Gain an Internship

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It seems that everyone is talking about internships, and with good reason; internships can be an essential part of your career development. 

An internship is an educational and formalized opportunity in which students gain hands-on work experience in a specific industry or job type from a company or institution. Positions can be full-time or part-time, paid or unpaid, and for-credit or not requiring credit -- but a good internship is an experience of learning and mentorship. Use this page to learn more.

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Identify Good Opportunities

Key Questions

Internships exist in all shapes and sizes. As you narrow down options, identify the aspects of a potential internship that are most valuable to you at this time in your career. To get you started, we have compiled some questions to consider as you identify the best internships for you. Click the items below to explore further.

Internships are educational experiences. If the position description or the recruiters/interviewers do not mention what you will be gaining from the experience, then consider how valuable this internship is for the time you invest.

The best internships usually offer the chance to work closely with a professional in your field of interest -- someone who is invested in what you do, gives you meaningful work assignments, and potentially becomes a mentor extending beyond your internship. 

Look for an internship that offers a dedicated mentor or supervisor, allows you to focus on learning outcomes, and presents the challenge of specific goals, or offers a project that is transferable to other work environments. These elements help to strengthen your skills and professional portfolio. Many times, you can get a sense of these components during the Interviews and Offers process.

Many internships are paid, but many are unpaid as well. Sometimes they may have housing, commuter, or meal compensation in addition to, or instead of pay. Some internships require you to pay, so beware of those opportunities! 

Many employers use internships to identify individuals who have the skills and attitudes they want in full-time employees. Full-time employment with an organization is not guaranteed when you are an intern, thus interns should prepare to impress during the position and maintain records of accomplishments.

It is important to know what type of organization and workplace you will be interning at. Study the position description for clues that may paint a bigger picture.

Many internships, especially in the Business and Engineering fields, usually hire students who are juniors, seniors or graduate students. They are often looking for students who already have certain coursework or skills that come with time and experience in college. If you are in your first or second year, and internships in a field of interest are not a possibility yet, you can still build skills through coursework, Campus Organizations, Volunteering, and Part-Time Jobs. Some internship opportunities may also still be available to you, so read internship job descriptions carefully.

Academic Credit (for Undergraduate Students)

You may consider available UCSB courses related to internship and work experience to supplement the internship. With this option, please keep the following in mind:

  • Students do not receive credit for an internship alone, and departmental availability for courses associated with internships varies across majors, as not all departments offer these classes. Departments may require specific coursework, research, and prerequisites for courses associated with an internship to earn credit.
  • You can provide general proof of UCSB enrollment to employers which often meets companies’ hiring needs; consult your internship supervisor for details. Proof of UCSB enrollment can be requested through the UCSB Office of the Registrar or your GOLD account.
  • Career Services DOES NOT provide academic credit and is not authorized to sign internship agreements. We can provide general guidance and referrals to appropriate resources.

How to Earn Academic Credit Associated With an Internship

  • Before taking part in your internship, consult with the academic department and refer to the course catalog regarding availability of courses and independent research within their department that is related to internship experience.
  • Most departments do not offer credit for internships alone; they require specific coursework associated with an internship in order to earn academic credit.
  • Keep in mind that availability and requirements vary across majors for courses related to earning academic credit associated with internships, and it may be difficult to find such options.
  • Review this file for Research and Internship Classes at UCSB (updated April 2019): For the most recent availability, please check the UCSB Course Catalog and Schedule of Classes.

Tips for International Students

If you have an F-1 or J-1 visa and would like to complete an internship, you will need to follow the instructions for taking part in either Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for F-1 students or Academic Training for J-1 students.

For more information, please review our International Students page and the UCSB Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) website.



Funding Your Internship

While pay is important, it may not always be the main goal. Remember, internships are training programs that should offer valuable, real-world experience for the primary benefit of you, the student. Although internships with hourly pay are beneficial, many industries traditionally do not pay, often including organizations that are non-profit, art-related, or educational institutions. It is common that unpaid arrangements may result in opportunities for compensation later, such as part-time or full-time employment.  

We understand that pay is sometimes necessary to be able to provide for yourself. To support UCSB students, we offer scholarship programs for undergraduate and graduate students taking part in unpaid summer internship experiences. For complete details, check out our Internship Scholarship Program or the Graduate Student Internship Fellowship Program!

Additionally, be sure to consult the UCSB Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships (OFAS), your academic department, and the organization that you are interning with for available resources.

Here are some other considerations:

  • Reduce Costs: Borrow professional clothes from friends. Explore cheaper transportation methods, such as carpooling or public transportation. If you know anyone in the area, ask if you can live with them temporarily. Look for other ways to cut down on expenses.
  • Work Part-Time: Consider working part-time while you pursue your internship in order to cover expenses.
  • Explore Other Compensation Options: Sometimes, even if an employer cannot pay, they can provide other perks, such as compensation for transportation, or daily lunches. Check with your internship supervisor to see what is available.

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