Internships 101

Should I Intern if I’m in an Associate’s Program?

If you’re on your way to earning your associate’s degree, you may be wondering whether you should be pursuing internships that will help you land an entry-level job upon graduation. Generally speaking, paid and unpaid internships are a great way to bolster your resume and coupled with an associate’s degree, internships can show employers that you’re a hard worker and someone who they would potentially want on their team. However, there are other things to take into account when deciding whether to intern while in an associate’s program such as your other time commitments and financial circumstances.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you make your decision.

Do you have time to take on additional commitments?

The main thing to consider when you’re thinking about seeking internships while earning your associate’s degree is whether you’ll be able to balance your current academic workload and other obligations with the time requirements of an internship. To get a sense of whether an internship will fit into your schedule, it’s important to understand the time commitments a typical internship requires. Most spring and fall internships last the length of an average semester and expect interns to work 10-20 hours per week. Summer internships may last longer and/or require more hours — typically, summer internships ask applicants for a 20-40-hour commitment each week. In order to decide whether this is something you’d be able to to do, make a list of all of your time commitments during the semester, including classes, study time, extracurriculars and other jobs. Once you have a clear picture of how much time is taken up by your academic and day-to-day commitments, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about taking on additional work.

Do you need an income to sustain yourself while getting your degree?

Paid and unpaid internships may factor into your decision to pursue an internship while working toward your associate’s degree. For example, while you may not be able to take an internship without compensation, perhaps you can find one that will offset your financial needs and allow you to focus on gaining professional experience rather than just earning money as you work toward graduation with your degree.

Can you earn college credit through your internship?

As in many four-year programs, plenty of colleges and universities offering associate’s degrees allow students to earn credits toward graduation by doing an internship. And since you can often replace classwork with internship hours, your internship doesn’t have to distract from your schoolwork. If your associate’s degree program allows you to substitute an internship for regular coursework, you can take advantage of the opportunity to double down on earning credits while exploring all the benefits internships can offer.

Since job candidates with associate’s degrees are often competing for entry-level jobs with graduates of four-year programs — many of whom will have also done internships — it’s a hugely useful step up to have completed an internship along with your program. These internships will bolster your studies with experience and a widened skill set, and will help you exercise the professional abilities you’ll need for entry-level jobs. In addition, internships will also increase your professional network, meaning that you’ll come into contact with people in your field who may be able to recommend, or even hire, you for entry-level jobs after you graduate with an associate’s degree.

By weighing out the different factors involved and getting a clear sense of your own situation, you’ll be able to decide whether interning while in associate’s program is right for you.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What to Do After You Get a Job Offer and find answers to common interview questions such as What Motivates You?