What are internships?
An internship is a short period of work experience (usually paid), which typically takes place during university vacations. Internships offer an opportunity to work on a structured project or a defined set of tasks that are designed to help you gain more experience/knowledge of the profession. Internships can include both research and professional experiences and provide training and support to aid the intern’s career development.
Are internship programmes more valuable than other work experience?
Internship programmes are typically found in larger and more established organisations. They are usually created as a means for the employer to offer work experience opportunities that are usually recurring (annually, bi-annually, etc) that receive many applications and often have large numbers people taking part. Having a formalised process makes it easier for employers to manage the recruitment, assessment and also the work experience itself. However, these are not the only way to gain good and relevant work experience and these programmes don’t exist in some sectors.
Although the structured nature of many internships can often offer more of the attributes of good work experience, there is no single definition of an internship. Some organisations also use the terms “internship” and “work experience” interchangeably, so it’s best not to focus on the title, but on what the opportunity actually offers and then decide on its value to you.
Some internships are awarded based on a competitive entry process and this can add value to their place on your CV. For some organisations, these internship programmes (often for penultimate year students) are a way for them to ‘try you out’ and can result in a job offer when you have finished university. Or they can serve as a fast track for any graduate job application you might make to the organisation.
Are internships available in all sectors?
In some sectors internships are uncommon, and it’s good to remember that you can acquire the benefits of good work experience through vacation jobs, volunteering, insight events and shadowing too. The ‘best’ work experience for you, is what fits best with what you’re hoping to gain from the experience. Read about experience opportunities typically on offer in different sectors on our sector-specific information pages.
Some of the competitive internship schemes simply have different titles, such as ‘vacation schemes’ (for solicitors), ‘mini-pupillages’ (for barristers) or ‘summer analyst schemes’ (banking and finance).
When can you do an internship?
Most internships take place during university vacations and the longer ones (1-3 months in duration) usually take place in the summer vacation. Some, intended for graduates, run at different times throughout the year.
How long is an internship?
An internship can be anything from just a week or two, right up to a few months or even sometimes a year. There’s no set length.
Will I get paid?
Internships and summer jobs are governed in the UK by National Minimum Wage law, which means that if you are carrying out activities that that class you as a “worker” by the employer, then you should be paid. Full details of Employment Rights and Pay for Interns are published by the government.
If you are volunteering for a charity or statutory body, or shadowing or observing, then you may not be eligible for the National Minimum Wage. The organisation might give you an allowance for travel or lunch, but they aren’t obliged to do so.
Finding internships on CareerConnect
In a typical year we advertise hundreds of internships on CareerConnect, which is the password protected section of our website. A large number of firms advertising on our website hope to recruit more than one intern. Although CareerConnect is a great source of internships, it largely relies on employers placing details of their opportunities on our website. This means, you should always use CareerConnect alongside other sources to find internship opportunities.
Finding internships through The Internship Office
The Internship Office is part of The Careers Service and runs three internship programmes:
- The Summer Internship Programme, provides Oxford students with access to hundreds of global summer internships, offered through alumni, charities, businesses and educational partnerships. The programme is open exclusively to current matriculated (ie. not visiting) undergraduates and postgraduates, including those in their final year of study. The programme opens for applications in Hilary Term and we host information and application sessions for those interested in applying.
- Micro-internships, are voluntary placements of c. 2-5 days in a range of organisations These take place at the end of each term. The programme is open exclusively to current matriculated (ie. not visiting) undergraduates and postgraduates, including those in their final year of study.
- Crankstart Internship Programme, offers internships across a range of sectors to Crankstart Scholars. The Internship Office can also help Crankstart Scholars find work experience that corresponds with their skills and interests.
Finding internships using pro-active approaches
Visit the websites for 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, 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 start-ups and the arts and media sectors). You can also contact alumni to ask advice on finding work experience in their sector via the Oxford Alumni Community (all matriculated students can register) or via LinkedIn.
Finding internships at careers 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 attending a career fair almost certainly has 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 found within each entry on our sector-specific information pages 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.