By Kass Williams
Career Services Coordinator, APUS
and Rowe Leathers
Senior Career Coach, APUS
As a student, it’s imperative that you explore every resource available to help you cultivate employable skills, develop your knowledge base and bolster your candidacy for a job. A degree is a crucial stepping stone into a profession, but employers often desire applicants with more than a degree. Even for entry-level positions, employers will seek candidates with some relevant field experience and an understanding of the work environment.
Learn more about STEM degrees at American Public University.
Internships are excellent avenues through which you can bridge the gap between your degree and your first paid position in the field. Completing an internship post-graduation can be challenging, so getting a head start is imperative for students who seek work-based learning.
APUS now offers current university students in the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) the opportunity to complete an approved internship for academic credit. If you’re interested, you should first consider a few variables before applying, including COVID-19, your educational needs and your personal circumstances.
What Is an Internship?
An internship is a position in which a student or entry-level candidate works in a professional environment to gain the qualifications and experience required for a chosen career path. Keep in mind that an internship is not a job and is often unpaid. You may have to relocate for a few months, and you might receive a stipend to cover your expenses.
How COVID-19 Could Affect Your Internship Search
You might wonder, “How will I even land an internship in the midst of COVID-19?” Due to the pandemic, many employers have transitioned to providing virtual work environments, including for interns.
Of course, not every company has the resources to convert an in-person internship into a virtual one. To figure out who offers internships, research which industries are doing well right now — for example, healthcare — and see if there are any internship opportunities available for people with STEM degrees.
Virtual internships are extraordinarily convenient, not only in light of the pandemic, but also because they provide an alternative to those who cannot relocate. In a virtual internship, you gain project management, time management, communication and technical skills. In addition, you’ll develop professional contacts and build your network.
But conventional internships — whether virtual or in-person — are not for everyone. Luckily, there are other options for those who lack the educational, financial and physical requirements for conventional internships.
Micro-Internships and Volunteerism
A micro-internship is a short-term, often paid and project-based assignment. Rather than hiring you as an intern, an employer gives you a project to complete within a given amount of time. Micro-internships allow students and recent graduates to develop relationships, gain experience, and explore career paths while pursuing their degree or working.
In-person internships, virtual internships and micro-internships are designed with a rigid structure. If you seek the experience that an internship provides but desire more control, try volunteering. Volunteering for a company or non-profit will give you more flexibility in your schedule and workload. For STEM volunteer opportunities, check with your local library to volunteer in its media room.
Why You Should Take a STEM Internship
Whether you choose to take an internship or volunteer, you will gain the experience required to strengthen your candidacy for a job. But there are many other benefits to taking a STEM internship, including:
- Building your network
- Improving your resume
- Being offered a potential job after the internship’s completion
- Discovering whether or not you like working in the field
One of the best reasons to take an internship is to discover if you like the field. For STEM students, it’s worth exploring the turf, as you must possess a passion for technology to pursue a career in STEM. You might find that you hate it and want to pursue a new path — and even that is considered a successful outcome!
Getting Ready for a STEM Internship
Circumstances differ from student to student, so it is important to consider your educational, financial and physical limitations before applying for an internship. For instance, non-traditional students with families to support might find it difficult to relocate or accept an unpaid position. For those seeking virtual internships, a stable internet connection, computer and other office equipment is required.
Remember that internships are not courses in which you learn the basics. The employer expects you to possess the same rudimentary knowledge and skills as any other entry-level candidate. The internship listing will describe the required qualifications and experience for the position, so ensure you thoroughly read these sections and consider whether you qualify for the internship.
Before applying, think about these questions:
- Does an internship make sense for your circumstances?
- Do you have the required skills and knowledge?
- Are you willing to relocate, if needed?
- Are you financially able to work for little to no money?
- Do you need an internship to graduate?
- Are you equipped with the necessary tools for a virtual internship?
Contact Career Services for More Information about the STEM Internship or Career Help
Once you have decided which path is right for you, review our steps on how to apply for a STEM internship for university credit. To strengthen your candidacy for an internship, contact Career Services for a resume or social media review, interview preparation, and career advice.
About the Authors
Kass Williams serves as the Career Services Coordinator for APUS, employing her communication, editing and project management skills to support the Career Services Department with content creation. She holds a B.A. in English with a Writing Concentration from Davis & Elkins College.
Rowe Leathers is a graduate of San Jose State University and holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations with a minor in Psychology. Prior to coming to APUS, she held a position in Career Services with a trade school where she enjoyed performing all the various aspects of Career Services. She holds career counseling credentials as a GCDF and CCSP.
Ready When You Are
At American Public University, students are priority one. We are committed to providing quality education, superior student resources, and affordable tuition. In fact, while post-secondary tuition has risen sharply nationwide, the university continues to offer affordable tuition without sacrificing academic quality.