What Is an Internship? - Definition & Characteristics

Instructor: Tara Schofield

Tara received her MBA from Adams State University and is currently working on her DBA from California Southern University. She spent 11 years as a sales and marketing executive. She spent several years with Western Governor's University as a faculty member. Tara has been at Study.com for seven years.

You've heard of an internship, but aren't sure what it is or if it is right for you. This lesson explains what an internship is, how it is scheduled, and the benefits of participating in an internship program.

Understanding Internships

You've studied marketing for a couple of years in college and are eager to put your skills to work in the 'real world,' even though you still have two more years of courses. What are your options: quit school, get a part-time job, or patiently wait until you get your degree. None of the options fit your needs. You want to dig in now while you're still in school and work in a flexible environment. That's when you learn about internships.

Internships are paid or unpaid positions within companies that give you the chance to put your skills to work for a company that offers you a chance to learn and work in a flexible setting. Many times the hours are adaptable to your needs and work around a student's schedule. You have a chance to experience what a job in your field is like before you finish all of your education.

When are Internships Offered

Summer Internships

There are many options for scheduling an internship. Many companies offer summer internships where students come and work full-time during the summer when they are not attending school. These internships are similar to a full-time job and give a feel for what it will be like when students are out of school and working a 40-hour work week.

You learn of an internship opportunity at an advertising agency. The position allows you to work with a wide variety of clients to create marketing messages. In just a few months, you will have a chance to consistently work with 20 different companies, which will allow you to have a wide variety of experiences and opportunities.

Internships During the Semester

Some firms allow students to work during the school year and are flexible around the class schedule. This can be a win-win for both the intern and the organization. The student can continue to take courses and further their education while also gaining valuable work experience in their chosen field. The company benefits by having extra help and support from students who have education in their industry and can handle projects or work on an ongoing basis. The additional benefit for the company is that many internships are unpaid, which provides free work in trade for the opportunity to learn from the company. Even if the internship is paid, the rate is often far below what the pay rate would be for a regular employee. This saves the company money while getting work done.

After completing your summer internship, you ask your contact if they have an ongoing internship opportunity that would allow you to continue to refine your marketing skills during the school year. You figure you can commit to 10 hours per week. This is a great option for the advertising firm because you can use the knowledge you have and the education you will continue to gain during the school year. Their clients speak favorably of you and want to continue to work on the projects you've started with them. This is a positive situation for the clients, the firm, and you.

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