What Should I Look for in a Computer Science Internship?

Choosing the right internship can make a computer science graduate more attractive to potential employers. Although any internship or work experience in the field enhances a resume, not all internships are of equal value. The tips below will help students select the most useful internships for their future careers.

Related resource: Top 50 Master’s in Computer Science Degree Programs

Academic Credit

Many programs offer academic credit for internships. Some even require completion of an internship as part of a degree program. The catch is that a student cannot just find an internship and expect to be given credit for it. Instead, students must meet with their department staff to obtain prior approval in order to obtain credit. Often, obtaining credit involves a doing project such as an internship diary or paper in addition to completing the internship itself satisfactorily.

Choose an Area You Enjoy

Both an internship and an eventual job in computer science will occupy a large portion of a person’s life. According to Forbes, one should choose an enjoyable specialty to avoid stress and burnout. A student who likes fast-paced marathon coding sessions might be happier doing development work with a start-up while someone who wants a family and a better work-life balance might focus on maintenance or prefer to work for an established corporation.

Employer Prestige

An internship at a leading company in a field looks better on a resume than one at a less well-known company. Working with a firm that develops products other companies use, such as a company that develops operating systems or offers cloud services, gives a student credible expertise. An internship at a top company also shows that a student is capable of performing at an elite level and offers networking opportunities.

Employer Hiring Record and Job Openings

An internship can be seen as a trial run for a job at a firm. Ideally, students should intern at firms where they would wish to work permanently. An internship gives a student a chance to observe working conditions inside a firm and to impress a potential employer. Thus one important piece of information to obtain before choosing an internship is whether the company routinely or only rarely hires interns for permanent positions. It is also worth checking with the Human Resources department to see if the company has current openings in one’s field.

Meaningful Projects

Some interns actually write code or help develop applications while others simply shadow employees, fetch coffee, and take notes at meetings. An internship in which the student does meaningful work, even on a small project, contributes much more to a resume than one in which the student is just an observer or does routine paperwork.

Payment Matters

A paid internship is usually, according to the Viscardi Center, better than an unpaid one. The obvious reason a paid internship is a better choice is a financial one. There is, however, a second reason for paid internships being superior. Students who hold paid internships are more likely to receive job offers from a company than ones who have held unpaid internships.

Conclusion

While all internships are attractive additions to a student’s resume, the best ones involve meaningful paid work for a strong company in an area a student wishes to pursue over the long term.