How important is an internship in tech for your career? According to 2020-2021 data, 70 percent of companies offer interns full-time employment. In the same data, it is reported that higher pay can be achieved by those who begin in an internship. Perhaps in no other industry is an internship as important as it is for technological jobs, where hands-on experience is typically a gold star for job candidates. Internships can not only lead to employment, but it’s been reported that having an internship can, in most cases, help in landing another internship.
According to Monster.com, the “new reality of technology internships” is that many IT graduates are taking on paid or unpaid internships to gain experience and get started in the field, while IT students are increasingly taking on internships as part of their studies…or at least, in the eyes of the tech industry, they should be. Some large tech companies like Google and Microsoft are offering tech internships to first- and second-year students.
In other words, tech internships are valuable, and a growing number of those entering or studying to enter the field realize how much it can mean to their careers to land an internship. In December 2021, Zippia reported nearly 264,000 technology interns employed in the United States, paying an average of $32,675 annually. So, that figure of 264,000 does not even count unpaid internships.
While the emphasis among students and recent graduates is that tech industry internships should be secured at top-tech companies, the reality is that even internships at nonprofits or unpaid internships offer valuable experience. The idea of these types of opportunities should not be rejected. From networking to gaining both work and job-finding experience, tech internships have been shown to pay off those who put the energy into securing one.
Now that it’s been established that an internship is pretty much a must-have if you’re intent on entering the technological field, you might be wondering: What types of tech internships are available? Which companies offer paid internships? What are among the top non-paying tech internships? How does one apply for a tech internship?
Types of Tech Internships
Internships are available in a wide range of IT careers, from the front- and back-end engineering to mobile and software development, with some paid, some unpaid, and some—an increasing number, in fact, due to the pandemic—that are even remote.
While some tech internships and externships might offer little more than getting coffee and performing minimal tasks, today’s tech internships focus on deeper involvement in tech development projects. This includes working hands-on in data security, data analysis, and software engineering to lead interns to strengthen essential job skills.
According to an April 2021 article from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the tech industry is where most high-paying internships are found. At that time, the article identified NVIDIA, a hardware and software developer, as the top-paying tech internship program in the country. Tech interns at NVIDIA can earn well over $8,000 per month.
Other companies known for their high-paying tech internships opportunities are:
The tech internships at these companies generally pay approximately $7,000 to $8,000 per month. They also provide extensive hands-on experience in software engineering, data science, artificial intelligence, mechanical engineering, hardware engineering, IT operations, cybersecurity, cloud computing, technical support, and technological research.
This is not to say that a successful tech internship cannot be had at a smaller or start-up company. For one, competition can be less fierce in a smaller venue, although tech internships, in general, are highly competitive. In a smaller company compared to big-tech giants, however, you might play a more active role in tech projects and possibly serve in a leadership position. You can get recognized more easily by management and could even work directly with senior managers and executives. This can, of course, increase your chance of networking, which plays a major role in landing permanent positions.
While paying internships are fairly normal in the tech field, there are other options for those who do not land such an internship at a major or even start-up tech company. Students of an IT-related degree program might find paid or unpaid for-credit internship opportunities through their school. These internships might be full-time (approximately 20-35 hours per week) or part-time (about 20 hours per week or less; some could be as little as 10 hours per week) and be conducted over a semester or summer.
In some technological bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, internships or externships are required as part of the curriculum. In some cases, an internship can be chosen in place of an independent study or taken as an elective. It is not uncommon for companies to offer full-time or permanent positions to those who complete an internship or externship.
How to Apply for a Tech Internship
Before describing how to apply for a tech internship, we’ll answer the question: WHEN should you apply for a tech internship? A good answer would be: start early. With the level of competition even for tech internships in start-up companies, the earlier, the better. If you’re pursuing a degree, start looking into internships while still in school. Use the school’s resources to find which tech companies are looking for interns; some colleges and universities offer assistance in searching for internships. Colleges might host career fairs where you can meet recruiters and hiring managers face-to-face to discuss the possibility of serving in an internship.
You can also search regular job sites like Indeed and Monster.com. If you have a specific company you’re interested in interning for, search for opportunities on that company’s website. Suppose you have an eye on a particular company that might not ordinarily offer internships. In that case, you might send a cover letter expressing your interest in and willingness to participate in an internship as a trial to full-time employment.
