As you embark on your journey in a tech career, it’s important to consider internships to support your professional journey in tech. As a college student, there are various kinds of internships from which you can choose. An internship can give you a preview of what to expect in “the real world”. It can give you the much-needed hands-on experience you are going to need to land that dream job in tech. Most importantly, it will give you an opportunity to leverage the skillset(s) you’re developing into action, so you can actually experience what it’s like to have a fast-paced career in tech.  

Internships are the foundation of creating great connections and a working knowledge of what to expect in the tech world. They can also give you perspective to help you make the best decision regarding what type of tech job you should choose, as well as give you ample opportunity to sample different positions or departments, all before you’ve even been fully exposed to the job market.  

Internships vary in what they provide. Of course they introduce you to new experiences and help get you up-to-speed with what the tech industry is truly like, but many offer extra benefits. Many internships offer an hourly wage or a stipend to help cover living expenses and other costs. Others can be utilized as class credits, helping to give you real-world experience and helping meet your degree requirements.  Let’s explore the world of tech internships and what you should consider.   

Types of Tech Internships

Types of Tech Internships.

When thinking about the right internship, there are many avenues to pursue. Right now, coding, data analysis, Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality, e-learning, or software development are the in-demand internships in tech.  Since the pandemic hit, many companies are now offering remote positions for introductory jobs or internships, which means you can intern for a company halfway across the country if you’d like. Some still offer on-site work and some even provide opportunities to travel abroad for an even more unique experience. Tech internships can be as creative and unique as you want it to be; it just takes some research to find the right one. 

You may want to secure an internship for a company that you really want to work for in order to be considered for a permanent position in the future. Yes, it can be competitive to get that internship spot, but luckily you have multiple semesters and summers to apply and also gather the background and education to secure those spots! One example is an internship with the NSA. Offering both summer and semester internships, getting your application prepared and submitted early (applications are due 9 months in advance!), is the best and first step to clinching that dream internship. 

Requirements for Internships

Requirements for Internships.

When applying it’s essential to know what the core requirements are for entry. Knowing what a suitable internship is for your level of education and skill set is important when applying so you aren’t laboring over an application that you may not even qualify for. Look for the following requirements in a job description:

  • Years of experience or education required
  • Degree focus requirements
  • Special skill sets you need
  • Hours you are expected to work, including on-site requirements
  • Age requirements
  • Any other special notes that will help you determine if you are qualified

A good rule to live by when it comes to applying for tech internships is the more research you do upfront, the better. You will also have a competitive advantage because you’re prepared!

Another thing to remember is that some internships will pay you for your time. In fact, many tech companies will. Most will indicate in the job description if it is a paid position or if there are stipends available. Others may not; be sure to look carefully at the description to find what you need. 

While your dream internship may not be readily at your fingertips immediately (e.g., during your freshman year), it is possible to claim a spot, but it may not offer the full internship experience. Again, use this to your advantage to network and build connections and learn from your team. Taking an internship early is a great way to really start exploring what area of tech you want to focus on by getting a little bit hands-on and still gaining a lot of general experience. 

Summer Internships

The World of Summer Tech Internships.

A great way to focus on an internship and not have to worry about your class load on top of a job is to take a summer internship. This opportunity gives you the same benefits of a normal internship but happens during your summer break, so it helps to ease the stress of juggling school and a “new” job. Typically, students start applying for summer internships at the beginning of the spring semester in January. This isn’t to say that you should wait until January to get started. It’s important to attend networking functions that your college, academy, or community hold to meet and get to know working professionals and peers. These people can help guide you to resources and local tech jobs and internships. 

Tips for Applying for Summer Tech Internships.

Internship programs can be competitive, especially for summer positions. It’s common practice for companies to begin the internship application process approximately eight to nine months prior to the role commencing. Recruiting begins long before most applicants have even begun to ready their formal process. 

So, when exactly is the right time to apply for that summer internship?  The application season typically begins in the autumn of year prior to hiring. It’s not advisable to wait until February to get your application submitted as that is when companies are going to be receiving the most internship applications. This means the chances of your resume and application getting lost in the stack are greater, so it’s going to be in your best interest to get your application in by January and definitely before the February to April rush.  

In addition to getting in your application early, it’s a good idea to follow these tips when applying for tech internships:

  • Be familiar with the deadlines.
  • Get your resume ready.
  • Network whenever possible.
  • Follow application directions closely.
  • Prepare for the interview.
  • Ask for help or clarification when needed!

When in doubt, reach out to the career development department at your school or ask mentors, professors, or friends for guidance. Older students may also be able to offer some good advice about which internships to consider. There are a wealth of resources available at your disposal; you just need to take advantage of them!

