To clarify, I am not referring to clinical internships. If you are in a program like MFT or clinical psychology, your program and licensing has specific requirements for internship hours that of course you must meet. But I am talking about internships that are not fulfilling clinical hours, but instead are about getting experience in a non-university setting such as a research institution, non-profit organization, or government agency.
If you know that you want a career as a professor, then an internship may not be the best use of your time. The main accomplishments for acquiring a faculty position are relatively straightforward: publish; perhaps pursue funding, particularly if an R1 university is your dream job; perhaps get teaching experience, particularly if a more teaching-focused university is your dream job. The best use of your summers, in order to meet the goal of a tenure track faculty position, is to write.
The two main reasons why you should consider doing an internship are if you do not plan to go into an academic career, or if you do not yet know what type of career you want. Here are some benefits of doing an internship, whether summer or academic year, and whether paid or unpaid:
- Learn about a field/career: Most graduate students have a relatively strong sense of what it’s like to be a professor – you spend a lot of time with professors. However, for other careers, an internship can really help you get a sense of whether you are interested in that type of institution, and/or that type of position.
- Networking: Networking in general is helpful for anyone, but for faculty positions, networking rarely leads to a job materializing just for you. The availability of new tenure track positions generally relies on many factors out of the control of an individual faculty members (or department heads!) going all the way up to the provost. However, in many other organizations, networking can result in a fast track to a position. Internships are an excellent way to make those connections – I know many people who eventually secured a full time position at the place they did their internship.
- Gain transferable skills: Even if you do not eventually secure a job at your internship site, the skills you develop there will better position you for other alt-academic positions when you do go on the job market.
An important point to note about internships. Although some organizations advertise that they have internships available, not all do. If you are interested in a particular place for an internship, reach out and ask. It is helpful if you have some type of connection to someone at that organization, such as an alum of your program, a contact of your mentor, etc. Internships can be an excellent opportunity for setting yourself up for a future career outside of academia.
“Should you do an internship during graduate school? first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on May 21, 2019.”