Relevant academic qualifications alone are seldom enough to find suitable employment in the IT industry nowadays. Aspirants for tech roles need to demonstrate their ability to perform on the job. What is most important to recruiters and hiring managers is whether a candidate can handle assigned responsibilities.
IT internships offer students and mid-career non-IT professionals the best opportunity to gain work experience in tech. An internship at a reputable company can set you apart from the competition for your first job in IT.
A tech internship demonstrates hands-on experience in the workplace, working with others toward a common business objective and helping to achieve measurable outcomes. This is why most organizations recommend internships. Internships offer companies an effective means of assessing an IT career aspirant’s suitability for a permanent tech role.
Many companies offer the opportunity to intern full-time or part-time. Part-time internships enable those currently employed in another area, or perhaps attending school full- or part-time, to gain on-the-job IT experience in the evenings or on weekends.
Benefits of an IT Internship
A tech internship can enable newcomers to not only embark on a career in IT, but also build a foundation for growth. Interns gain practical exposure, develop interpersonal skills, learn how to solve problems and produce quantifiable results, and acquire a business perspective.
There are solid benefits to be had, including any of all of the following:
Opportunity to gain practical industry-relevant experience — Tech internships offer interns the opportunity to work on real-world projects. Depending on one’s field of study, one might work in web and application development, video game development, troubleshooting software issues, bug resolution, tech support, and other roles.
This is the best way for interns to apply technical knowledge gained at school, through part-time courses or informal means of study in the workplace. Interns learn how to operate in a business environment and deliver specified results on time.
Team skills — Successful IT professionals are good team players. No matter what your role, you will need to develop team skills because team work constitutes a considerable part of an IT professional’s job. A tech internship normally offers the opportunity to interact with others in the workplace and develop necessary soft skills, such as good communication, empathy, time management and patience.
While employers tend to focus on relevant experience, specific technical expertise, and academic qualifications when recruiting for IT roles, over the past decade, they have been emphasizing soft skills as well. Given the same experience, skills and qualifications, candidates who have soft skills have an edge over those who don’t.
Networking — A solid professional network is an important aspect of career advancement. Developing good professional connections will not only help you throughout your IT career, it may also help you get your first job in the industry.
An internship gives you a good chance to get your professional network off to a strong start. To that end, focus on collaborating with others. If the manager and other professionals at the company develop a good impression of you, then they may recommend you for your first job or later in your career.
Evaluating career choice — A tech internship offers professionals looking to switch to IT from other fields a good way to evaluate whether IT is a suitable career choice. Though an IT career can be very stimulating and rewarding, it is not for everyone.
Information technology is a vast field, with a large number of specializations. An internship provides an early opportunity to identify areas of interest that may shape your entire career. What do you enjoy most about IT? There's no better way to find out than by hands-on workplace practice.
College credits — Some internships count for college credit, some don’t. It depends on the school’s policy and your choice of subjects. If your college or university offers credits for completing an internship, however, then don't let the opportunity to double dip, furthering your education and gaining professional experience at the same time.
Possibility of a job offer — It is certainly possible for students who have the right internship and have done a good job to be offered a full-time position once they complete their degree. There are no guarantees, but employers generally love to hire good people who they already have a relationship with.
Better interviews — Working on real projects and achieving quantifiable outcomes, as well as the value that an IT internship adds to your résumé, can help you get an job interview. And once you're in an interview, the technical knowledge and confidence you gained from working in a real IT environment will shine through.
But wait, there's more
Many of the benefits of filling an IT internship are less direct and self-evident than what we've just described. Here's a brief overview of some of the less obvious gains that you can make from working as a professional intern.
Business sense — Working in a professional environment can help one understand the role of IT in enabling an organization to achieve business objectives. Employers value employees who have initiative and business sense.
Better earning potential — Completing your internship well enhances the possibility of netting a good role and higher pay because you have gained professional experience in the industry.
Keeping abreast of developments in IT — The IT industry is very dynamic. With technology evolving at a rapid pace, tech professionals as well as those aspiring to work in the field need to be aware of the latest technological developments, including new and emerging technologies.
Chance of earning better grades — Even where a tech internship does not count for credit, one can benefit academically because one has the opportunity to apply knowledge gained at school in the workplace, thereby gaining a deeper understanding of technology. This could result in higher grades.
Find an internship
Many universities, colleges, and tech institutes organize internships for students. Conduct a focused search in order to obtain the right internship. Remember that there will inevitably be competition for internships at reputable tech companies. Have an updated résumé and cover letter ready. Spend some time researching different organizations and roles so that you can identify companies that offer work in your chosen field and have a solid internship program.
Undergraduate students can check their university’s career services section for a list of companies that recruit interns. A school’s career center can also offer help with resumes, cover letters, and interview preparation.
Tech internship openings are also posted on LinkedIn as well as popular online job boards, such as Glassdoor, Monster and Indeed. You may also find some opportunities by creating a profile on LinkedIn and uploading your current résumé.
Also, many large employer regularly bring in batches of interns to assist with business operations. Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Pinterest, and many other companies hire numerous interns each year. Internships normally start in January, June and September.
Ideally, you should plan to apply at least 3 months before the internship begins. These links might be helpful:
If you have already identified companies where you would like to work, then it’s best to visit their websites for relevant information. Not all companies advertise internships. If you want to work somewhere but you can't find any information about internships, then you can send in an application to the careers department.
There are paid and unpaid internships. Nowadays, paid internships are more common than unpaid. In a paid internship, an intern is usually paid a fixed stipend by the employer. Many companies pay by the month or a fixed sum for the full duration of the internship.
Some companies pay per hour. The amount of the stipend depends on the organization. Tech industry majors, such as Amazon, Apple, Salesforce, Microsoft, Google, and others, offer relatively high-paying internships.
Internship + education
Most interns are college students. While many complete a summer internship in their third year, some enrol in their second year, depending on the company and the tech student’s major. Some full-time students also manage to work as part-time interns over the course of their university program.
IT internships normally last a minimum of three to four months to a year at the most. It is not the norm for an internship to extend beyond a year. In the United States, companies normally offer an internship program of 12 to 14 weeks, or one college semester for tech students.