Something else to consider when applying for a tech internship is having a list of references that organizations can call to get a sense of your job ethic, experience, and interests. You will need to reach out to relevant contacts for references and start asking for help to get your application seen. If you don’t have prior work experience, this may mean asking a professor or a peer that you worked with on a project to be a professional reference. 

There are also many benefits to partaking in an internship at any stage of your education. For instance, some internships can offer college credits as part of your experience.  Many programs and companies offer this, but it likely will be up to you to address and ensure the credits are accepted and awarded prior to the acceptance of an internship. There might also be special paperwork you will need to have signed or filled out by your intern supervisor..  

Many undergraduate students will hone their skill sets to match with their ideal tech job, which also means looking for an internship that has the potential to lead to a post-graduation job. In this instance, many juniors and seniors will be competing for these internships. This isn’t meant to dissuade freshmen or underclassmen from seeking out opportunities, but it could mean being patient to secure your “dream” internship. There are still many tech internships for underclassmen to help get a feel and ahead for the years to come.  

A great resource for finding internship opportunities is through your college or university itself. Many of your professors are likely to have research opportunities, which count as internship programs, too! So, if you are a freshman or sophomore who maybe didn’t consider an internship until the last minute, start inquiring with your professors ASAP. Here are some effective and practical ways to start working on a summer internship, even if you’re late in starting:

  • Start your search early (even if it’s for next semester, the summer, or next year!)
  • Research career industries
  • Search tech job boards
  • Use your professional network
  • Create an effective resume
  • Keep sending applications
  • Communicate with potential employers

Following these best practices can help you stand out from your competition and get you noticed by potential employers. 

Application Process

Application Process for Internships.

Once you’ve completed your applications and submitted them, the process of waiting and following up can be the most strenuous and tedious part of the whole process. Receiving a response within the first week is a great sign! However, this is not the standard. Don’t expect to hear back from most companies immediately. 

For as many applications as you send out, each company is receiving tenfold as many applications. A typical internship application usually has between 10-15 days of processing. During this time, a company or organization screens for the most qualified candidates to determine who makes it to the next round.  

Although 10-15 days is the average time table, it’s not a guarantee. Some internship applications can take a month or two to process. Practice simple and courteous follow-up.  Just remember that as anxious as you are to get the internship of your dreams, these companies are also as excited to find the right person to fill the internship position.  A good rule of thumb is to wait at least 3 weeks before reaching out with your follow-up. An internship application should be treated just like a true job application, and being respectful of your potential employer’s time and efforts will help you have a professional edge. 

Questions to Consider as a Tech Intern.

If you want a tech career, it’s important to consider an internship before going into the market. A place to look for a robust experience and the opportunity to wear many hats is a tech startup. There is a lot of opportunity to convert your internship position into a full time role, especially with startups. According to Master’s in Data Science’s Tech Internship Guide, “Working at a small company or startup may give you the opportunity to try out different roles, which can be helpful if you haven’t figured out what you want to do long-term. On the other hand, if you know that you want to program and not dabble in sales or marketing, for example, corporate jobs and larger, more established companies tend to be more focused in scope.” We couldn’t agree more! 

Start weighing what is most important to you in this particular internship. Some questions to consider are:

  • Do you want flexibility and a good work-life balance?
  • Do you want to experience all that the company has to offer and see what focus you might be best suited to?
  • Are you looking specifically for college credits or compensation? Or both?
  • Have you considered housing costs if you have to relocate for a summer internship program?
  • Have you considered if this internship is a paid internship, as it likely will pay less than an entry level position?
  • Have you considered if it is being accepted as college credits, and if so, have you done the due diligence to ensure your university will accept this trade? 
  • Is it exploring your options and finding your true fit in the tech career of your dreams? Or have you already determined this, and are now are on to defining your career path, and are ready to make moves in a new job? 

Weigh the pros and cons of each offer you receive and match them against your ultimate goals and desired outcomes from this desired internship. All of these are important questions to consider when picking the best internship programs for you. 

When looking for an internship, it’s also an opportunity to take a risk you may not have considered before. For instance, have you dreamed of a job working for Tesla? Possibly your way in is to apply for an internship and work your way to an entry-level job.

Are Most Tech Internships Paid? 

Most tech internships do come paid. However, most tech companies aren’t overly-competitive with intern pay; the average tech intern makes $15 an hour. The larger the company, the greater the chances of you making more than this rate, but it’s not going to be a guarantee.  With companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, tech interns can make up to $10,000 a month.  

Additional Internship Resources

Additional Internship Resources.

If you’re looking for more information on what a job in tech can entail, check out:

Remember many internships have adapted programs for students in high school as well.  By starting these internship opportunities as early as you can, by networking, engaging with your professors, making meaningful connections, and more and beyond, you can start to begin your internship journey as early as you’d like  An internship is just the beginning of your journey in a career in tech; get excited for what it can bring!