An internship is a great opportunity to learn about the world of work in a particular setting.
Employers offer internships for a set period of time, usually around 3 months (although they can be longer or shorter depending on the specific program).
Many internships are for students who have little or no career experience, and they are designed to help them transition from education into work – the schedule involves both aspects so can be considered a cross between the two.
There are many different types of internships, and they vary according to factors such as time of the year, payment, industry, location and working hours.
The last one is what we will be focusing on here, and employers usually take into consideration the other variables when setting the hours their intern will work. Internships can be anywhere from a few hours a week to full time hours.
It is important to know your expected working hours before accepting a placement, as you will need an internship that fits into your schedule.
Internships may be paid or unpaid, but modern perceptions are increasingly less supportive of unpaid internships.
The main argument is that, although there is a heavy emphasis on training, interns are still working at the same time and bringing value to the company.
With full-time positions, this leaves them no time to earn any money elsewhere, so unpaid interns are left with no income for the duration of their contract.
While it is illegal in many countries not to pay interns at least minimum wage, unpaid internships are still legal in the US, as long as the intern stands to gain more from the arrangement than the company.
This loophole allows employers to save money if they can convince potential interns that they are getting a better deal from it than they actually are.
There are certainly internships that do offer incredible development opportunities that would make it worth working for free, but it is especially important to conduct thorough research before you accept an unpaid internship.
Time Of Year
As we have already mentioned, a lot of internships seek students who are currently completing their college degree. This means that, if the placement happens during term-time, it will probably not offer full-time working hours.
Some placements are affiliated with colleges and can count as credit towards your course, so they must have a strong link with your subject of study. Others are simply chosen to expand a student’s knowledge of working life outside of their studies.
Internships that are designed to be taken in conjunction with studies will generally be the same length as an average college semester, i.e. 15 weeks. This is because it makes sense to have the timings match up, so the student is working to their familiar schedule.
Such internships can take place during either the fall or spring semesters, although occasionally they will span both. Interns are expected to commit 10-20 hours per week, so they can still complete regular college work alongside their placement.
For this reason, internships in these periods are capped at a maximum of 20 hours each week.
Summer internships are popular, as they are undertaken in the months when students have a break in their studies, or just after they have graduated and are looking for work.
Summer internships usually last for around 10-12 weeks of 40 hours each, since the applicants don’t have any other responsibilities they need to juggle at the same time.
In some cases, an employer may discuss internship length and working hours with their intern, so together they can come up with an arrangement that suits them both.
This shows that there is no set time period for internships, and it may be possible to negotiate your own schedule.
You could find it more beneficial to have a longer internship as it gives you a broader wealth of experience, or maybe you want to spread an placement intended for 3 months over 6 months, for example – this way, you would still learn as much without having to commit to full-time hours.
Certain industries offer more internships than others: businesses such as banks or large technology companies are likely to have specialized internship programs as a way to recruit the best new talent.
Goldman Sachs, Apple, Bank of America, and Google are often on lists of the top internship providers in the country, and they are incredibly competitive to get into.
Because they offer valuable experience with world-renowned companies and industry leaders, these internships tend to have rigorous working hours and keep their interns busy.
Some smaller tech companies and other businesses are willing to take on interns, but they won’t necessarily advertise positions. They may take inquiries from potential interns and consider them on an individual basis.
If there is something that needs doing in the company that an intern would be able to manage, they can decide to formulate a plan that would be mutually beneficial.
In these cases, the internship will usually last until the project is finished, which will usually be a few months depending on what exactly needs to be done. Working hours could be more flexible in such situations, given that the internships are often tailored to the specific applicant.
While the majority of internships are undertaken in the company office, some can be completed remotely. These are called virtual internships, and interns will gain the same valuable experience from the company of their own home.
This is a great solution for those living a long distance away from where the company is based, so they don’t have to uproot their whole life, but it also means that you don’t get the chance to work in an office environment.
Virtual internships allow employers to widen their search for the most talented interns to the country or even further afield, as well as opening up opportunities for more applicants.
Since interns won’t have to spend money on commuting, virtual internships are more likely to be unpaid. They can also give you more freedom in terms of your working hours, as a lot of the work can be done at times that suit you.
Even if they still stipulate 8 hours per day, it can seem like less because there’s no travel time to factor in.
Internships vary wildly between companies, and as such there is no set standard in terms of the working hours they expect. Summer internships can be up to 40 hours per week, while term-time internships cannot exceed 20 hours alongside a college course.
There may be scope for you to influence the number of hours you work during your internship, which will be discussed with you prior to acceptance, but many companies have their internship programs set in stone.
The important thing is to find an internship that works for you and helps you progress on your chosen career path – ideal working hours for one intern could be unsuitable for another.