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Five Things Freshmen and New Humanities Majors Need to Know about Internships

It’s the time of year when you’re getting bombarded with information about internship opportunities. Here are a few things to know:

  1. Internships are available to you at many different points in your college experience. There’s no one right time to do an internship, and there are many different kinds of internships available to you. If you’re not sure of how to start getting experience, the ATLAS internship program is designed to help students in non-tech majors (including humanities!) get experience working with technology, and you can apply any time (and as many times as) you like.
  2. Internships can be useful, but they’re not a magic bullet. Some majors (think engineering, computer science, accounting, finance) position students to go into specific jobs, and for those programs an internship with the right company is the key to success after graduation. Humanities majors don’t work like that. Your major empowers you to explain a wide range of careers with many different kinds of organizations (some of which use internships to build their workforce, and many of which do not).
  3. Internships are a great way to get experience, but they’re not the only way. If your goal is a job in management or communications with a large corporation, then a paid summer internship with the kind of company you have in mind is a great first step. if your goal is a creative career in screen-writing or TV production, you might be better off spending a summer working a retail job that will give you time and energy to hone your skills on your own independent film project. If you’re interested in nonprofit work, volunteering for an organization whose mission or activities you care about, or getting a part time job that builds relevant skills, might be more beneficial than an unpaid internship with an unrelated organization.  The secondary education programs here has a built-in internship in the form of student teaching — there’s really no need to seek out an additional internship unless you want to explore other career paths.
  4. Paid part-time employment, RSO leadership, independent projects, jobs shadowing, and volunteering are also important ways to explore your career interests and gain experience — and depending on your career path, some of these might be more helpful than an internship. If you are interested in editing, for example, or museum work, most paid internships (and even unpaid internships with prestigious organizations) will expect you to have experience already — which you can best get by working on a student publication (high school experience has a limited shelf life once you’re out of high school) or volunteering your skills in some other way.
  5. Not all internships are the same. Some are paid, some are not. Some give you hands-on responsibility, some give you the opportunity to watch from the sidelines. Some organizations have a lot of experience working with interns, others craft the internship position as they go along. Some internships serve as a pipeline to a full-time job after graduation, some are thinly disguised schemes to get low-cost labor. Some employers expect applicants to relocate and provide housing, others leave you to your own devices.

You have time, and you have choices. If you’re not sure what kind of internship you’d want, or how an internship might fit into your future goals, it’s okay. The LAS Life & Career Design Lab can help you map out some possibilities, and the Humanities Professional Resource Center can connect you to various ways of getting experience. As you get more familiar with what’s available and what you like doing, you’ll find it easier to sift through the possibilities and seek out the things that can help you.

For more information, see our material on this website about internships: