What Is an Internship?

Updated: November 7, 2019

An internship is a program offered by an employer that provides potential employees with work experience. Internships are typically targeted towards students, who work between one-and-four months at their chosen company to gain practical on-the-job or research experience.

Each internship is different. Some interns work part-time, while others work full-time. An internship can last a week or a year. There are internships for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. There are paid internships, unpaid internships, internships that provide course credit, and internships that are virtual. While employment isn’t guaranteed at the end of an internship, many employers use internships to train and evaluate future employees. In fact, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) 2018 Internship & Co-op Survey Report, 59% of employers make a full-time job offer to interns, and 77% of students accept said offer. That means that more than 45% of interns land a full-time job from their internship.

You’re on Chegg Internships, so there’s lots to learn, but let’s start with the basics.


What about paid and unpaid internships?

“How can I get paid?” is one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to internships. In an ideal world, every intern would make a living wage. In reality, 60.8% of internships are paid, leaving nearly 40% of internships unpaid (thanks again, NACE!). Some of those unpaid opportunities offer a housing or transportation stipend, while others pay you in experience only. If you’ve decided that experience is worth more than a paycheck—and you can afford it—you can read all about the ins and outs of interning on a modest budget here.

If you absolutely need the money, it’s good to know it from the beginning. Make a budget, consider the cost of living if you’re not staying close to home, and be honest with the employer—they can often help out. You can read more about finding a paid internship here. The short version: know which fields are more likely to pay, stay flexible, and apply early and often.

How many hours per week do interns work?

It varies from internship to internship. Many summer internships assume you’ll work a regular eight-hour day, five days a week. For internships during the school year, there tends to be more flexibility, as employers understand that you’re juggling coursework, extracurriculars, and internship hours. Some employers may ask for a set number of hours per week, while others won’t care how much you work, as long as you get the work done. Ask in advance, and ensure you and your employer are on the same page.

How do you get course credit for an internship?

Both paid and unpaid internships sometimes offer course credit for your participation. Generally, companies will include this information in the original internship posting. If they don’t, feel free to reach out to the hiring manager to inquire about whether they’d be willing to work with you and your school to provide credit.

Separately, some classes require you to complete an internship to receive credit for that class. If it’s not explicit in the course description and you want to receive internship credit, contact the professor to discuss specifics. Keep in mind that some schools simply do not give credit for internships. Others only do so for juniors and seniors. You can reach out to your academic dean or your school’s Career Center to learn more. Read more about getting credit for your internship here.

How long is a typical internship?

Most internships last somewhere between 10 weeks and three months—or the duration of one semester or quarter. Many employers also base their internship schedule on the duration of school breaks, so it’s common to see internships that last for the duration of winter, spring, or summer break. An internship tends to be a one-time experience, but some students do take part in more than one internship at the same company. In this case, the internships may be scheduled for back-to-back semesters or over consecutive summers.

What is a remote internship?

A remote internship is an internship that can be done from anywhere. Given that the average US commute is over 26 minutes each way, it can save you time and money on transportation costs. Remote internships can provide real-world experience, with the bonus of increased flexibility and freedom. However, you won’t have as much social interaction, nor will you have as much direction. Still, for those who are self-motivated, a remote internship offers a great opportunity to get hands-on experience from the comfort of your couch.

Are there any other options in addition to internships?

We’re so glad you asked! While internships are the most popular options for hands-on work experience, you can check out our guides to externships and apprenticeships.