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Internships are highly sought after by many 1st and 2nd year university students throughout the UK. Internships often lead to graduate jobs and a successful career, so landing one is considered a must for many groups of students.

Inside Careers hears from many graduate recruiters, who have confirmed that many of their graduate hires come from those that have done an internship. Therefore, completing an internship gives a student a massive advantage.

But what is an internship? Are internships all the same? And do all internships happen over the summer? We look at these key questions and more to help give you the best chance of landing yourself an internship.

What is an internship?

Internships can be seen to be an opportunity to gain work experience. They are generally for students who are studying at university, traditionally in their penultimate year. However, the term ‘internships’ can now cover a wider remit, and are often completed by those younger, still at school students, or older graduates.

Internships are generally for those wanting to go into a professional or graduate career. They are therefore quite similar to apprenticeships for more trade and vocational jobs.

Are internships paid?

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, not all internships are paid. There is no law to say that they should be, but there has been a long period of campaigning, particularly by the NUS, to make this so.

Internships are now paid at most big recruiters, with unpaid internships remaining prevalent in only a select group of industries. Unfortunately these tend to be some of the most sought after industries and professions.

Are internships all the same?

No. It will very much depend on the industry, profession and recruiters in question as to what an internship will be like.

Some internships will be more ad hoc – that is, they will come and go at random times within firms when they are looking to get extra help. Other internships, typically called ‘summer internships’, will be structured over a certain number of weeks.

With some internships there may be the opportunity to stay on afterwards and with others there may not. It is worth confirming this when applying.

What happens while doing internships?

Again, this isn’t going to be the same for every internship. Typically, internships at large companies are becoming more and more structured. The work is also often very similar to what a new graduate might be doing.

Internships are not simply spent making tea and coffee (make sure you don’t place this on your CV as a skill – it won’t be looked upon kindly). The work performed during internships is generally real work. You won’t be there just to observe, but expected to add real value to the organisation.

Are all internships advertised?

Many internships are, and many companies advertising internships can be found on this website. There will be some companies who welcome speculative applications and have the odd opportunity for students who are looking to gain experience. These will tend to be at small companies.

The larger recruiters and even many smaller ones will have set programmes that they will be looking to fill at certain times, so these will be advertised. Depending on the profession, the dates that these will reach deadline will be roughly from December (investment banks and other areas of finance) to Easter (accountancy, actuarial, IT and many business & management areas). The best way to keep up to date with this is to register with us for email alert updates.

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Internships on Inside Careers

Inside Careers hosts employers’ internships as well as placement opportunities and graduate jobs. The majority of these opportunities will be at large graduate recruiters (who also recruit for internships).

Internships are as competitive to get onto as many graduate jobs. Therefore, as with graduate jobs, researching the profession and companies you are applying for is imperative. Internships aren’t just given out, so make sure you maximise your chances.

You can search current internships on the site. We have lots of useful hints and tips in our general Careers Advice and also within the advice sections within each profession.

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