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Internships

Four students wearing professional attire standing in front of a NBC Universal sign on a wall.

An internship is an off-campus activity that provides real-world exposure to professional development in a business, non-profit or government setting. This opportunity allows you to use and refine the skillsets you have developed in the classroom. You also engage firsthand with employers eager to contribute to your career development.

The Benefits

Internships have a significant positive influence on becoming career ready and securing a job upon graduation. Here are few reasons why students and employers engage in internships.   

Students 

  • Explore potential careers 
  • Practice professional skillsets 
  • Create relationships with mentors 
  • Increase satisfaction in your major 
  • Improve employment outcomes 

Employers 

  • Get to know your abilities 
  • Help you develop your talents 
  • Build a mentor relationship with you 
  • Help you explore careers 
  • Ensure you are career ready 

Timeline

College students start their internships at different points of their academic plan. Some start when they’ve been in an academic program for a few years and others start early in the academic program.  

First or Second-Year Students

Employers may offer internships for students in their first or second years of study. These opportunities allow you to learn how to complete professional tasks and special projects. They do not require the specialized knowledge or skills gained in the later years of your degree program. 

Third or Fourth-Year and Graduate Students

Employers may prefer students in their advanced years of study. These opportunities allow you to learn complex duties on the job or specialize in the field. They require the advanced knowledge and skills developed in your academic subject.

Types of Internships

Internships are available across different industry groups in business, non-profit or governmental settings. They typically vary depending upon the duration and expectations. Here are a few common internship types. 

Paid Internships

Internships at businesses often pay an hourly wage. Interns are typically considered employees  whose work benefits the company. Interns work an average of 20 to 35 hours per week over a 10 to 12 week period. Paid internship opportunities are usually offered in the summer and can also be offered during the fall and spring semesters.

Find Postings: Cal State LA Handshake

Unpaid Internships

Internships can be unpaid or offer a fixed amount paid at the end of the experience. Unpaid interns are not considered employees and are typically in non-profit and government settings. Interns do an average of 20 to 35 hours per week over a 10 to 12 week period. Paid internship opportunities are usually offered in the summer and can also be offered during the fall and spring semesters.

Find Postings: Cal State LA Handshake

Academic-credit and CPT Internships

Academic internships require enrollment in an internship course. They can be paid or unpaid. Interns are considered students who are instructed by faculty and the site supervisor.  

Some internships are required in the academic degree such as nursing, social work and teaching, to name a few. Other internships are offered in addition to the required courses in the academic degree, including engineering and business to name a few. 

The internship is during the academic term and interns do an average of 15 to 20 hours per week.  

Students who seek Curricular Practical Training (CPT) are required to enroll in an academic internship.     

How to Request an Academic Internship

Micro-Internships

Micro-internships are short-term, paid, professional projects that are similar to those given to interns or new employees at companies or emerging start-ups. Students apply for projects that companies post across their departments including technology, marketing and finance to name a few. Projects can include research and strategy, operations and support, IT and cyber, marketing and others. 

Unlike traditional internships, micro-internships can be done year-round. Projects typically take 5 to 40 hours to complete and are due between one week and one month after you are offered the project.

Find a Micro-Internship

Externships & Job Shadowing

Externships provide an opportunity to observe a workplace, sit in on meetings and have career conversations with employees.

Short-term externships can be one day or up to a few weeks and are usually unpaid. They are similar to a job-shadowing experience where you follow an employee to observe their day-to-day work.

Graduate externships are offered to graduate students by the academic program such as law school or medical school. These opportunities are usually longer-term and require enrollment in a course.

Schedule an appointment with career advisors to find an externship or job shadowing opportunity. 

Meet with Career Advisors

Fellowships

Fellowships are typically merit-based scholarships for advanced research of an academic subject. They are funded by universities and colleges, corporations, non-profits, foundations, media groups and governmental entities. 

Fellows are selected based on their potential to make a positive and long-lasting contribution to the academic field. Fellowships are demanding and require a significant commitment from students.

Fellowships can last at least a year and some can be renewed depending upon the rules of the granting institution.       

Visit: National & International Scholarships and Fellowships Program

Plan Ahead

Employer Timelines, Explore, Apply, Outcomes, Internship, Cal State LA Career Center

Plan Ahead

To obtain an internship, you will most likely need to apply for the opportunity. Internship are posted year-round and employers typically post internship opportunities an average of six months before the internship begins. This means that if you are seeking a summer internship, you should typically plan to apply at the end of the fall semester.

Additional Support

Internship Support

Our Experiential Learning Team can answer your questions about searching for an internship and help you to develop an effective application.

Connect for Career Support

Career Workshops

Attend our in-person and virtual workshops on résumés and cover letters, interview skills, internship and job-seeking strategies, networking and other career-related topics. 

View: Career Center Calendar

Employer Events

Part of choosing an internship includes knowing about workplace culture and available opportunities for your degree. Employers host events where you can meet company representatives and learn more about what is possible. 

View on Cal State LA Handshake