13 October 2023

Software Engineering Internships: What You Need To Know

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If you’re looking into jobs with high-growth and high-earning potential, you’ve probably come across software engineering. So what better way to kick-start your software engineering career (and get that all-important head start) than with an internship?

What is software engineering?

Software engineers develop applications that enables users to complete tasks on computers and all other electronic devices. Who created the apps on your phone? A software engineer. 

The work of other engineers is often a lot more obvious. Take civil engineers for example, they build bridges and roads. It’s quite hard not to notice a bridge when you walk past it; you look up and think, ‘Wow, that’s a big-ass bridge’. Mechanical engineers design and build cars.

Their handiwork is everywhere.

Software engineers’ work is invisible, it’s hidden beneath the screen and inside your phone. And yet, we interact with their work everyday, everywhere. They are very much responsible for the digital age.

Most software engineers have degrees in computer science or, in strange cases, software engineering. It’s also not uncommon for individuals to move into software engineering from other IT-related degrees. 

So, what do software engineers do on a day-to-day basis?

  • Preparing and installing solutions by designing system standards 
  • Documenting solutions through the development of flowcharts, diagrams, charts, code etc.
  • Recommend purchases
  • Testing and subsequently approving products 
  • Maintaining personal networks
  • Designing software solutions by conferring with users
  • Providing pertinent data through collection, analysis and development

Software engineering is just one of the careers available to you if you’re looking to pursue an IT-related field. You could become a Data Detective, a job that involves a lot of running and undercover keyboard work.

Getting work experience in software engineering

There are three types of work experience available to undergraduates – placements, internships and insights. Undergraduate work experience comes in threes – like sneezes. 

Each is as exciting as the last, and all are great opportunities to get some top-drawer experience during your studies.

Below is a breakdown of each type of scheme…

Software engineering internships

FOR: All students
DURATION: 1-3 months

The majority of software engineering internships take place during the summer. It’s a busy period for interns. Just as it is for ice cream vans. 

A student internship is not just a great addition to your CV, it’s an opportunity to find out what it’s really like to work as a software engineer. Think of it like watching a trailer for a film, before you stream it online. 

Interns do real work too. IT and tech companies don’t hire students to sort paperclips and keep an eye on the printer ink levels.

During a software engineering internship, you will have the opportunity to work alongside experienced professionals, and see first-hand what they do on a day-to-day basis.

Software engineering placements

FOR: 2nd years
DURATION: 5-13 months

A student placement, industrial placement, or wonderfully-named sandwich placement is the most extensive type of work experience you can get at university. 

They last a full academic year and take place in between the penultimate and final year of a degree. Placement students essentially get a job for a year, then return to university to finish their degree.

It means that they graduate with professional work experience, as well as a degree.

Insight schemes

FOR: 1-10 days
DURATION: 1st years

Insight schemes are designed to give students a peek (or insight) into the inner workings of an industry or particular company. They are the shortest term of work experience available to undergraduates, and are primarily aimed at first years. 

It might seem a bit early to be thinking about work experience. You’ve just arrived at university. Your first year is all about making friends and getting lost looking for lecture halls.

It’s never too early, however, to be thinking about your future career. And choosing a career while you’re still at university is no picnic. There are so many different options! It’s even harder than trying to choose something to watch on Netflix.

Choosing a career can be similar. Getting an insight into what it’s like to be a software engineer or to work in a similar role will help you decide if it’s the right path for you. 

How much will you be paid?

The average salary for internships and placements in the IT sector is £19,292. That’s based on reviews submitted by former placement students and interns last year. In fact, IT students get paid (on average) more than undergraduates in other subject areas.

According to PayScale, the average pay for software engineering professionals is £39,566. Don’t spend it all at once, unless you’re buying Nutella.   

Of course, salaries can vary from company to company, and region to region, but the figures show good earning potential for software engineering students in the UK. 

Which companies offer software engineering internships?

A mighty question. You might be surprised to discover the range of companies that offer work experience in software engineering and software development. 

It’s not just the big IT and tech organisations that are looking for fledgling software engineers. All prominent banking, professional services and media companies have IT departments. If you’re dubious, just look below…