Internship vs. Job: How Should You Spend Your Summer?

By Christine Ascher on March 1, 2018

While at the end of a long semester you may just want to kick back and have a relaxed summer experience, the summer is actually the best time for you to gain career experience, either through an internship or through a job. Unfortunately, because you only have a limited amount of time during the summer, you may have to choose which type of experience is best for you: a job or an internship. Ultimately, the decision will be based on what you want to get out of the summer, so be sure to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each opportunity as you begin applying for positions.

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Pros of an Internship:  

You’ll Get Specific Career Experience

One major benefit of having an internship over the summer, especially as compared to a part-time job, is the fact that it will ensure that you gain some experience that is relevant to your career path. Even if you end up doing mostly grunt work in your position, you’ll get to see how a company is run in the area that you’re interested in pursuing, and you’ll also have the opportunity to observe some of the full-time employees who are in positions that you may like to apply for in the future. After having an internship position in a given area, you’ll definitely be left with a better idea of whether or not that career path is right for you.

You’ll Learn Valuable Skills for Your Career

During your summer internship, you’ll have the chance to develop some skills that are both relevant to your chosen career path and that can be put on your resume as you apply for jobs in the future to demonstrate your capabilities and help you stand out. You’ll also have the chance to see firsthand the other types of skills that you’ll need in that career choice, so you know what you need to do to succeed.

You’ll Have Networking Opportunities

Having an internship over the summer means that you’ll have plenty of opportunities for networking, which can be very valuable as you move forward in your undergraduate career and look to gain further internship experience, as well as later on when you’re applying for jobs after you graduate. Given that you’ll be working with full-time employees who can teach you more about the industry, and who will see what you’re capable of doing, you’ll have the chance to make some great connections over the summer.

Cons of an Internship:

You’re Less Likely to Be Paid

One major negative that often comes along with having a summer internship is that your chances of being paid are slim compared to a traditional job. While you may be one of the lucky few who is able to snag a paid summer internship, for the most part being an intern means having to accept an unpaid position. Before you decide to apply for internships, think carefully about whether you’re willing to work without pay, and whether or not you can realistically afford to have an unpaid internship over the summer.

You May Have Fewer Options

Because you’ll probably be looking for internships that are specific to the career path that you’re interested in pursuing, this may mean that you have fewer options to apply for and choose from than when it comes to a typical part-time job. Because most companies will only be looking to hire a small number of interns for the summer, and because many smaller companies don’t have internship programs, you may find that the possibilities are a bit restricted for internships as compared to jobs.

You Might Be Doing a Lot of Grunt Work

One common stereotype about internships is that an intern’s job is comprised mostly of coffee runs and grunt work, such as making copies and organizing files. Unfortunately, this stereotype exists for a reason; though what you’ll be doing will depend definitely on your position and the company where you’re interning, interns do often end up doing more menial tasks, rather than really hands-on work.

Pros of a Job:

You’ll Definitely Make Money

Probably the most obvious benefit of having a job over the summer instead of an internship is the fact that you’ll definitely be paid for your work. Especially during the summer, when you’ll have more free time to go out and spend money, having a consistent wage may be important for you. If you know that you need to make some money over the summer, then a job may be a better choice for you than an internship.

You’ll Have More Options

Whereas internship options can be more restrictive, as you’re really looking for a position that will help you with your specific career goals, when you’re applying for a part-time summer job you may have a little bit more flexibility. Because you’re not necessarily looking for a position that will teach you all the skills that you need to know in a given area, you can apply for a wide variety of jobs—meaning that you’ll have an even better chance of landing one.

Cons of a Job:

You’re Less Likely to Develop Skills Specific to Your Career Goals

Though you’ll probably pick up some skills while working in any job, and you’ll definitely become more responsible and independent, a part-time job may not give you the same opportunity to develop skills that are specific to the career that you want to pursue, or to the industry that you’re interested in. Whereas an internship can teach you very specific talents that can help you apply for jobs later on, working a part-time job over the summer may not give you that same benefit.

It Won’t Be as Helpful for Determining Your Post-Graduation Career

While you’re still in school, you may be uncertain as to exactly what you want to do after you graduate. Unlike an internship, a job may not necessarily help you learn more about a certain career path, and therefore may not help you solidify your post-graduation goals. If you’re uncertain as to what you want to do after you graduate, or if you’re trying to decide between different career paths, an internship may be more valuable to you.

Both internships and jobs present their own set of benefits and drawbacks that you should consider as you start thinking about your summer plans. All in all, the option that you pursue should depend on what you want to get out of your summer experience. Regardless of what you choose, be sure to make this summer meaningful!

By Christine Ascher

Uloop Writer
Hi! I'm Christine and I'm currently a senior at the University of Southern California, where I study English Literature, Economics, and French.

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