Applying for a tech internship is similar to applying for a job with a tech company. After you’ve researched which companies offer tech internships and selected those companies that most interest you, send them your resume and a cover letter (be prepared to send out a dozen or more applications to get a few offers). Include links that supply details about you, such as LinkedIn or a personal webpage, and describe any relevant tech projects you worked on, whether for college courses, community organizations, or nonprofits.
You’ll likely set up an interview once you’ve gotten a positive response. After you’ve aced the interview, you might get an offer. It’s up to you to accept or decline that offer.
What Does a Tech Internship Look Like?
As mentioned earlier, there are many types of tech internships in artificial intelligence to robotics. What you might do as a tech intern depends on what technical area you are assigned to, which company you are interning for, and even on your manager or supervisor.
For the most part, an effective tech internship will be one where you are challenged, assume some responsibilities, and can apply concepts you’ve studied in a degree program. Some descriptions of actual interns and their experiences follow:
While at ServiceNow, I worked on a variety of projects within the Global Demand Center. I created many prospecting lists uploaded to Surf so that ADRs can contact possible clients, as well as routing inbound leads that come into Surf every day. I also worked on a few projects to create training documents and PowerPoints to explain some new processes that would come into play. Each project was different and challenging, and I feel like I learned new skills from each one.”Rachel Berman, Data Analyst Intern, ServiceNow
Over the summer, I was working on multiple projects for the Payments team, most centered around the tooling for their credit card processing software. One thing I really appreciated is that the projects they gave weren’t just busy work; a lot of the features I worked on are being used every day. A lot of the skills and techniques I learned while working on my projects were transferable, so I’m deeply grateful for my coworkers for teaching me so much.”Mahfuza Shovik, Software Engineering Intern, Toast
To get a clearer picture of what might be expected in a tech internship and what types of duties and responsibilities might fall to an intern in these positions, the following are some descriptions from job posts for actual tech internships:
- Support on the design, documentation, and recording of product training for end users.
- Researching new technologies and investigating potential applications of these technologies in NNR’s systems strategy.
- Design, document, and perform recorded software training for end users.
- Documenting Scope of Work (SoW) for strategic and tactical application development projects, drawing up requests for proposals (RFP) and requests for information (RFI) specific to projects.
- Effectively communicates relevant IT-related information.
- Perform other duties as requested by management.
Software Support Intern
- Strong desire to work with a team that has common goals
- Passion for helping clients and building rapport
- Desire to work in a fast-paced environment where every day offers diverse questions
- Aptitude for problem solving and thinking out-of-the-box.
- Provides inbound phone, web or email software support to resolve client inquiries and problems which are easily
- Uses Tyler’s client management system to create, track, and/or update details on the specifics of client issue(s).
Data Science Intern
- A deep dive into the models currently powering the post-fix checkout recommendation system. You may examine how repeat exposures to the same offer affect outcomes for our clients.
- Developing a new linear programming solver that can be used to model supply and demand within our Freestyle channel. If successful, this will allow for better use of inventory within that channel, improving client experience.
- Extensive data analysis to explore what inventory is best suited for our Freestyle Categories, informing how we can best power this product feature which has been providing our clients a new way to explore merchandise personalized to them.
- Building out machine learning models to generate demand forecasts for each style based on historical time-series features for our growing Freestyle business.
Application Development Intern
- Developing, testing, and implementing internally developed application software from technical specifications and according to our coding standards and to our policies and procedures.
- Generating and maintaining system documentation to describe existing processes and applications, packaged solutions, as well as internally developed application software additions, changes, and enhancements.
- Performing unit testing of applications before the changes are sent to QA testing.
- Designing and developing user-driven templates, databases, and interfaces for ease of use.
- Providing user support through problem resolution by analyzing, researching, and providing corrective action for all assigned problems and/or enhancements.
- Maintaining and enhancing existing applications.
- Documenting code, writing technical notes and keeping track of changes.
- Participating in dynamic priority setting sessions with the IT team.
Whichever area you choose, it’s important to realize that an internship is now and is expected to continue to be an integral part of your IT career path in the world of technology. Even with IT bootcamps and apprenticeships growing in popularity, says Juan Pablo Madrid, design director of the digital marketing firm Online Optimism, internships offer “the most hands-on experience… that’s where internships play a part.”
As mentioned early in this article: hands-on experience is perhaps one of the best things you can bring to the table as a job candidate in the IT field, so the importance of a tech internship cannot be overstated.