An internship is an opportunity offered by an employer to college students who temporarily work with a company during the college semester or summer break. Semester and summer internships can both be completed for a school credit, but they don’t have to be.

Benefitting both the student and employer, internships are a great opportunity to gain experience, work alongside people who are at the top in their fields and make valuable connections. Companies in nearly every industry hire interns every year, and although employment isn’t guaranteed at the end, internships bridge the gap between school and the professional world.

Deciding whether to do an internship during the semester or summer (or both) can be difficult. Here are some pros and cons to consider.

Semester Internship Pros. Interning during the semester creates a structured schedule and shows employers that you are serious about your career and can handle many things at once. Also, you’re able to apply the knowledge and skills you are learning in the classroom to your work during the internship.

If you’re interested in an internship that is very popular among applicants, a semester internship could work in your favor. They tend to be less competitive, with fewer applicants than summer, and offer a more flexible application deadline.

Semester Internship Cons. Semester internships can be a bit of juggling act with classes, homework and interning. If you plan to attend classes on campus while you intern, your options could be limited to local internships.

On the other hand, considering an internship off-campus or out-of-state might require serious academic planning. For instance, if there’s a class you’re required to take to graduate and it’s only offered in the spring, you probably want to take the class over an internship so you’re not waiting an extra year. If you decide to go this route, consult with your academic advisor about your class schedule and on whether or not missing the semester will delay graduation.

Summer Internship Pros. If you’re too busy for an internship during the school semester, then summer is perfect for you. Many companies strictly look for summer interns. So if there’s a company or a position you’re looking into, apply several months in advance to snatch the opportunity.

A summer internship may continue throughout the academic year. They also prepare you for the upcoming school year and give experience that is often required to secure a fall internship. By the time school starts, you’ll be ahead of the curve and ready to dive back into the fall semester.

Summer Internship Cons. An internship can keep you busy, so if you’re planning on studying abroad or soaking up some well-needed relaxation by the pool or beach, a summer internship might not be for you. Since summer is when most students have the longest breaks from classes, these internships are more competitive than semester and often have a stricter application deadline.

Before deciding on a summer internship, make sure you understand your college internship guidelines. Some colleges require tuition in order for a student to receive a college credit. In some cases, however, a college might allow you to roll the credit over into the fall semester. Another key factor to consider is a paid vs. unpaid internship. If the internship is unpaid, make sure it will not leave you incurring some debt over the summer break.

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