How do I Choose the Best Engineering Internship?

Jennifer Voight

When choosing an engineering internship, it’s important for a student to consider positions compatible with the desired engineering specialization and focus on positions that are within that field. Ultimate career goals factor into this decision, as well. The internship that combines skills and experiences most desired by employers with the skills and experience most desired by the student should be the best fit.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

A university career center is typically the best place to start in locating an engineering internship. Counselors can help a student evaluate skills and experience and focus efforts on the best fitting opportunities. Career counselors may be aware of positions before other sources and can help a student through the application process.

Since an engineering internship can help a student stand out from applicants with similar education backgrounds, students should consider companies with outstanding reputations in the field. Large companies with easily recognized names can command more respect than smaller companies when listed on a resume, especially if the intern would like a full-time position after graduation with that company. Yet, sometimes smaller companies may be a more attractive option if the position gives an intern more responsibility than an engineering internship at a larger company.

Personal work preferences can affect internship choice. For instance, a civil engineer may spend much time in an office doing research and doing drawings on a computer. At other times, a civil engineer may spend time on work sites. An engineering student who would rather have hands-on work experience would be better off choosing a fieldwork experience over a design experience if that reflects personal aspirations.

Geographic location should be an important factor to consider when choosing an engineering internship. Since most internship positions do not pay high wages, it may be difficult to afford living expenses, especially in areas with a high cost of living. Positions closer to home may be a better fit if an intern can live with family members to save on living expenses and rent.

Students should beware any positions that do not pay a wage. Engineering is not usually a field that requires students to intern for free. A company that offers free internships is in danger of violating the law. There are very strict government regulations in many countries that companies must follow to qualify for free internships.

Still, many companies vary greatly in wages offered to interns. Students should not make internship decisions based solely on wages. More important are the networking opportunities in the field, chance to develop job-related skills, and engineering experience that the position offers. Salary should not be an important consideration until after graduation, when obtaining a full-time, long-term position.

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