s work history, including actual work experience, volunteer work, and internships.

Even without actual work experience, an applicant may still be considered for the position if they have relevant internships, demonstrating their capabilities and competencies. 

Are Internships Paid?

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Some companies or organizations offer paid internships. However, that depends on the industry. Accounting, advertising, banking, IT, government, fashion, and public relations are some of the industries that offer paid internships. 

In the US, for-profit organizations are required to pay individuals who are classified as employees. The US Department of Labor fact sheet for internship programs determines who should and shouldn’t be legally paid.  

Paid internships are more structured. Interns have specific schedules to follow and tasks to perform. Employers are also expected to be more intentional about the goals and purpose of the internship offered. This maximizes the benefits that both the organization and the intern can get out of it. 

Tips to Help Graduate Students Find Internship Opportunities

It makes sense for graduate students to find opportunities to gain relevant experience while pursuing their graduate degree.

Here are a few tips for finding internship opportunities:

Search the internet.

You can easily find tons of resources online, including job sites that post job openings and internship opportunities.

Job postings usually have short but concise descriptions of company profiles to give applicants a good idea of the kind of organization they are going to be a part of. This helps interns decide whether they should go ahead and apply for the internship opening or not. 

When searching online, be sure to have a clear goal. If you’re looking for an editorial internship, for example, make sure to use those specific words along with a few other words that can help narrow down your options, such as location. 

Check your dream companies.

A lot of students dream of working for popular companies that have an impact on their lives. 

To further manage your search, you should choose the companies you dreamed of working for first. Find out if they are offering any internship program that might be a good fit for you. If they are, send them your resume highlighting your skills and any practical experience that can give you an advantage. 

Use campus resources.

Colleges and universities have campus career centers that offer career fairs and recruitment services. They may also have job boards that you can check. Take advantage of these university connections to make it more convenient to find an employer you can intern with. 

Talk to individuals in your network. 

Leverage your network to find great internship opportunities. Approach people who work in organizations that you are interested in to get insider access to internship opportunities that are not advertised. 

Talking to individuals who work in companies you want to intern with will also give a clearer perspective on the workplace culture of the company, which will be useful when drafting your cover letter and answering the questions during the interview.

Speak to other graduate students and alumni. 

If you have acquaintances or friends who are taking or have taken master’s degree programs, you can ask them to give you an idea about the career paths open to you. They can also tell you about the responsibilities involved in certain roles and about various organizations to give you a good idea of whether the company you are interested in would be a good fit for you or not. 

Check the US Department of State’s website.

The US Department of State has internship and fellowship opportunities for both undergraduate and postgraduate students looking to support US foreign policy. 

Interns and fellows will work with architects, engineers, IT professionals, and policy experts with diverse cultural and educational backgrounds, depth of knowledge, global perspectives, and technical skills. Interns accepted into its programs will be able to contribute their innovative thinking and perspectives as they learn from Foreign and Civil Service professionals who work to advance and support the nation’s interests worldwide. 

Take advantage of LinkedIn and similar sites.

LinkedIn is a robust online resource that lets you search for job offers and internship opportunities easily and for free. Narrow down the search results to what’s relevant to you. 

This social media platform is used by thousands of companies and recruiters not only in the US but also around the world to make connections and find applicants. This is why it would be a great idea to create a profile on LinkedIn and connect with classmates, professors, colleagues, and friends. These people can write recommendations that will make your profile more attractive to prospective employers. 

Once you have a LinkedIn profile, you can start connecting with people and organizations that can lead to excellent internship opportunities. LinkedIn automatically suggests contacts for any possible connections based on your existing connections and engagements. You can then follow the profiles you are interested in to look for apprenticeship opportunities.

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7 Tips to Prepare for Your First Internship as a Graduate Student

Once you find prospective employers that you want to work for, the next most important thing you need to do is to ensure that you make a good impression as an intern. 

Below are a few tips to help you prepare for your first-ever internship as a graduate student:

1. Prepare your resume.

If you haven’t done so, now is the time to ensure that your resume is as impressive as it can be. You want to show off what you can do for the company you want to work for, which is why you need to highlight all your marketable skills and competencies. 

Experts advise that you need to carefully think about what you want to say on your resume and how you are going to effectively persuade recruiters and managers that you can be an asset to their company. 

You need to customize every resume you present according to the organization you are giving it to. You can write a foundational resume that includes the most important information about you. However, you need to alter your resume for each internship opportunity you apply for. This is where reading the job description and company profile of the hiring company comes into play. Highlight the most important qualities they are looking for in your resume to get the attention of the recruiter or interviewer. 

2. Draft a cover letter that will blow people’s minds.

Graduate students are expected to have experience in writing cover letters. Just like your resume, you need to customize your cover letter according to the needs and preferences of the company you are applying for. 

The first thing you need to do in your cover letter is to tell them about yourself and the reasons you are interested in the internship they are offering. You may also include the things that you are excited to learn while being an intern for a particular company, but you have to make sure that you highlight the things you can offer to them. In other words, you need to give them a reason to want to hire you over other intern applicants. 

This is where you can showcase your work experience. Talk about the most crucial challenges you have overcome and the things you did to overcome them. This will give the organization a good overview of what they can expect from you and how you can be an asset to their company.  

3. Start looking early.

Generally, larger companies start recruiting earlier in the fall to accommodate the following summer’s graduate students. You can start with your school’s fall career fair to get a comprehensive list of organizations that are offering apprenticeship or fellowship opportunities. 

As for smaller enterprises, they tend to hire when they need someone to fill in a vacancy. This could be between January and March for summer internships. 

4. Prepare for the interviews.

Aside from dressing up appropriately for interviews, it’s also important that you mentally, physically, and emotionally prepare for them!

Making the Most of Your Internship

Internships expose you to real-world situations and challenges. As a result, you develop new skills that can help you further advance in your career. 

To ensure the success of your internship, here are a few tips to help you make the most of it.

5. Show genuine interest in the company and your colleagues.

While everyday tasks may seem mundane after a few weeks of doing the same thing over and over, you must show interest in what you do. Search for ways to do the tasks assigned to you more engagingly. By showing enthusiasm, you will most likely get more challenging tasks in the long run. 

6. Volunteer your services for other relevant projects.

Helping in other projects that are relevant to you teaches you new techniques and skills that will become indispensable to your career goals. Volunteering also makes you more noticeable to other managers and executives who can help you advance in your career.

7. Be open to feedback.

Frequently, interns get a lot of feedback from employers. You must listen and heed their advice because it is all part of the learning process. Listening and making the necessary adjustments or changes shows that you are willing to learn and grow, which is what employers look for in employees. 

If you are not getting any feedback, you can ask your direct superior how you are doing and what you need to improve. It shows your enthusiasm to better yourself and truly be an asset to the organization.

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