Types Of Internships

By Chris Kolmar
Oct. 10, 2022
Articles In Guide

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Internships — you love them because they help make your resume stand out and provide you with valuable skills, but you hate them because there is so much competition surrounding them and there are so many types to sort through.

If you need help choosing an internship, keep reading to learn more about internship types and what you should know about each one.

Key Takeaways

  • There are paid, unpaid, for-credit, and not-for-credit internships.

  • You can work in an internship for a summer, quarter, semester, year, or holiday break.

  • Some companies offer both virtual and in-person internships.

  • Additional types of internships include co-op, rotation, externship, or service learning internships.

Types Of Internships

What Are the Different Types of Internships?

Internships can vary widely from company to company, as well as between industries. Some can be incredibly competitive, and some are easier to acquire.

Internships are generally categorized by three main factors. These factors include internship pay, internship length, and internship location.

Let’s talk about internship pay first.

Internship Types By Pay

Internships can be categorized as:

  • Paid

  • Unpaid

  • For-credit

  • Not-for-credit

You read that right.

Not all internships are paid. In fact, most internships are not paid, and in some fields, that’s the status quo. For that reason, paid internships are typically the hardest to get because of the competition.

Everyone wants to be paid (because who wants to give hundreds of hours of free labor in a non-volunteer capacity), and full-time, unpaid internships make it difficult to earn money on the side at the same time.

Thankfully, some companies have policies that require every employee, including interns, to be paid. You may not be paid much, but it definitely helps cut the financial burden of completing the internship, especially if you have to live somewhere else for it.

But an unpaid internship is not always as bad as it seems.

Internships can sometimes give you college credits. Typically these internships are unpaid, but they’ll help fulfill credit hours for required internships and capstone projects.

But here’s the kicker about the college credit situation:

At some schools, you have to pay for each credit hour, even if it’s for an unpaid internship — you’ll have to pay to work. But before you sign off on the whole internship for credit idea just yet, let’s review what you’re getting out of it.

At the end of the day, internships are highly valuable experiences that can make or break you getting offered a job later.

While you are still probably grumbling about having to either pay for credits or complete an internship without pay, just remember: internships are highly competitive.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter where you are completing internships as long as you end with a killer letter of recommendation and have become proficient in industry-specific transferable skills.

Now that we’ve got the pay-situation out of the way, let’s talk about the different internship lengths.

Internship Types By Length

Internships vary wildly in their length. Some can be as short as a few weeks, and others can be multiple years long.

The most common internship lengths are summer and semester-long, but there are many different lengths, including:

  • Summer

  • Quarterly

  • Semester

  • Year

  • Holiday (typically over winter school breaks)

The most common internship lengths are semester and summer internships. Many college students utilize their summer vacations for internships in industries related to their degrees to apply skills they’ve learned in the classroom and get real-world experience.

Internship Types By Location

Another way to classify internships is by location. The two main types of internship locations are virtual and in-person. In-person internships are still the most common you’ll see, but there are more opportunities available now for internships you can complete from home.

These internships can provide more flexibility and don’t require you to sublease a room during your internship if you have to travel for it.

Other Internship Types

As mentioned before, internships come in many forms. Most people take a more traditional route, usually picking a summer internship between years in college or a semester internship afterward.

However, there are a few other options, including:

  • Co-op. Co-ops are like regular internships, but they are integrated into your college curriculum. For example, you might spend five years versus four to graduate with an undergraduate degree, but one of the years is spent working for a company on a project related to your major.

  • Rotation. Rotation internships are also like traditional internships, but they are usually on the longer side. In this type of internship, you’d be rotating between departments every few weeks or months to get a close look at which specialties work best for you.

    This type of internship style is also common in some industries for new hires. After a year of rotation, for example, you’d be assigned to a permanent position within one of the departments you rotated in the company.

  • Externship. Externships are common with health science certificates and degrees. They are short-term, job shadowing-type experiences that allow you to observe and practice your skills.

  • Service learning. Service learning is a type of internship that involves more community service work than other professional internships do. There are many different service learning opportunities, but generally, they all require both the company and the interns to benefit from their partnership in some way.

Why Internship Types Matter

You might be thinking: An internship is an internship, right? It doesn’t matter which one you have as long as you have one on your resume.

Well, internships are worth most to you if you can hone skills that are transferable to the jobs you want to apply for in the future. Additionally, everyone’s school and financial situation are different, which vastly changes which internships work best for each person.

For example, if you want to be a fashion designer, you probably don’t want to have an internship in farming. If you have to take care of your grandparents over the summer, you might not want an internship that is full-time in a different state.

When sorting through job sites for internships to apply for, it can quickly become overwhelming with so many different options. That’s why understanding the main types of internships that are offered can help you sort through your searches to find the best fits.

When searching for internships, here are the main things you should know about internship types:

  • Internships can generally be sorted by location, pay, and length

  • You can get college credit for some internships

  • Virtual internships can provide work-from-home experiences and more flexibility

What the day-to-day experience looks like at each internship varies by company and industry. At some internships, you might be doing basic office work. At other internships, you might be working in the field head-to-head with some of the top company players.

Final Thoughts

Internships can be a fun and highly rewarding experience for every student and job-seeker. They are a great way to break into the industry and get real-world experience that is often required in job applications.

When looking into internships, there are many different types, but knowing which types work best for you can help you better understand which internships will fit you best.

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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