Internships 101

By Evan Supple

This week CareerOneStop staff are visiting with career professionals at the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals Youth Symposium in Chicago, so we’ve decided to devote this week’s blog to discussing internships: a major early step in many young people’s careers—and one that can be confusing and troubling to many people looking to start their career.

While many of the jobs available to students and first time workers are great places to pick up skills and learn the ins and outs of the workplace, working a paper route or scooping ice cream in the summer doesn’t necessarily give young workers a clear next step forward.

Internships are typically short- to medium-term opportunities to work in a professional setting, develop your skills and make connections in an industry. Internships are a way for students, first-time workers, and other job seekers  get their foot in the door without many of the skills that entry-level permanent positions require.

How do you find an internship?

Internships are often targeted specifically to students so if you’re a student in high school, college, or graduate school then your first stop might be your school’s career center or a career counselor. Many schools offer class credit for internships and will help handle much of the legwork of finding and organizing your internship so that you can fit it into a schedule alongside classes and extracurricular activities.

If you aren’t a student then you can find internships posted on job sites like, but you might have better luck by researching employers directly to see if they have an internship program and explore program details. Many employer websites have information on the internships they offer, and if they don’t you may be able to find contact information you can use to inquire directly about the possibility of doing an internship with them.

If you know what field you’re interested in, then using a tool like CareerOneStop’s Business Finder to find contact information for businesses to target is a great first step towards finding an internship.

Should you take an unpaid internship?

While internships are many young people’s first step into careers, it’s important to note that many internships do not pay, or only pay very limited wages. If you’re a young person considering an internship you should weigh carefully how much time you can afford to devote to an internship that doesn’t pay. You might be able to get creative and  work an internship around a paid-job schedule—so you can earn both money and experience.

Internships can be challenging, often requiring you to split time between many different tasks but they also offer a unique work-based learning opportunity that gives interns a chance to explore an organization (and a field) from the inside in a way that classroom education just cannot replicate.

Visit to learn more about internships and other ways to get work experience.

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