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What is an internship?

An internship, whether paid or unpaid, is a short-term work experience in a professional setting that provides you with a combination of training, supervision, and evaluation. It gives you the chance to apply what you have learned in the classroom, gain valuable experience and skills, and make connections in a professional field you are interested in.  Internships can vary by industry and even from one organization to another.  However, one important characteristic that makes any internship worthwhile is that it is a learning opportunity that is mutually beneficial to both the intern and the employer.

Why are internships important?

In today’s competitive job market, an internship is just one more step in creating a well-rounded portfolio of experiences that will give you a competitive edge in the job market. Some additional benefits of completing an internship include:

  • Gaining new skills and creating professional contacts.
  • Exploring career interests without making a long-term commitment to a position or field.
  • Clarifying your interests, skills, and career goals.
  • Establishing a relationship with a company or organization that might be inclined to hire you after graduation.
  • Reshaping your academic interests and worldview.

When should you do an internship?

The answer to that question depends on where you are in your career planning process.  While some students are ready to pursue their first internships during the summer after their first year, other students choose to spend their first year of college exploring and narrowing their career interests.  Some career paths might require students to take advantage of other summer experiences instead of internships (i.e. conducting research).  A good rule of thumb is to aim to secure internship opportunities during the summers after both your sophomore and junior years. 

How can you prepare yourself?

  1. Do your research to target your search: You wouldn’t go on a summer vacation without researching and planning out your trip first.  The same applies to your internship search.  You can save yourself a lot of headaches down the line by devoting time to answering the following questions prior to beginning your search:
    • What career field(s) or position(s) are you interested in exploring this upcoming summer?
    • What do you already know about the field(s) or position(s) you are interested in, and what do you need to learn?
    • What sort of environment would you like work in?
    • Where do you want to be geographically during your internship?
    • What is the timeline/deadline for applying for internships in your field of interest?  *Remember, some industries and competitive internship programs start recruiting summer interns during the fall semester.
    • How much money do you need to support yourself over the summer?  Do you need to look for paid opportunities? *Please read the standards outlined in the Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act for more information on compensation for interns at for-profit companies.  Also, if you decide to apply for unpaid internships, you can find out more about Amherst College’s internship funding program here.
  2. Craft a resume or perfect an existing one: Take a look at the Resume Guide for tips on how to creating an effective resume.  You can also meet with a Peer Career Advisor (PCA) to get one-on-one resume counseling.  If you do not have a lot of work experience prior to internship search, don’t worry; extracurricular and volunteer activities count as experience, too!
  3. Schedule an appointment with an advisor: When you are ready to start preparing to apply for internship opportunities, schedule an appointment through Handshake with an advisor in the Loeb Center for help with crafting your resume and cover letters and for one-on-one internship advising.

Where can you find internships?

  1. Utilize your network or build one: Keep in mind that almost 70 percent of internships are not posted anywhere, which means that an effective strategy is to contact individuals in your own existing network of family, friends, professors or previous co-workers to ask about potential internships.  If you find that your existing network does not yield many leads on internships you would be interested in pursuing, you can expand your network through one or more of the following options:
    • The Amherst College Alumni Directory: The alumni directory is a powerful networking tool, as you can use the directory to find Amherst alumni who work in industries or at organizations of interest to you. Please refer to the Connecting with Alumni and Informational Interview handouts to learn how to appropriately make contact.
    • LinkedInLinkedIn is a career networking site you can use to connect with other professionals, companies and organizations.  Unlike social media platforms, LinkedIn is solely for enhancing your professional online presence and image, and, therefore, has some norms and tips you need to follow. This Networking handout can guide you through how to set up your LinkedIn profile and make your initial connections.
  2. Search through the online internship resources made available to you through the Loeb Center

The Loeb Center posts internships and jobs in the Handshake database.  Before you can apply for positions through the database, you must have your resume approved for uploading by either a Peer Career Advisor (PCA) or a Loeb Center career advisor.  You can use Handshake just like you would any other search engine and also see a list and RSVP to career-specific panels, workshops, and informational sessions.

The Association of Amherst Students Career Exploration Database is a searchable listing of actual summer experiences as reported by Amherst students. The database is searchable by year, major, internship name/employer, and industry. It also contains information on the quality of the internship.

*If you would like your previous summer experiences to be added to the directory, complete this form to have your information added!

4. You can also consider searching the following websites for internship opportunities:


Engage in an interactive job-fit assessment, discover and apply for jobs that are a fit for your strengths and passions, and get feedback on your application and areas for improvement.


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