Internships and placements

Internship FAQs: What are internships and how do I get one?

22 Jun 2023, 13:24

Office intern

Not quite sure what an internship is or how to apply for one? In this article, we answer frequently asked questions about internships to help you decide whether doing an internship is the right step for you and what to expect from an internship.

You can find internship vacancies on .

What is an internship?

An internship is a type of formal work experience, often offered to third-level students. Internships tend to have fixed structures and tasks or set project work. Training and skills development opportunities are also commonly offered. While some small employers offer internships, they are more common with larger employers.

Internships aren’t the only way you can get work experience. Industrial placements, volunteer roles, part-time jobs and extracurricular activities all look great on your CV.

Why do an internship?

Gaining any kind of work experience will always be good for your CV. Internships give you the opportunity to:

  • Develop both your technical and soft skills through hands-on work
  • Gain experience in a workplace environment and pick up etiquette such as how to communicate with different co-workers
  • Network with employees and make contacts that could be of help in the future. You should also make sure to ask for a reference from your manager at the end of your internship
  • Try out a job, employer or industry to figure out if it is a right fit for you
  • Practise going through the recruitment process from applications to CVs to interviews, before you start applying for graduate jobs.

Furthermore, some internships can lead directly to graduate roles. This is more typically the case with larger employers with large graduate intakes, but it also occurs in the SME sector.

How long do internships last?

In formal internships, employers set the length of the placement and the number of working hours.

  • Summer internships take place during the summer vacations and last a few weeks
  • Industrial placements typically last between six and twelve months and can take place during a year out from your degree.

Informal opportunities such as those offered by smaller companies, may stick to these lengths or vary. It may also be possible to complete an internship on a part-time basis or on one day a week alongside your studies.

When should you do an internship?

Internship adverts typically specify who can apply so be sure to check you match the requirements.

Some internships are for specific year groups such as penultimate year students while some internships are intended for postgraduate students or even graduates. Larger employers are more likely to focus on specific cohorts for their internships. Smaller employers or those in sectors where internships are less common are more likely to be open to different types of students and graduates.

How do you get an internship?

The application process for formal internships tends to be similar to the employer’s graduate level hiring process. You may be asked to fill in an application form or send a covering letter along with your CV.

You can also try making a speculative application to employers that are not advertising internships.

Interviews are common in the internship hiring process. Interviews can be face to face, over the phone or through video.

Is it hard to get an internship?

While work experience is not typically expected, employers expect internship applicants to be of broadly similar quality to those applying for graduate roles, although you may not have all the academic skills if you haven’t finished your studies. However, you should put as much care into your internship applications as you would your graduate job.

To better your chances of getting an internship, be open to applying for internships with companies of different sizes.

What are my rights as an intern?

There is no legal definition of an internship in Ireland which can make knowing and protecting your rights tricky. When you sign a work contract with an employer, you are entitled to basic employment rights even if your job position says ‘intern’.

Read more about your rights as an intern here .

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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