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January 23, 2024 - 7 minutes

Internships in Tech: Maximizing Learning and Experience as a Newcomer

Leave the coffee orders behind and make sure you're making the most of your tech internship.

Ironhack - Changing The Future of Tech Education


Internships: you might think of young college students carrying overflowing coffee trays around as their bosses yell, but we’re happy to report that today’s interns are (generally) not treated like glorified assistants and instead play a vital role in the company’s day-to-day, in addition to gaining valuable work experience. 

Today’s students and recent graduates are emerging from their schooling as new techies who are ready for a challenge and, most importantly, to put what they’ve learned into practice. And although they might be misunderstood as requirements that don’t actually help you advance in your career, internships are actually crucial parts of your academic experience. 

In this article, we’ll review what internships are, the different kinds you may be offered or want to explore, and how to make the most of your internship experience to kickstart your tech career. Let’s dive right in. 

What is an Internship?

They can take many distinct forms, but internships are professional learning experiences that relate to what a student has been learning in class and seek to prepare that student to enter the workforce upon graduation. The length will depend on your program and the company itself, but these are usually short-term agreements that give you a taste of what it’s like to be a professional in that field. 

Internships can encompass the following forms as well:

  • Externship: frequently stemming from an agreement between the company and the school, externships allow students to work briefly in the company to get an idea of what life in that role is really like. Externship roles are usually quite brief, lasting a shorter length of time than your traditional internship program.

  • Field experience: common in sectors where incoming professionals are required to have a certain amount of hours observing experienced professionals or doing some work themselves, field experience allows students to gain this necessary experience while still in school. 

  • Fellowship: usually awarded alongside a stipend, fellowships are competitive programs that students apply for and receive funding to continue their research, gaining valuable experience in their field. 

We know that the very topic of internships sparks lots of questions and that’s why we’ve put together a helpful internship FAQ list to ensure all of your doubts are resolved:

How do I get an internship? 

Let’s start right with the good stuff: landing that internship. Luckily for you, there are a variety of ways to get an internship and the best method will probably depend on your specific institution and where you are in your education. Some schools have partnerships with companies to offer internships; start by seeing if your institution offers any sort of assistance when it comes to landing an internship. 

If they don’t, remember that there are tons of internship offers out there; explore job boards and LinkedIn or simply reach out to companies with your CV and what you offer to see if they have any openings. 

Are internships paid? 

The exact details of your internship will depend on your field, location, and the company you’re in, but about half of internships do offer some sort of payment. When exploring job offers, make sure you see if the role is paid hourly, offers a monthly stipend, or is simply meant to help you gain experience. 

If the offer you’re interested in isn’t paid and an internship is a required part of your course, you can see if you can do the internship in exchange for class credits, helping you take a step towards graduating while receiving real-life experience. 

How many hours should I expect to spend on my internship?

Remember that internships are not intended to be long-lasting, full-time jobs, even if you’re able to extend your agreement throughout a few semesters or courses. If you’re planning to work part-time over the course of a few months, 20 hours a week is around where you’ll be expected to work; if the role is full-time, expect the internship offer to last between 4-6 weeks. 

At the end of the day, internships are designed to help you prepare for the real world–they are not full-time jobs. If a role requires tons of hours for low or nonexistent pay, it may not be the right choice.

Are internships required? 

Typically, internships are not required and instead act as supplemental parts of your educational experience; some programs, however, do require them and ensuring you’re clear on if they’re mandatory is an important step in seeing if a program is the right fit for you.

If your program does require internships, don’t be deterred: internships are incredible ways to gain real-life experience and make connections in the business world. 

Can I land a job even if I don’t complete an internship? 

Of course! Many internships lead to full-time job offers or valuable networking connections in the field, but they are definitely not required for landing a job once you graduate. Taking on unpaid roles or adding more to your plate during your studies is understandably not for everyone and employers won’t hold it against you if you haven’t been able to complete one.

That said, internship experience is a great thing to add to your CV and finding one that works with your schedule and abilities is definitely a positive. 

Why are Internships So Important?

Now that your burning questions are answered, we want to touch on a crucial subject: the importance of internships. They’re not mandatory, of course, and many tech giants have found their place without completing one, but internships do bring the following benefits:

  • They allow you to see the career path of your field: especially in tech, there are so many possible areas you can go into and getting your feet wet in a specific one allows you to see what your future holds (and reconsider if it’s not a good fit!).

  • They let you get professional experience: the jump from the classroom to the office is a big one and internships serve as a helpful stepping stone to facilitate that change.

  • They can lead to a full-time job offer: lots of companies look at their current intern classes to fill open roles and a good internship experience could help you land that offer. 

  • They are attractive to potential employers: knowing you’ve had real-life experience that’s so valuable in the workforce can help your application stand out when you’re applying for full-time roles. 

Making the Most of Your Tech Internship

If you’ve decided that a tech internship is the way to go for you, we’re happy to provide some of our most crucial tips and tricks for making the most of your internship. 

Stay positive 

It’s no secret that interns aren’t the ones making the big decisions or working on the most important projects, but don’t let that get you down! The idea behind an internship is to let you see what working in that field is like and let you get your hands wet without throwing you into the deep end. You may be eager to start pitching your own designs or writing your own code, but stay positive and try to learn from those around you–your time to shine will come. 

Expand your network 

Internships are a great place to network and make professional connections; if you’re part of an intern class, make sure you create a positive relationship with your fellow interns and get to know those in the office who aren’t on your team as well. You never know where your career will take you and making connections in diverse roles will help you down the road. 

Be patient 

Classrooms are quite different from offices and even though you’ve spent lots of time and effort developing your skills, you may find that the real-life applications of what you’ve learned are a bit different than what you’ve been doing in class. Don’t be discouraged and instead take the chance to finetune your skills and prepare yourself for landing a full-time job in the future. 

Prioritize professionalism 

For some, internships are the first experience they’ve had with the ‘real world’ and may be unsure about certain aspects of the professional world, such as asking for vacation time or dealing with an uncomfortable situation. Internships are a great way to learn about what professionalism is expected of you in the real world and start practicing, especially if it’s different from what you’ve experienced in the past. 

Observe those around you and don’t be afraid to own up to any mistakes. You aren’t expected to be perfect as an intern, but it's important to want to learn and improve. 

Internships may have gotten a bad rap as being useless or simply exploitative and we’re not going to lie to you: there are many that don’t fulfill their purpose. But in tech, taking the time to research and find the right fit for you can be incredibly beneficial for your future career, giving you valuable real-world experience and adding even more advantages to your resume. 

If you’re interested in making the most of all that tech has to offer, you’re in the right place: explore Ironhack’s bootcamps in web development, UX/UI design, data analytics, cybersecurity, and machine learning and data science to find the right fit for you and start your tech journey today. 

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