Group of students and employer around a computer

What is an internship?

An internship is an opportunity to test drive a job or career path. It involves spending a prearranged period of time, either a few months, a term or a few hours per week during the term, working (paid or unpaid) in a field of study or interest. An internship offers many benefits to both students and employers.

Examples of internships

  • Intern at a bank to learn more about business insights, team projects, and analysis
  • Work in public affairs at an embassy abroad
  • Assist a museum or gallery curator

Benefits to students

  • Get to know prospective employers (consider an internship as a "long interview")
  • Learn whether a particular career is right for you
  • Develop skills while working in a professional environment (e.g., interpersonal skills, coping with office politics)

Benefits to employers

  • Gain an eager, highly-educated workforce
  • Maintain a constant source of fresh ideas and insights into your profession/organization
  • Fill staffing requirements with flexibility

Differences between internships and co-op

Internships are an option for students enrolled in co-op and for students enrolled in regular programs, as the hours have the potential to be flexible.

Internships are a learning experience where the host organization can teach students more about that employment sector. Ideally, students will have an opportunity to use their skills and talents and make an impact on an individual, team, project, organization, community or field/system.

Additionally, they can potentially offer students opportunities to build workplace connections and relationships and apply and grow their skills and confidence.

student working at a whiteboard
student taking notes along side their laptop

Tips for your internship

Before you begin your internship, you might want to consider a few useful tips:

  • Reflect on what you hope to gain from your experience and outline your general expectations and learning objectives.
  • Keep a learning journal, systematically recording your experiences and observations: A learning journal provides an excellent historical record (for your next résumé) and an opportunity to reflect on the skills you've developed.
  • If your experience will count towards your degree program, prepare reports/presentations that summarize or reflect your experiences.

Find internship opportunities

Several domestic and international organizations offer internship programs throughout the year. This sample list of programs offers students a number of places to gain work experience. 

  • Campus Access
    An internship directory featuring over 150 opportunities in a variety of disciplines.
    Internship directory, searchable by criteria such as location, job function and listing language.
  • Intern abroad
    International internships, available in a variety of industries including the creative arts, STEM and environmental sciences.
  • Mitacs Accelerate
    Along with your supervising professor and partnering organization, engage in a paid research project in any discipline.
  • Ontario internship program
    Paid internships with the Ontario public service. Fields include communications, HR, labour relations and other areas.