How to Find the Right Summer Internship

In today’s highly competitive job market, internships are vital to landing a job when you graduate.

According to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 63 percent of graduating students in the class of 2013 participated in at least one internship during their undergraduate college career.

But how do you find the right internship? Should it be paid or unpaid? Should you travel for the right opportunity? We have some tips to help you decide.

Where to begin

Campus career services
Start with your university’s career services office, either on campus or online. Most colleges now offer this free student service through a searchable online database that helps students identify businesses and nonprofits currently looking for interns and employees. The campus career services office is the best source for information about internships in the city and region where you attend college.

Academic department and faculty
Business, communication, engineering and health sciences programs typically require internships as part of the major, so they maintain an active database of internship opportunities. You can often find these posted in the hallways of classroom buildings around campus. If you aren’t sure where to find these internship listings, ask a department administrative assistant.

Talk with faculty members in your major. They often know about niche opportunities that are filled on an ad hoc basis.

Company websites
Visit your ideal employer’s website and search for internship programs. These are often found under the “work for us” or “employment” links. If you don’t find the information online, simply call the main number and ask for the internship coordinator.

Networking groups
Join LinkedIn and take advantage of LinkedIn’s search tools and the many LinkedIn groups dedicated to internships. Websites like let you search by geographic location, company and industry.

Don't overlook industry, professional and trade organizations as a source for internship opportunities.

If you’re frustrated because nothing seems available in your field of interest, find someone working in an industry that excites you and ask to shadow them for one day. That job-shadowing experience might open the door to an internship designed especially for you.

What to consider

Paid internships are increasingly common and lead to better results when the internship ends. The NACE 2013 survey data showed that paid interns were more likely to get job offers and on average received higher starting salaries than interns who had unpaid internships.

Larger employers, especially those in finance, technology, science, engineering and government, are most likely to offer paid internships.

Still, many nonprofit and for-profit organizations offer unpaid internships. Unpaid internships with for-profit organizations must comply with U.S. Department of Labor rules. Generally speaking, the unpaid internship must be designed to provide training and education that primarily benefits the intern, not the employer.

Depending on your academic and professional goals, there may be a lot to gain from an unpaid internship at the right organization. If you are in a financial situation that allows you to work for free, you shouldn’t ignore unpaid internship opportunities.

If your situation requires you to work full or part-time while in school, you may want to put extra effort into seeking a paid internship or one with a flexible schedule that allows you to keep your other job.

Most colleges do offer course credit for internships, whether they are paid or unpaid.

Should you spend the summer in another city for your dream internship? That depends.

Does the company offer intern housing? Travel allowance? Are you able to take time away from on-campus classes or your regular job?

You shouldn’t decline a great opportunity just because it is out of town, but it’s important to evaluate the financial, academic and professional implications of spending a semester away.
Discuss the opportunity with your parents and your academic advisor.

If you are still unsure of your career path or are several semesters from graduation, consider an internship closer to campus to test the water before diving into the deep end.

Where you intern and how much you are paid are less important than the quality of the internship experience. Look for internships that let you “do” rather than simply observe. Writing, presenting and data analysis are valuable skills that can be applied to practically any future job.

Ideally, you want to use several internships to develop a portfolio of skills and experiences that enhance what you’ve learned in the classroom and demonstrate to future employers that you’re competent and ready to contribute on day one.


This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.