How Important Are Internships Really? | Top Universities

How Important Are Internships Really?

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Stephanie Lukins

Updated Apr 20, 2021



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Sponsored by City, University of London

On top of studying for assignments and exams, and your extracurricular activities, the last thing on your mind while you’re at university is likely to be the possibility of more work. But what if you knew it could improve your employment prospects, pay you a real wage, improve your network connections, and show you how a professional workplace operates?

Mandatory and optional internships and work placements are built into the curriculum for many degree programs, particularly those of a vocational nature. But they’re not offered by every university. To find out what a placement can offer you in the long-run, we’ve teamed up with City, University of London.  

A real hard start

When considering where to study it’s a good idea to look at whether the courses you’re interested in offer placements or internships which can help enhance your knowledge and understanding of working in industry.

For those who are interested in pursuing professions in the healthcare sector such as nursing, midwifery and other health allied subjects, you’ll find that clinical work placements are an integral part of the curriculum to ensure you gain the knowledge and skills required for practicing once you graduate.

Internships are also a great way to stand out from the competitive job market after you graduate – something which Kishan, a BSc International Political Economy student at City realized when he undertook a full-time internship at management consultancy firm, Evalucom during the summer of 2019. This internship, based in London, was arranged for him via City’s Micro-Placements Program.

“They [employers] want real-life experience and that is why I chose to do a Micro-Placement, so that I could improve the strength of my application when I apply for graduate schemes later on in the year,” explained Kishan.

“We have entered a time where getting a job for people our age is becoming increasingly more competitive and job security is much worse than it used to be. A Micro-Placement is a really good way for you to stand out from the crowd.”

City’s Micro-Placement Program which launched in 2016, has gone on to help almost 2,000 students secure placements with a wide range of London-based employers – including those in the public sector, law, information technology services, publishers, as well as educational consultancy.

It’s what employers want and need

Globalization means the world’s economy and business landscape is evolving at a rapid pace, and as a result, businesses and employers are in desperate need of those who have the knowledge, skills and proven capabilities of working in such settings.

Internships offer a valuable insight into industry. Research by High Fliers in 2017 found over half of graduate recruiters warned that graduates who had “no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer for their organizations’ graduate programs.”

In addition, 87 percent of respondents to the ISE Development Survey 2018 “agreed that students who had completed an internship or placement had better skills than those who did not have this experience.”

“I feel more prepared going to job interviews and applying to graduate schemes, as I now have more relevant examples to talk about,” said Kishan.

“I also feel like I am a lot more confident, and I better understand what employers look for in new graduates, which will give me a better chance of securing the job I want for next year.”

A real learning curve

While many placements which are built into a degree program are essentially a full-time paid job for 12 months, shorter internships still offer the same benefits when it comes to enhancing your transferable skills and developing your technical know-how of the industry.

City has an Integrated Professional Training Program for most of its undergraduate courses, enabling students to extend their degree to four years by taking a break from their studies at the end of second year to work in industry for a year. It also offers professional pathways in its undergraduate computer science programs which allow students to work and study at the same time.

And they definitely aren’t what you see in the movies – so there’s no need to worry about being asked to carry out menial tasks such as stuffing envelopes, doing the coffee run, or taking telephone messages for your manager.

Much of Kishan’s internship involved working on the procurement side of the business where he was part of a project that was aiming to secure a public contract with the NHS. You can see for yourself how Kishan got on with his internship in the video below.

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