Doctoral Internship Programme | The Careers Service Doctoral Internship Programme – Oxford University Careers Service
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About the Doctoral Internship Programme

The Doctoral Internship Programme has enabled doctoral students to undertake internships during the course of their DPhil. It was formed under the Internship Office and Careers Service who are equipped with trained advisers to guide and support doctoral students seeking appropriate placements.

The programme was established in 2012 and was initially part of a BBSRC funded PIPS scheme (Professional Internships for PhD Students), however the ongoing success has seen the programme develop and is now facilitated from within Oxford doctoral training centres and partnerships.

If you are part of an Oxford DTC, CDT, DTP with a knowledge exchange requirement, and wish to fulfill said requirement with an internship, we recommend speaking to your doctoral training center administrator/director and taking advantage of the Careers Service’s enhanced provisions for DPhils. This includes specialist Careers Advisers for research students, and access to research specific events.

Why do an internship?

There are many positive reasons for doctoral students to undertake internships. Whether staying in academia or aiming for a non-academic role, employers are increasingly looking for postgraduates with a well-rounded skill set. An internship can provide evidence to use on CVs and in interviews to demonstrate a broad range of skills and experiences not solely related to a narrow area of research. An internship can be an opportunity for postgraduates to understand their research in a wider context, and to consider new career ideas. They can also be a chance to travel, experience different cultures, and trial living in new areas of the country/world.

“As well as informing my future career choices this placement also greatly expanded the industry-relevant skills I can add to my CV, provided me with a business reference and has given me contacts in industry, all of which will be very valuable when applying for jobs after I have completed my PhD.”

– Nicola Fox (Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP)

Finding an internship

Once you have a clear understanding of any guidelines set by your DTC/CDT/DTP regarding internships -including attaining internship approval – a good place to begin is to consider the type of opportunity you are seeking. Many students undertake internships to gain insights into a particular career. If you want to explore ideas around what area to do your internship in book an appointment with a Careers Adviser.

There are many ways to find the right organisation and project to suit your exact needs, including the following suggestions:

  • Finding internships using pro-active approaches
    Visit the websites of organisations you’d love to work for and look at the ‘vacancies’, ‘work experience’, ‘internships’ or ‘about us’ pages to see if they have any internships advertised. If they don’t, just contact them to ask whether they have any internship or work experience opportunities. Many organisations rely on people pro-actively getting in touch (especially in the arts and media sectors) and don’t have advertised internship schemes.  You can also contact alumni who are happy to give advice on finding work experience in their sector on the Oxford Careers Network.
  • Finding internships at career fairs
    A number of careers fairs take place every year here in Oxford and many of the employers attending offer both internship and full-time positions. In Michaelmas term, we also run the Internship Fair, which is exclusively for those seeking internships. You can access last year’s brochure to get a feel for what kind of recruiters attend, choose the career fair which covers the sector(s) you’re interested in, or come to the first general fair, the Oxford Careers Fair, which take place at the beginning of Michaelmas term. It’s worth noting that any employer who is attending a career fair almost certainly has their opportunities listed on CareerConnect. Make sure you research what’s available in advance, and use your conversations at the career fair to make a great impression, as well as asking (informed) questions. See our page on Making the Most of Careers Fairs for further tips.
  • Finding internships through specific websites
    Use the ‘Skills and Experience’ and ‘External resources’ sections on our sector-specific information pages to learn about how to look for internships for a particular industry. There are many industry-specific websites where you’re more likely to find relevant internships advertised. For example, many internships in start-ups are advertised on Enternships (a portmanteau of entrepreneurial and internships!) Check out the ‘External resources’ section at the bottom of this page for more websites to use for internship hunting.
  • The Summer Internship Programme provides access to hundreds of internship opportunities in the UK and abroad which are open exclusively to University of Oxford students.
  • Internships offered by national and international corporations for students from all universities; many of which are listed on CareerConnect.

During this process it is vitally important that you speak with your supervisor about suitable times to undertake an internship: they may even have ideas or contacts you can use.

