What is an internship?

An internship is a short-term position that provides students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working with professionals in their major field.

Most science and engineering internships are paid. Internships are available at private corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations.

Most internships happen during the summer. Students generally complete an internship between junior and senior year, although some have an internship as early as the summer after freshman year.

What are the benefits of internships?

Get an edge on the competition. An internship signals to recruiters you understand what it means to work in science and engineering. Internships help you develop technical skills, apply classroom learning, and prepare for the transition from school to work.

Get answers to your career questions. An internship is a great way to explore industries and jobs you are interested in pursuing after you graduate. You can find out what a career in your major field is really like and determine if you’re on the right career path. You can also find out if you prefer working for a small or big company, research or industry, government or nonprofit.

Get academic credit. It is possible to get course credit for an internship, depending on your major. Ask your academic advisor if this is an option for you.

Get a jump on your job search. An internship allows you to network and make professional contacts, practice interviewing, and gather references. Internships can sometimes lead to a job offer after graduation.

How do I find an internship?

Finding an internship can be a long process, so it is a good idea to start early.

Step 1: Establish personal goals
Meet with your academic advisor to determine whether you can do an internship for academic credit. Take note of the learning objectives and goals you want to accomplish during the internship.

Step 2: Prepare your resume and cover letter
Check out the Undergraduate Resume Guide (PDF) and Cover Letter Guide (PDF) to get started. Stop by during drop-in hours or schedule an appointment with a CSE career counselor to have your resume reviewed. Also be sure to attend CSE’s Resume Marathon and Practice Interview Days held each semester.

Step 3: Develop an internship search strategy
Search specific industries and companies by major field or geographic location. View open positions in GoldPASS, the University of Minnesota’s job and internship database. Attend career fairs, networking events, and employer information sessions. For additional internship search strategies, see the Internship and Job Search Guide (PDF).

Step 4: Apply to internship positions
Depending on the employer, you may be required to submit application materials months prior to the start of the internship, so plan accordingly. Contact the organizations within a few weeks of applying to make sure your application is complete.

Step 5: Interview
Employers may begin inviting you for interviews several months in advance of the start date. Prepare for each interview by researching the organization and position. Send thank-you notes to the interviewer after every interview. See the Interviewing Guide for Industry (PDF) for more tips.

Step 6: Evaluate job offers
When you are offered an internship position, evaluate the offer carefully to determine whether the internship meets your objectives and is the best fit for you. Call the organization to accept or decline the position. Be sure to inform the CSE Career Center when you accept an internship offer.