Building experience is a vital component of career development and future success.
Internships are a form of experiential learning where students are on assignment with an organization for a limited period of time to gain real-world work experience that is either directly related to their major field of study or to their career interest. They differ from regular employment in that they are structured learning opportunities designed to benefit the student. Internships can be paid or unpaid, and held during the summer or throughout the academic year.
The Benefits of Internships
Interning is regarded as a high impact, high value activity because of the abundance of important benefits that give you a competitive edge in the job search. Through interning, you can:
- Gain work experience to build/augment your resume;
- Earn money and/or academic credit;
- Acquire, and strengthen, in-demand skills and professionalism;
- Apply knowledge gained from coursework to real-world situations;
- Explore different career options and experience your chosen field first-hand;
- Meet and work with professionals to establish a network and references;
Since many employers use internship programs to develop their talent pipeline, internships often lead to a permanent job offer. Having trained you and observed your demonstrated abilities, employers have greater certainty in determining if they should extend a job offer. Employers are also impressed by candidates who completed internships at other companies. In fact, recent research affirms that employers rank internship experience as one of the most “influential” hiring decision criteria.
What To Look For In An Internship
A well-structured internship program includes elements such as:
- Defined start/end dates
- Written policies & procedures
- Comprehensive and enjoyable onboarding & training
- A dedicated supervisor
- Work that is challenging & rewarding
- Specific goals for skill acquisition & professional development
- Clear compensation plan
- Support with housing & transportation
Consider your personal needs and preferences and add them to this list. For example if you have a disability or want an employer with a stated commitment to DEIJB, then be sure to vet companies by those criteria.
It’s always good to ask. In some cases an employer that does not currently offer something that you want/need will make an exception or acquire the resources to fulfill your request.
Finding An Internship
The most effective way to find an internship is to leverage a variety of different search strategies. Handshake is one of the most prominent online platforms where employers list internships, you can access Handshake directly from the Career Center website.
The most effective way to find an internship is to leverage a variety of different search strategies. One of the most prominent online platforms where employers list internships is Handshake, which you can access directly from the Career Center website. Within Handshake you can view our Internship Listing Sites page or conduct a search using keywords (ex.”intern” or “internship”) to generate a list of opportunities that align with your needs and interests . Another robust resource that is available to you is our Job & Internship Guide which entails valuable information to support your career journey.
Networking is one of the most impactful ways to establish and advance your career. Networking events are a formal means of connecting and socializing to build your professional community. A great place to start is the @cal Career Network, a database of Cal alumni. You can also engage in self-directed networking by leveraging existing contacts like friends, family, current/former employers, classmates, and faculty members, to meet new people and expand your circle. You may also learn about internship openings through newspapers, newsletters, job fairs, work/study abroad programs, hometown contacts, professional associations, student organizations, trade magazines, community service/volunteer groups, and your major department office.
While there is a great deal of information available, you must be persistent in your internship search. Start early and seek out help from a career counselor. Have a plan that includes a great resume and cover letter, appropriate follow-up, and good record keeping. Be prepared, open-minded, flexible, and professional. It’s up to you to make all your contacts count!
The Right Timing
Students often wonder when is the best time to seek an internship. Early engagement yields the best results!
The Academic Year
Your first year is not too soon to participate in an internship. Allow yourself at least one semester of academic study to adjust to the rigors of life at UC Berkeley. Then, depending on your major, GPA, and course load requirements, you may be ready to intern. Remember that your academic work is always your first priority.
The Calendar Year
The Career Center receives internship listings continually throughout the year, so there are always opportunities available. When deciding which time of year is best for you to intern, consider the recruiting cycle of employers in your desired industry and factor in your academic workload, transportation, your personal needs, and other commitments. Find the alignment and balance that will lead to optimal outcomes related to your performance and well-being.
When To Start Looking
Although most employers recruit heavily in the fall, recruiting cycles vary by company and industry. For example, employers in industries such as banking and professional services typically recruit in the early fall to fill internship positions for the following summer. Whereas, spring semester is still an active, and critical part of the recruiting season for employers in other industries.
As a rule of thumb, it’s advisable to begin your internship search at least one semester prior to your desired placement. The key consideration is to allow yourself ample time to respond to listed positions and to initiate contacts on your own as well. Lead time can give you a competitive edge when it comes to composing an effective cover letter and tailoring your resume to a desired internship.
On-Campus Recruiting (OCR)
OCR for summer opportunities
On-Campus Recruiting (OCR) is active during the Spring semester as many employers leverage this time to hire for summer internships. In addition to OCR, there are many employers looking to engage with students at our Internship & Summer Job Fair typically held in mid-February. Participating in both gives students a significant advantage in obtaining an offer for an internship or summer job. For additional information, check out the our On-Campus Interviewing page.. If you still have questions, contact the Recruiting Office at (510) 642-0464, or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Internships Near and Far
The Career Center is the best place to start your search for internships in any location. Employers that attend our career fairs and post positions on Handshake, are often looking to fill positions in multiple geographical regions.