Once a placement has been found you will need to work with your placement provider to create an internship plan.

Guidelines

If you are a research student who is going to undertake an internship, particularly if you sit within an Oxford DTP/DTC/CDT with a knowledge exchange requirement – you must ensure you are aware of any guidelines set by your funding body, college and/or department before undertaking any internship. These guidelines can include length of internships (eg. 12 weeks), organisations excluded from internships (eg. UK research institutions), feedback, and reporting requirements, etc.

How to approach an organisation

A speculative application usually consists of a CV and Cover Letter, but could be preceded or followed up with a telephone call. Follow our standard advice for writing CVs and Cover Letters, tailoring each speculative application to the organisation, and demonstrate how your experience and achievements are relevant.

  • Write to a named individual if possible.
  • Download an Example Speculative Cover Letter for ideas.
  • Match the tone of the letter to the organisation. For example, a media company may appreciate a less formal approach than a law firm, which is more likely to appreciate a more traditional approach.
  • Careful targeting is far more likely to lead to success than sending out numerous near-identical applications.
  • Research the organisation and sector and think about where you’d like to focus your time or with whom you’d like to work during an internship. Demonstrate your understanding of the organisation in your letter. Allow your motivation and interest to come through and you will stand out as a knowledgeable applicant.
  • Clearly and quickly establish what you want and why. If your goal is work experience, try to be open to the type of work experience (work shadowing, internship, visiting the organisation) you are willing to do. Be clear about what you would be interested in, but don’t close any doors!
  • Make it clear what you have to offer them (do you require funding, when are you available, how flexible can you be, what unique experience can you bring to the table etc.). You are making a business proposition, and must prepare your case carefully and research the organisation.
  • You may wish to follow up your letter with a phone call (1-2 weeks after you have sent it) to check that it was received and if there is any feedback.
Internship funding

Depending on the status of your funding and the department/DTC/DTP/CDT you sit within, you may or may not receive additional funding for an internship: in some cases, students are prohibited from accepting payment for an internship. You should review the guidelines set by your funding body, where relevant, or speak to your course director/supervisor about funding before undertaking any internship.

You may be able to:

  • Claim travel expenses from the university. (All claims for expenses must be supported by appropriate documentation – please see the university finance pages for information on claiming mileage expenses.)
  • Apply for grants
  • Apply for bursaries
  • Apply for funding from your College and/or external bodies
CV support

Having an up-to-date CV is a vital starting point in securing an internship. If you are applying for internships through the Doctoral Internship Programme, then we require a one or two page CV.

The Careers Service has written extremely helpful information on CVs which is a great starting point CV Information Sheet. Once you have used the resources to create a CV, we advise booking a 15 minute one-to-one appointment to get it checked by a Careers Adviser. Please see below for details on how to book a session.

Career support

You can arrange a 15 minute career discussion via CareerConnect, by selecting ‘I want to make an appointment’ and then choose ‘OCS – A short discussion at the Careers Service with a Careers Adviser’.

All Careers Advisers can help you with advice on CVs and industry ideas, however the Careers Advisers each have specialist areas of interest and if you are looking specific advice you might like to talk to a particular adviser. To find the appropriate Careers Adviser read the Careers Advisers’ Profiles, and see when they are available via CareerConnect. Appointments are released 48 hours in advance.

If you have any problems booking an appointment please ring the Careers Service Reception on 01865 274646 and they will be able to find you the next available appointment (there are often last minute cancellations).

After the internship

A common condition of receiving funding, or if you sit within an Oxford DTC/DTP/CDT is that students provide feedback on their internship experience. Students may be required to give detailed feedback on their placement and demonstrate the skills they gained through the experience. So be sure to check what your requirements are before undertaking an internship; if in doubt, we recommend you record the experience in writing, via video diary and/or images as you go along. This will not only help provide feedback, but can greatly increase your own learning and development gain.

This information was last updated on 08 February 2019.
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