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What is an internship?

A paid internship or work placement gives students the opportunity to work at a company with the intention of learning new skills and gaining experience in a particular industry. Interns get the opportunity to work alongside industry professionals, picking up skills that they can apply to their future careers. Graduate internships also offer candidates the opportunity to get a feel of an industry or sector without having to commit to a long-term contract.

There are three different types of internships:

  • Work Shadowing - Work Shadow interns follow one or more members of a team throughout their day-to-day routine, allowing them to learn from top industry professionals.
  • Vacation Schemes - These are offered by some of the larger Management, Financial, and Accountancy firms. They act as training programmes and as a way for firms to assess candidates for future roles within the company. These schemes also give candidates the opportunity to see if the company is right for them.
  • Work Placements - Work Placements are often part of a degree programme. They tend to be available in fields like Finance, Consultancy, Marketing, and Management. Work placements are designed to give students a taste for working life in their chosen profession, and help add to a more well-rounded education whilst at university. Help finding a work placement is often available at your university or student union.

The length of internships can vary, usually work placements are run over a fixed length of time, typically a number of weeks or months. Smaller companies such as retail businesses or media agencies typically offer shorter internships, often for assistance on a specific project or range. A work shadow opportunity may only last one to two weeks owing to the type of role that is being shadowed, while work placements tend to be for a more set six to twelve month period.

Most graduate internships and work placements do not have a contract or long-term commitment, allowing graduate interns to negotiate length and working hours to suit them. Many are flexible enough to work around a class schedule for students still working on their degree.

How do I get an Internship?

Prep your materials

Update your CV, prepare your covering letter, and assemble any supporting documents you may have for you applications such as references, a portfolio, or links to online articles. Be concise, and showcase your best work.


The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development recommends companies offer internships like they would any other full-time job, and many do, with a recruitment process similar to a job application. You can view many postings on our Internships board.

Build on Current Contacts

Because internships are less formal than jobs, students and graduates have the option to reach out to current contacts to see if employers need any help, or if there are internship opportunities available.

Cold Calling/Emailing

If you don't have any contacts in the field you are aiming to get into, you may want to consider calling or emailing a company you are interested in to inquire about opportunities. Make sure you are clear and concise in your communication, and be ready to pitch an idea for an internship if they do not have any set up. Employers may be impressed by your initiative.

Follow up

No matter which route you choose, be sure to call or email with a follow up. Be polite, and let your passion for the work come through. Persistence and enthusiasm pay off.

Why choose an Internship?

Employers love former interns, with over half of employers surveyed by High Fliers stating they were not at all likely or not very likely to employ somebody without experience, irrespective of academic credentials.

Likelihood of Graduates with no experience

The popularity of graduate internships shows employers' preference for a try-before-you-buy approach to candidates, with 14,058 on offer, an increase of more than 6% on the previous year. It is estimated that more than half of all students being employed in that year already had experience with that employer.

Likelihood that Graduates with no Work Experience would get a job offer

Career progression is something that internships are designed to develop. Some interns are offered full-time employment after their internship, though this is not always the case. Graduate internships also ease the transition between the lecture hall and the full-time workplace, allowing a candidate to experience office etiquette and know what is expected of them.

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