Attending college is meant to prepare you for the career of your choice.  To that end, the courses you take for your major should impart the knowledge and skills that will allow you obtain employment following graduation, and more importantly, succeed in your chosen profession.  Still, there are few better ways to learn what will be required in a job than to experience the working environment firsthand.  You can learn a lot from books, lectures, and sample assignments, but there’s just no substitute for experience.  It is for this reason that so many students elect to take on internships during their time in college.  How can you choose the internship that’s right for you?  There are several factors to consider.

First and foremost, it’s important not to limit yourself to internships that are targeted toward your specific major.  While nabbing such an internship is clearly your best option since it gives you the opportunity to test your knowledge and skill, as well as network, it’s not your only option.  You should also look at internships in fields that could translate well into experience beneficial to your profession of choice.  For example, suppose you’re interested in film production.  Such internships could be difficult to obtain with all the competition.

However, you could look into internships in other production fields as a way to gain general knowledge of workflow, responsibilities, and so on.  Or you might be interested in taking on other types of film internships since it’s always a good idea to understand how workers in complimentary positions do their jobs.  The point is that you can’t necessarily afford to have a narrow field of vision when it comes to internship opportunities, especially if there is major competition for top internships at your school in your area of expertise.  Just be prepared to explain how this experience translates to your chosen profession.

Next you need to consider whether you prefer a paid or unpaid internship.  There are advantages to both.  A paid internship obviously provides you with monetary compensation, whereas an unpaid position compensates you with college credit that applies to your major.  However, unpaid interns are often extremely limited in what they’re allowed to do as a result of specific labor laws pertaining to unpaid positions.  As a paid intern you’ll have a lot more opportunity to get involved in company projects and take on more responsibility.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to do this in addition to your regular load of classes since you won’t get college credit for a paid internship.  This is why many students elect to take paid internships during the summer or take a semester off in order to accept a paid internship.  You’ll simply have to decide which option is more appealing.

Remember that internships can not only provide you with college credit or a pay check; they also offer you the opportunity to flesh out your resume, make connections, learn valuable skills, and potentially receive job offers.  Choosing the right one could make a world of difference when it comes to job prospects following completion of NEC’s project management degree, for example.  If you’re not sure which internships will offer you the best opportunities, do some research on the companies offering internships through your school or program and seek guidance from counselors, professors, and major advisors.