Student Internships: The Pros And Cons

Student Internships: The Pros And Cons

Internships. It’s a buzzword you’ll hear throughout your studies on university campuses and at career expos, and for good reason. In a world where landing your dream job is no easy task, internships are often a pathway to professional success. Read further to discover the pros and cons of internships, how to find them and how to make the most of them.

What Is An Internship?

An internship is an opportunity for hands-on, short-term, practical experience that gives you a taste of the real-world work environment. It's a chance to get entry level work experience in your chosen industry, gain valuable skills, and make connections that can jump-start your career.

The difference between employment and an internship is that internships are temporary positions, usually part of a structured programme, designed to provide you with learning experience. Unlike regular jobs, they focus on training and development. They usually offer a stipend rather than a salary. You can think of an internship as a foot in the door – an opportunity to discover your future career path, where you will learn under the guidance of experienced colleagues.

Types Of Internships

There are various types of internships on offer in South Africa. In South Africa It is the norm for internships to be paid, although sometimes that payment may be no more than a stipend that covers travel and subsistence costs. The following internships are available:

Private Internships:

Some companies offer fixed term internships where graduates are given the opportunity to gain much needed experience. In order to find out what is on offer, you could attend career fairs and industry events, or even join professional organisations that provide networking opportunities. To help you choose direction, it’s useful to be know the kind of jobs that are most in demand.

SETA Internships:

Often called learnerships, the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) is a formal government programme which places graduates in fixed-term positions in relevant industries. These internships provide skills development through work experience which aligns with specific qualifications.

Government Internships:

The South African government at both national and provincial levels offers a range of internships in the public sector.

Virtual Internships:

This is a growing option in an age of digital connectivity and allows for greater global opportunities for graduates, as location is no longer a factor.

Breaking Down The Pros And Cons Of Internships For Students

There Are Many Benefits Of Internships. They Include:

  • Hands-on learning:
    • Internships provide the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge in a real-world setting.
    • You learn from professionals and gain practical skills that you can’t get through books.
  • Networking opportunities:
    • Internships provide the perfect platform to build connections within your industry.
    • You'll meet professionals, mentors and fellow interns who could become future colleagues or even help open doors to job opportunities.
  • Enhance your CV:
    • Having practical internship experience on your CV sets you apart from the competition.
    • A completed internship on your CV shows your commitment to your chosen field.
  • Industry exposure:
    • You will gain invaluable insights into the day-to-day operations of your chosen industry.
    • You’ll have the opportunity to get real life, first-hand understanding of the challenges experienced in your industry.
  • Reflect on your career path:
    • Internships help you decide if a particular industry or job is right for you.

The Drawbacks Of Internships Can Include:

  • Financial challenges:
    • Internships are generally not well paid, which can put a strain on you financially.
  • Time constraints:
    • Balancing an internship with further studies and other commitments can be challenging.
  • Insecure employment opportunities: :
    • An internship is no guarantee of a permanent job offer in the future.
  • Limited responsibility:
    • Some internships can involve mostly menial tasks that might not make use of your qualification.
  • Competition:
    • Securing an internship can be competitive. You may face many rejections, but it’s worthwhile to persevere.

How To Get The Most Out Of An Internship

  • Choose carefully: Research companies and industries that align with your career goals.
  • Be proactive: Don't wait around for tasks to be given to you. Take the initiative and ask for more responsibilities. Actively seek out learning opportunities.
  • Network: Attend company events and connect with professionals. Building relationships can lead to job offers.
  • Reflect and learn: Regularly assess your progress and identify areas for improvement. Get feedback from mentors and supervisors on areas that need development.
  • Use available resources: Make the most of any training or other resources offered by the company.

How To Find The Right Internship

  • Use online platforms, university career services and networking events to find potential internships.
  • Research companies thoroughly to ensure their principles align with yours.
  • Visit your university’s career services office for help with your CV and interview preparation.
  • Attend career expos and workshops to grow your network.
  • Reach out to family, friends or acquaintances who may have connections and who could make personal recommendations.
  • Customise your CV and covering letter for each internship application. Highlight relevant skills and experiences that make you a preferred candidate.

About The IIE’s Varsity College

The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) of which Varsity College is a brand, is South Africa’s largest registered and accredited private provider of higher education. At Varsity College we understand that no two students are the same or learn the same. That’s why we make sure a student’s education is shaped around them; how they like to learn, what they are passionate about, what makes them tick, and what makes them thrive. Our Education by Design approach allows students to grow into their best, and creates a space where they can live, learn and play – their way.