An introduction to internships
Internships are a period of paid work experience that last anywhere between one and four months, usually taking place during the summer. An intern works full time for an employer to get experience in a particular sector, or to find out what it is like to work for a specific company.
They provide undergraduates with an insight into different areas of the professional environment, including:
- Company culture
- Company values and vision
- Operating high tech software and equipment
- Working for a small, medium-size or large organisation
- Collaborating across different teams
Employers organise schemes to spot future talent and potential candidates for their graduate roles.
That was a pleasant introduction. Keep reading to find out why you should really consider getting some professional work experience before you finish university...
"59% of graduate hires from companies in RateMyPlacement's Top Undergraduate Employers last year were students that had completed an internship or placement year during their degree."
Top Internship Jobs
So how can you acquire work experience during the summer holidays? Apply for an internship!
What is an internship?
Student internships are designed for undergraduates, and take place during the wondrous summer months in between university semesters. These schemes are primarily aimed at 2nd and 3rd year students who are halfway through their degree.
The competition for the best internship programmes is frightening. In 2017/18, there was an average of 51 applications for a single internship place across all sectors.
‘But why?’ you ask, with excitement of a squirrel that has just discovered nuts for the first time. ‘Why are they so important?’
As we previously quoted, a huge 59% of graduate hires from companies in the Top Undergraduate Employers last year were students that had completed an internship or placement during their undergraduate degree.
Getting work experience as an undergraduate is now essential to securing your dream graduate job. To put it simply, doing an internship while you’re at university will spectacularly increase your career prospects and put you ahead of your peers.
Intern in the Summer
Placement students work for up to a year and these schemes tend to form part of an undergraduate degree. Shorter work experience opportunities like undergraduate internships, insights and vacation schemes are much more flexible, though many students will start these schemes during the summer. They usually last from a month to anything up to 6 months.
You can find short-term and summer work experience opportunities in industries like fashion, marketing, finance, engineering, law and banking; many of which are open to undergraduates studying any degree (provided you’re on track for a certain grade).
Bound over to our industry pages for in-depth guides to a wide-range of sectors.Industries & Job Sectors
Why should I do an internship?
The Institute of Student Employers have reported that in 2018, there was an average of 41 applications for each graduate job. Competition is ferocious. It’s like shopping in Sainsbury’s when Nutella is 70% off - wild fighting in the aisles.
To be successful in your graduate employment search, you need to stand out from the 41 other people who are applying for a job. Interning for an employer is that special something on your CV that will make you stand out. Finding professional work experience as an undergraduate will give you a competitive advantage over your rival candidates.
Interns work alongside highly-experienced professionals and key figures within an organisation for a period of up to sixteen weeks. The people you get to know on a student internship can be powerful contacts when it comes to looking for graduate jobs, or for future references.
Flora from floor five, Mark from Marketing or even that strange chap that you always bump into in the toilets might be an incredible useful contact that will help you in your later career.
That’s not to mention all the friends you’ll make. You’ll probably not be the only intern working for a company, and there are bound to be many social opportunities when you join a new workplace. Perhaps your colleagues play sports together, or attend a dance class on a weekly basis. The nightlife of the area you’re working in might be ‘cracking’.
It’s these relationship building skills that can lead to future success.
Test-drive Your Future Career
An internship is the best way of getting inside knowledge of company, and finding out what it is like to work in a particular sector. Think of it as like test-driving a career.
A career is quite a commitment. When you choose a particular career path, or join a particular company, you are essentially committing anywhere between 12 months to 40 years of your life to that career.
Yes, you can change jobs, retire early or quit and start a company that hires out sofas for very reasonable prices. However, it’s in your best interest to test-drive a company or a profession. Gather as much information as you can before making important decisions that will affect your future.
Put Theory into Practice
University degrees tend to be theory based, focusing on research projects rather than the practical applications in a professional environment.
An internship will be an opportunity for you to put this theory into practice. An opportunity to transfer what you have learned at university, and apply it to a real work situation.
More and more graduates are leaving university without the skills, knowledge or experience required for the jobs they’re applying for, and sometimes even for the jobs they’ve secured! This is a nightmare for the employer, and not a picnic for the student either.
Internships help bridge the gap between working towards a degree and working in a professional environment. It’s why employers love graduates that have completed an internship.
We Believe In Paid Internships
We believe that any company offering undergraduate placements and internships should always pay its interns a fair salary. After all, during work experience you effectively become a company employee. It’s only fair that you're rewarded like any other worker.
Most companies now pay interns a decent wage. In fact, given the increasing importance of placements and paid internships for businesses when it comes to finding the next intake of graduates and employees, a lot of employers are offering more competitive salaries than ever before with lots of perks included.
How much are interns paid?
Based on the reviews submitted by thousands of interns on RateMyPlacement, we worked out that the average student salary in 2019 was £18,361. As if the experience you gain on one of these programmes isn't exciting enough, you’ll earn enough money to buy a new pair of Converse!
The reviews also revealed that the lowest average salary was £14,990 (Northern Ireland), while the highest was £22,992 in London. Internships in the capital tend to pay more than similar schemes in other parts of the UK because the cost of living is higher. There are also larger companies, so competition for the best talent is fierce.
You can see a full breakdown of the average wage offered by employers for undergraduate internships on the right.
Internships in the UK
There are summer internships available across the UK. Employers are everywhere, so if you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you can definitely get work experience with a fantastic company.
UK internships tend not to differ much from each other. The entry requirements and applications processes depend on the company rather than the region. If you’re looking for work experience in a specific region in the UK, you can filter your job search on RateMyPlacement to check if there are opportunities in that area.
Remember, international organisations have offices and branches all over the UK; whether you live on the coast, in unexplored forest or even in a cave in the Isles of Scilly, employers are hiring interns near you.
Internships in 2020: Deadlines for your Diary
When do I need to start applying?
Many of the work experience placement schemes for students we advertise on RateMyPlacement run from September through to August, with most of the internships in the UK actually taking place during the summer months. Don't leave it until April or May to start applying because you'll find yourself struggling. This is usually too close to a jobs’ start date so you won’t find many roles to apply to.
Some of the companies such as PwC, EY and Deloitte advertise all year long (from September through to August) for their UK work experience programmes. As you can imagine, they receive more applications than China’s Got Talent, so make sure you get your application in early and make it stand out.
Where can I start my search?
Sign up with RateMyPlacement, and we will send you alerts when new opportunities in your field of interest come available. There’s more… If you make an account, you can shortlist jobs that make you think, ‘Ooh, that looks like a fantastic opportunity’, and we’ll let you know when the application deadline is approaching. We also advertise many roles on social media.
So if you’re looking for an internship with one of the UK’s biggest companies, enter your email address below.