What to Know About Internships

On-the-job experience, often accessed through an internship, is one of the best ways a novice or student can learn about a desired career path. Here’s what to know about internships, including how they’re faring in 2022.

What Is an Internship?

Typically structured for eight to 12 weeks, internships are short-term roles where an inexperienced person can acquire real-world work experience. Historically, internships were designed to last the length of a summer, a quarter or a semester — but modern internships can be shorter or longer depending on the objectives. There are many benefits of completing an internship. Students or entry-level job seekers acquire greater professional awareness, access industry tips and build new relationships and skills. This real-world work allows them to assess their interests, strengths and weaknesses.

From an employer’s perspective, internships introduce new talent to their company. In exchange, the employer may receive valuable contributions, a boost in employee morale and possibly convert some interns into career employees. Companies may have one or many interns. For example, a small company might have one summer intern, while a large enterprise may run formal programs with hundreds of interns across departments year-round.

[Read: How to Gauge Career Readiness Skills From Internships.]

Expanding Responsibilities

The hiring market in 2022 has been very strong. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports in its latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey that there are two job openings for every unemployed person. With employers facing tough competition to make hires, employers may be lowering experience requirements. The employment shortage may also mean that interns will be able to increase responsibilities while interning this year. Role expansion can translate into more meaningful work and a greater competitive advantage when interviewing for career roles past graduation.

The talent shortage also means that more interns may find themselves with “return offers” — where they are extended a job offer at the end of this summer for after graduation. Students who embody diligence and excellence in summer 2022 internships have the opportunity to come out of an internship program with strong career prospects.

Internship Compensation

Internships can be paid or unpaid, provided they meet standards guided by the Department of Labor. The DOL “test” focuses on balance: If the employer gains more benefit than the intern, payment is typically required for the work. If the role is more altruistic and the intern gains the benefit, the role can be unpaid.

“If an employer decides to offer unpaid internships, there must be clear communication and documentation that both the intern and the employer have agreed that the internship will be unpaid,” states the Society of Human Resource Managers.

U.S. News researched 200 companies across various industries and found that 47.5% of companies offer paid internships. The data suggests that technology companies are more likely to offer paid internships than companies in other industries.

[READ: Job Outlook for Recent College Graduates.]

Tech and Finance Lead Internship Compensation

With the hot job market, intern wages have increased most dramatically in the finance and tech sectors. In a recent Bloomberg article, the authors, in partnership with Wall Street Oasis, captured finance intern salaries at leading firms ranging from $7,266 to over $16,000 per month. In the same article, average monthly internship salaries for tech companies also ranked among the best in America with ranges from $6,667 at J.P. Morgan to $9,667 at Roblox Corp. With such high salaries, future intern prospects, many of whom are pursuing master’s degrees or are in MBA programs, will face tough competition when pursuing these highly-compensated internship roles.

Although it is intriguing to know how high compensation can go, most paid internships are not paid like those featured in the news. It is common for interns to be paid wages more in line with their entry level skill sets and the path they are pursuing. Applicants should look for compensation that is on par with other internship roles in that field and with similar responsibilities.

Mentors Matter

Robert Shindell, president and CEO of Intern Bridge, reminds employers that a good job description and compensation on its own isn’t enough for a great internship experience.

“As most college students seek out internships to further explore career fields of interest and to gain exposure to and experience with different organizations in their field, it is important that they have a mentor to help guide them through this process,” says Shindell. Top programs ensure that participants have both skills training as well as the more personal development that a mentor can offer an early-career professional.

[See: The 25 Best Jobs of 2022.]

The Future of Internships

The access to internships has never been better. Job boards like Handshake give students streamlined access to available internships, while Indeed, LinkedIn and other specialty boards make it easy for employers to advertise internship roles and programs.

The X factor for many companies and students this summer is the balance between remote and in-person working environments. As the debate continues and research is gathered to determine whether remote work can be as enriching and effective for development as in-person working arrangements, some employers opted not to return to pre-pandemic intern programs at all this summer.

Despite hesitancy among some employers, there is no doubt participating in an internship is a key college milestone. Internships continue to grow in popularity, availability and significance in guiding students to successful careers after graduation.

More from U.S. News

20 Jobs That Pay $80K or More

10 Best Part-Time Jobs to Pay the Bills

Best Jobs That Allow You to Travel

What to Know About Internships originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 06/17/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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