Internships are essential, as they provide students with “real world” experience, and set expectations for employers as they assess the potential transition from internship to full-time employment.
But the question is, how long do internships last? Here are some experts’ insights.
The length depends on the institution
The length of an internship can be determined by a college or university if they are awarding academic credits for the experience and have a minimum number of hours required to earn those credits, or it can be determined by the employer that hosts the internship, based on the site’s needs.
As an example, Endicott College requires three internships for academic credit.
Freshman and sophomores earn two academic credits for an experience that includes a pre-internship course with assignments, a field-based experience of 120 hours, and a graded reflective essay.
Seniors earn 12 credits by working 32+ hours for a full semester at their internship site while taking a weekly internship seminar class.
Director of Operations at MyCorporation.com
We have had interns employed with our company for varying lengths of time. This can be anywhere between a single school semester to an entire year. The length of an internship depends on several factors. If the internship is unpaid, the intern must be able to earn school credit from the internship.
The internship also depends on the intern themselves
Some interns may only be able to work a semester due to scheduling. They may be engaged with different activities the following semester, like a study aboard program, or have applied for and been accepted into a different internship for the following semester.
However, some interns do exceptionally well in their roles. They like their duties and the company and genuinely want to continue staying with the organization and helping it to grow and succeed.
Related: How to Accept an Internship Offer
We have seen and worked with interns like these over the years and allowed them to stay on past the semester’s original end date. Some of these interns later became entry-level employees in our sales and social media departments!
The length of an internship, while largely dependent on the intern’s circumstances, may in some cases be extended to a potential full-time job offer if they perform exceptionally well, there is room for the company to hire them, and they are a great fit for the company culture.
Sales and Operations Strategist, People Managing People
Internships are usually 3 months long
We once had an HR intern who was with us for 3 months and in charge of the recruitment database. His main job was screening CVs and seeing if applicants were good enough to be sent through to the interviewing stage.
You may be asked to have your internship extended.
As in the above example, we had such a good relationship with our HR intern that we asked him to stay on after the summer throughout the year. This is why it’s incredibly useful to develop a great relationship with your supervisor(s) during an internship.
So, to sum up, a typical internship will be 3-6 months, with the possibility of extension for up to a year.
The length varies depending on the purpose
Feedback from thousands of our members suggests that internships no longer have a typical length. Instead, the length varies depending upon the purpose.
To introduce a potential new hire to an organization and role could take as little as 4-6 weeks part-time, as was the case for a former fashion designer who wanted to become a full-time blogger for a media company.
Training or educating someone transitioning into a different career or skill set can take 3, 6, or 12 months.
If the real purpose is to hire interim support for an organization without making an initial long-term commitment, internships can also continue indefinitely or morph into a semi-permanent full or part-time job. We saw this with a former health services professional who wanted to explore transitioning into a position with an online care provider. The education and experience were applicable, but the additional skills for working in a virtual environment were new and challenging.
Without question, internships at any age can be a great way to explore new paths, begin to develop a relationship, or provide some additional support for an organization.
Just remember that no matter how long the internship, like any other job, the key is to agree on the purpose and set measurable objectives so both you and the intern are aligned throughout the process.
Co-Founder, Undergrads, LLC
The length of an internship will vary depending on whether or not interns receive college credit and/or compensation. In many states, if internships are unpaid, they are legally required to provide school credit instead.
If an internship results in acquiring college credits, it will generally last the length of a semester. If an internship is paid but does not provide college credit, it could potentially last anywhere from six months to a year.
The duration of an internship can be largely dependent on the nature of the job and skill level required for a full-time role.
If the internship pays well and new skills are being acquired, it shouldn’t cause too much concern if it seems likes a lengthy internship. If the company is taking advantage of the internship by paying minimum wage and having the intern conduct trivial tasks, it would be in poor taste to continue the internship past a three to six month period.
COO, Boster Bio
The average internship is 3-4 months long
The duration of the internship varies from employer to employer and the nature of the internship. It depends on what amount of time is appropriate for the type of internship you’re doing and the company’s policies.
For instance, if you’re doing a summer internship, three months is basically the norm. But if you’re doing an internship in the fall or spring, that could be different, since those semesters are longer than the summer.
If your internship is at a very prestigious organization like Apple, Microsoft, UN, then three months is fine, although a longer one is always good. Because if your internship is at one of those prestigious organizations, the brand name is all that matters.
The ideal period of internship is one that allows the intern to complete projects that are valuable to both the employer and the intern and fulfill the goals of the organization. It should enable the candidate to get into the rhythm of the job and create a more realistic experience.
In my opinion, a 3 to 4 months long internship is reasonable, with the intern completing 20-35 hours weekly. Of course, an employer can recruit interns for a longer period, and some internships last for an entire year.
Managing Director, Synergy Business Brokers
We follow the path of most companies offering internships, as the internships we have offered in the past have been 2-3 months in length.
This is due to the fact that a lot of internships are offered to college students, and fall within the months of May-July when the students are on summer break. This time frame usually fits the needs of most applicants and ensures your position is open to as many applicants as possible.
Software Engineer, LoopUp
Throughout my life, I have had 4 internships, all in software engineering. I have come to realize that internships, across most disciplines, fall under 3 main categories:
- 10-week internships
- 3-month internships
- 6 months to 1-year internships
Also known as placements, 10-week internships are mainly for educational purposes.
Interns come into their new jobs and spend the first 2 to 3 weeks being taught and educated about the work that the company performs. The other 7 to 8 weeks is spent doing work within an existing team, which helps interns collaborate with full-time employees and apply their newly sought knowledge.
The first few weeks are still spent on the intern’s education. However, the remainder of the 3 months is spent on working on an individual project that the company never allocated resources to, but would like to do so in the near future.
Hence, the goal of the intern’s work is to create a proof of concept, following the industry best practices, that allows the company to study its feasibility.
6 months to 1-year internships
These are also known as placements and are a completely different story. A longer period of time is spent on the intern’s education since the goal of this type of internship is different from the previous two.
The intern is expected to perform at the same level as the other full-time employees and produce work that directly impacts the business.
Mario R. Organista
Advisor | Founder, Casa Quetzalcoatl
Internships usually last from 4-6 months
In college, I was always told that your degree didn’t matter, it was all about who you knew and your experience. Internships give you a network and work history. They open doors, especially if they are prestigious internships.
I’ve completed five internships during my undergrad. I did local, national, and international internships. I was hooked on working and gaining real experience instead of going to class. At this point, I realized that I could just do all my elective credits with internships.
The thing I learned about internships is you get, what you put into it. Internships are hard but worth it.
Most internships are unpaid but you can always receive college credit and even small stipends. If you’re a college student, your university will have countless opportunities. You honestly just have to look, send an email to the program director/coordinator, or just walk into the office. The resources are there.
Everyone can do a prestigious internship, you just have to put in the work. Do a couple of internships to build for the big ones. Internships really do make you more employable, build your networks and give you connections to some influential people. I love those letters of recommendation!
Content Specialist, Womix Digital
Internships are an important step to entering into a competitive industry. They can give you “in the field” experience which is crucial for landing a fully paid job.
In my industry (digital marketing) an internship is one of the best ways to get your career started as it is very competitive. In my experience, internships can last anywhere between 2 to 12 months. Usually, unpaid internships last for a shorter period of time.
Internships that provide an easy way into a job can last significantly longer as they promise more outcomes for your time.
You should also bear in mind that if an intern performs very well the internship can turn into a job offer long before the official end date. I have seen several interns hired full time just after a couple of months owing to their proficiency at the job!