Internships are not just for college students, anyone is free to complete an internship at any time. People who have left education can undertake an internship as a route into a new career. The major difference is that students have more time than people with full-time jobs which is why the majority of people who do internships are students.
However, there are plenty of part-time internships available that have flexible hours to accommodate your schedule. So, people who have left education shouldn’t feel that internships are not an option. They open a lot of different avenues and give you relevant industry experience which you can then leverage into a new career.
Most top colleges push their students to do summer internships so that they have real-world experience by the time they graduate. There is a big hiring push for interns in the autumn months which declines over the rest of the year. It is true that some internships do require a degree and may only be looking for students, but there are plenty that will take people who have left school.
Are internships only for students?
Internships are not only for students, anyone at any age can pursue an internship to help with their career. The majority of internships are aimed at students because they have the time and resources to pursue a full-time internship. However, this doesn’t exclude people who have left education from joining a company as an intern. In fact, internships are a great way to switch careers as around 70% of companies offer roles to interns.
Students benefit from internships because it gives them experience before they leave university. Colleges also have close working relationships with a lot of employers which is particularly true in the tech industry. It means that college students often get pushed to the front of the queue for work placements.
However, it doesn’t exclude people who have left education from getting good short-term or summer work placements. It will be slightly more effort because you don’t have the support of a careers department and will have to contact employers directly. You also don’t have the luxury of meeting people face-to-face at career fairs or other networking opportunities. But the effort is worth it and can lead to experiencing in life-changing fields.
Many adults or young people who have left education assume that internships are not an option and are out of reach. However, this is not the case, internships are for everyone and you should consider one if you:
- Want to change careers
- Have taken a break from the workforce
- Are unemployed
- Want experience at a particular company
- Lack experience
If you are looking to change careers then an internship is the perfect option for you. It provides experience in the desired industry which you can leverage for a full-time job later on. It can also provide an insight into a particular industry before diving in with both feet.
Taking a break
People often leave the workforce temporarily to travel or care for family members. It can be difficult for stay-at-home parents to reenter the workforce after a decade out. An internship can help you reskill in a new profession and update you on changes in the industry.
It can be difficult to get onto the employment ladder if you have a large gap in your resume, regardless of whether you have a good reason. Internships are great for people who have been unemployed for a while and want to fill their resumes with current work experience. It also allows you to develop a skill set that is relevant or simply maintain skills you already have.
More than 70% of interns are eventually offered a role at the company they intern with. So getting your foot in the door at a particular company is a big win. If you have a particular company you want to work for, an internship is a perfect way to get to grips with the company values, work environment, and ethos. You also get access to the hiring managers and senior staff who will be deciding on your full-time role later on.
Lack of experience
Some people just don’t have enough experience in a particular field to be considered for a full-time role. The benefit of an internship is that it allows you to fill this skills gap and gain valuable experience. You don’t have to be a student to get an internship in the vast majority of industries, most are willing to take on people and give them experience.
Do you have to be a student to get an internship?
You don’t have to be a student to get an internship. There are thousands of employers across the United States who are set up to provide experience via internships. Companies benefit from using interns because they are a cheap way to find potential full-time employees.
Also, if you are looking to get into a trade, most of these have an apprentice scheme which is similar to an internship but for blue-collar jobs.
Your best bet with internships is to apply anyway. Design a well-crafted resume and cover letter, and submit your application. The worst thing that can happen is a company rejects you. In contrast, if you are invited in for an interview you can shine and show them your value.
If you have no college degree and no relevant experience in the industry, you could also look to volunteering to get some experience. Having anything relevant on your resume is a big advantage. Plus giving up one day of your weekend to help out somewhere reflects well in an interview and gives you a lot to talk about.
For software development, I would highly recommend having a personal portfolio of work to demonstrate to an employer. You don’t need to be a student or attend college to become a software engineer. But contributions to open-source projects or some successful freelance work will help you get your foot in the door for an internship or even a full-time role.
Why do internships require you to be a student?
Not all internships require you to be a student but many students do internships because it helps their chances of getting a job after college. There are plenty of internships available for people that didn’t go to college and want to gain relevant experience. Also, around 60% of internships are paid positions so people with financial responsibilities can still do one and afford to pay their bills.
A lot of companies like hiring student interns because it gives them access to a pool of graduates who they then hire once they graduate.
It can be demotivating to see an internship listing require you to be a student or a recent graduate. However, don’t be dissuaded. There are plenty of internships and employers who are willing to accept you.
But why do a lot of internships require you to be a student? There are a few reasons why it’s so common.
A lot of companies require their employees to have a degree. There is an underlying belief that people who completed college have demonstrated initiative and the ability to work hard.
Internships are an early screening mechanism for full-time work. It makes sense to set being a student as a requirement if that is what you expect your employees to have. If students apply from top universities then half of your screening criteria are already met, it’s a win-win for employers.
External recruiters cost thousands of dollars. You have to pay them a portion of the person’s salary on successful completion of a probation period. Getting current students as interns lowers your long-term recruitment costs. Even if they don’t end up working for you, they can spread the word which reduces the need for external recruitment companies.
Students interact with a lot of different cohorts at their colleges. The news of a good internship spreads fast.
Simple and self-sustaining
Getting a student internship program up and running can be a lot of work. However, once it is off the group is relatively simple and maintains itself. Previous interns eventually oversee the program and bring in new candidates. The cycle continues almost endlessly because of the new academic year and the need to find internships.
Most colleges have internship supervisors who oversee students when they work during the summer or for over a year. With this comes some level of quality assurance from the university, as companies always have someone to contact if any troubles arise.
Also, if you are taking on students from top colleges, there is some guarantee of quality. They are likely to perform well academically and work hard.
Depending on the state some businesses receive subsidies for employing an intern. Some of these subsidies require that the person is a student or currently enrolled in college. As part of these agreements, it is sometimes a legal requirement that the candidate is actively enrolled in education.
However, these government subsidies don’t just exist for students. There are a lot of internship programs funded by the government specifically for non-students.
Can you get an internship without being a student?
You can get an internship without being a student but it is more difficult and will require extra effort on your part. Many internships are specifically designed for current students but here are also opportunities available for recent graduates, career changers, or individuals looking to gain work experience in a particular field.
If you want to get an internship without being a student, you should:
- Use online job boards: Websites like Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn often list internships that are open to non-students.
- Network: Reach out to friends, family, and acquaintances in your desired industry and ask if they know of any internship opportunities. Attend industry events and conferences to meet professionals and learn about potential opportunities.
- Research: Look for companies in your desired industry that offer internships to non-students. Check their websites or reach out to them directly to inquire about any available opportunities.
- Volunteer: Some organizations offer volunteer positions that can provide valuable experience in your desired field. This could lead to a paid internship or job opportunity down the line. Make sure to do your homework on these opportunities and not get taken advantage of.
- Create your own internship: If you have a specific skill or interest, consider approaching a company or organization and proposing an internship that you would create and manage yourself.
It’s important to note that internships for non-students may have different requirements and qualifications than those designed for current students, so be sure to read the job descriptions carefully and tailor your application accordingly.
Nathan Britten, the founder and editor of Developer Pitstop, is a self-taught software engineer with nearly five years of experience in front-end technologies. Nathan created the site to provide simple, straightforward knowledge to those interested in technology, helping them navigate the industry and better understand their day-to-day roles.