Should I Choose an Internship or Part-Time Job?

Should I Choose an Internship or Part-Time Job?

Summer is quickly approaching, which means many college students will be searching for opportunities to gain real-world job experience and earn extra spending money. Many students wonder whether a part-time job or internship is the way to go.

Liv Moore, 22, a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno, faced this dilemma and ultimately decided to pursue internships. She's had two paid and two unpaid internships in her college career and says that they were all beneficial.

"It is important to realize at a paid internship, you are fulfilling a role necessary to the company," says Moore, a journalism major focusing on strategic communications. "In an unpaid situation, it is assumed your main task is to ask questions and shadow. You are given responsibility, but you have your hand held much more."

If you're trying to decide whether an internship or traditional summer job is your best bet, here are a few guidelines that might help.

Want to Boost Your Resume? Try an Unpaid Internship

A recent report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that students who had paid or unpaid internships received job offers more frequently than those who had no internship at all. Offer rates ranged from 72 percent for those with paid internships at private, for-profit companies to 36.5 percent for those with none. In comparison, 43.9 percent of unpaid interns also received offers. Recruiters like to see related job experience on post-grad resumes.

Many internships can be, as Moore learned, a unique learning opportunity. An internship can give you access to experts in your desired field who can later provide you with letters of recommendation. It can also make you eligible for future job positions.

Moore did an unpaid internship at her university and at a local tech start-up and says that both provided her with hands-on experience with practicing marketing strategies and working on career-specific projects. "There are so many lessons that cannot be taught in a classroom or explained in a lecture," she says.

Need Money? Search for a Part-Time Job or Paid Internship

While a summer lifeguarding job or a part-time position at your local coffee shop might not be directly applicable to your career goals, it does pay the bills. A paid position can help offset college and living costs, and skills learned from a part-time position can still benefit you later in your professional life.

When deciding whether to pursue an internship or part-time job, ask yourself what you need more — money or experience? Are you able to commit time to both an internship and part-time job?

If you can find a paid internship in your field of study then you can satisfy both needs at once. Paid internships can offer an entry-level hourly rate, as well as résumé-worthy experience. The only problem is that paid internships can be competitive, making them harder to find and get.

How to Find a Paid Internship

Before you start searching for paid internships, make a list of 10 companies you would love to work for after graduation. Interning at one of your dream companies might give you an advantage when you apply for a position after graduation. Many large corporations have dedicated resources for students looking for paid internships and post-grad opportunities. For example, those studying business or marketing can apply for Discover's paid internship program.

The key is to apply early and often. For internships that remain open all year long, try applying each semester to increase your odds of acceptance. For competitive internships, don't wait until the last minute to apply; get your application in as soon as possible.

There are several websites devoted to internship searches, such as Internships.com, WayUp.com and Youtern.com. Consider applying for short-term internships if you have time off in the summer or in the winter. This way, you can expand your search and the experiences you may be able to have without conflicting with your school schedule. Remote internships are also becoming more popular as companies need help with online content and social media marketing. Many of these internships allow you to work from home and manage your workload flexibly.

Which Choice Is Right For You?

Should you pick a part-time job, unpaid internship or paid internship? If you're looking to boost your résumé and gain deeper career experience, then an internship could be the right path for you. But, if you need help paying for expenses or want extra spending money, then a part-time position might be the better choice.