Summer internships are particularly challenging because of the limited amount of time involved and the high level of competition for them in the Bay Area. Rule #1: Start early! Many of the larger organizations that offer summer internships begin listing them the previous Fall Semester. You can access all of the internships listed with The Career Center via Handshake. Additional opportunities can be found through the Cal Work Study program. During Spring Semester, attend job fairs (the Spring Career Fair, the Nonprofit/Public Service Career Fair, the Internship & Summer Job Fair), to meet recruiters with summer opportunities. Lastly, tell everyone you know what kind of summer internship you’re seeking. Networking helps.
Internships Outside of the Bay Area
In addition to campus resources, there are a number of online job search sites and internship databases where employers post their internship opportunities. Resources such as Yellowpages.com and Dun & Bradstreet (formerly Hoovers.com) can also be used to locate employer contact information for your desired location. Once you identify companies of interest, search the jobs section of their website for internship opportunities. Find an appropriate contact and reach out to them directly. Let them know if you will be in their geographical area during one of the University breaks and inform them of the type of position you are seeking, your qualifications and time availability. If you don’t hear from them in a reasonable period of time, follow up. Also check the websites of universities in the area you’re targeting for local listings, networking events, and helpful resources specific to that area.
Don’t let housing needs and worry about competition deter you if you are heading for unfamiliar territory. Universities often rent housing to students working in their city during the summer. Your summer employer may have suggestions for you. Finding suitable housing may not be as difficult nor as expensive as you think.
Interning abroad is a wonderful way to combine travel, work, and learning. Find detailed information on our Finding An International Internship page.
International students face additional considerations and complexities when it comes to internships. For helpful information, review the International Students section of our website. If you have additional questions, we have career counselors who can meet with you and offer further guidance. The Berkeley International Office is another great resource serving our international student body.
Compensation & Academic Credit
Some internships are paid and some are not. Internship salaries vary according to experience and skills required, year in school, type of position, type of employer, and location. For student jobs here in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is not unusual to find positions of $17.00/hour and up (substantially higher for special skills and significant experience).
When offering unpaid internships, employers may require that students receive academic credit in order to satisfy state and federal labor laws. You’ll find information about receiving academic credit for internships, on this page.
Develop Your Own Internship
When an “off the rack” internship just does not fit. This booklet offers the strategies and activities needed to research and develop your own internship position. It takes time and work but an internship that is specifically tailored to your own academic and career goals can be better than one that is “close enough.”
Download “Developing Your Own Internship” booklet (PDF, 4 pages)
You May Be Wondering…..?
How can I get a job or internship if I have no experience?
The absence of work experience should not prohibit you from getting a job or internship. Employers value skills that are applicable in the workplace, and students can attain those technical/hard skills and core/soft skills in a myriad of ways including: academic coursework, volunteerism, extra/co-curricular activities, professional skill-building courses, and various types of experiential learning including responsibilities at home. Things like schedule management, customer service, communication, and planning are examples of highly sought after skills. The key is to identify the job-specific and transferable skills you possess that align with the job description for the position you’re interested in. Then, articulate them clearly on your written collateral (ex. Resume, cover letter, Handshake profile) and verbally during interactions with employers (ex. Interviews and networking events). If you lack the qualifications for the job you want, consider applying for lower level positions that will enable you to acquire the skills and experience you need to move up the career ladder.
What can I do to increase my chances of finding a good job?
In addition to conducting a robust job search online:
- It is always wise to reach out to people in your network and to those who you want to add to your network. Let them know what your aspirations are and ask them if they have any contacts or leads. You may be surprised by the connections that are made!
- Reach out directly to employers that are of interest to you.
- Update your professional materials (resume, cover letter, Linkedin and Handshake profiles, portfolios, etc.). Make sure they are complete and have them reviewed by one or two qualified people to make sure they are refined, error-free, and competitive.
- If you’re still having difficulty, consider being more flexible. Perhaps there is room to adjust the hours, location, or salary you’re willing to accept.
- Talk to one of our Career Counselors if you need additional help with your job search.
How many hours can I work as a student?
Adding additional commitments onto your student workload is something that requires careful consideration. Before you commit to an internship or job, honestly assess the demands of your coursework and extracurricular activities. Make sure that you’ll not only have enough time for all of your commitments, but also sufficient time for yourself and your loved ones. As a rule of thumb, students are advised to work no more than 20 hours/week when classes are in session. You may find that short-term, part-time project work is the best option and you can search for opportunities like that on Handshake.