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Internships are an incredible way to gain experience and insight into industry while you are still in school. Read on to discover why internships are so valuable to your career.
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Internships early in your career expose you to the reality that industry operates completely differently than the academic world. You’ll learn how to operate in a professional workplace both technically and socially.
The social element of an internship is just as important as the technical. You’ll have to learn how to write a resume, apply for a job and pass an interview. You may learn how to politely decline an offer. When you are employed you’ll be spending 40 hours a week with your co-workers and you’ll have to learn to get along with them. You will learn office etiquette such as don’t microwave fish in the break room, sometimes you’re the one who needs to refill the coffee maker and how to be polite in the office even when there is a disagreement. You may even have to give a briefing or two.
Your technical education will likely be based on the application of an academic technique to the real world. This could the implementation of an algorithm on a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) or using a software radio such as GNU Radio. You learn how to use new equipment such as signal generators, spectrum analyzers or other bench-top equipment.
Warning! There can be too much worry about internships, especially with the belief that there is a magical internship out there that will set your career up for success the rest of your life. Relax. No one internship will make or break your career. Apply, take the best internship offer you have, and allow yourself to grow into your career. These things take time.
As a Master's Student
Internships still have incredible value when you are a masters student, although less students seem to seek these opportunities out. Internships as a master’s student will give you all the benefits of those done at the undergraduate level, with additional benefits.
Once you have your bachelors degree you will be given more responsibility and be exposed to more technical challenges. This will allow you to build your resume and build your credibility within your employer.
You will also be paid better! Employers want to attract top talent and therefore will be paying interns more who have completed there bachelors degrees already. Getting some extra cash in your pocket over the summer can help pay bills and tuition during the rest of the school year.
PhD Student Internships
Internships at the PhD level are incredibly important! Before you sink 3-7 years into a doctorate program you want to make sure your topic is relevant to industry and will provide you with the proper experience. You may not want to overlap your dissertation topic directly with your internships because it can blur the lines between which organization owns the material in terms of publications and patents. However, additional exposure to industry-level research and development programs can provide important context for your doctoral research and provide a path to full-time employment after graduation.
I highly suggest doing internships at every level of your academic career! New information can be learned both as an undergraduate and graduate student intern. Internships give you the opportunity to learn social and technical skills that make you more valuable to future employers.
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