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Internship FAQ

Undergraduate internship placements - the basics

Before you start to use our undergraduate internship and placement search, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions by undergraduate students...

What is an undergraduate summer internship placement?
A summer internship is starting to be seen as a two-way, 2-3 month interview. It gives a recruiter the chance to get to know you, to see you in action and test your ability to work in the conditions that you would in a full-time role. It gives you the chance to understand the company culture, be introduced to working life and build your network of contacts. It's also a good chance to earn decent money over your summer break.

Who offers undergraduate internships?
All graduate recruiters are beginning to realise the potential benefits of running internships programmes. Consequently, most of the Times top-100 graduate recruiters run internship programmes, with those that currently don't having plans to run internship programmes over the next couple of years. For this reason, internship programmes are extremely competitive and as a student you often find that you need to apply to a few in order to give yourself a fair chance of being successful.

Are there any pre-requisites for doing an internship?
As one of the main roles of an undergraduate internship placement is to give you some good work experience and test you for the first time in a serious work environment, previous work experience is not usually required. What is often needed is that you are predicted the grade that is required for the company's graduate programme (this is usually a 2:1 or above), and often the only evidence of this is your A-levels and first year degree results. This is where some people often fall down, as your first year degree results may not count towards your final degree result, and so often students find that they did not realise the importance of getting that 2:1 in their first year!

Will I have to live like Will Smith in 'The Pursuit of Happiness?'
No. Applying for an internship does not require the same sort of sacrifice as Will Smith's character in the blockbuster movie, summer internships are in most instances paid and there is often more than 1 job up for grabs at the end. That said, you are expected to work hard - with significant potential benefits to be had at the end.

What is the internship application process?
The process is often similar to that of applying to a graduate position, but in most cases is slightly condensed. You will usually have to complete an on-line application form, some form of psychometric test followed by an interview, an assessment centre - or both.

Application deadlines vary from company to company, and some recruit on an ongoing basis, so it is often worth applying early as your application could be dealt with straight away. Application deadlines are listed within our internship search. Generally, the application process can take anywhere from 4-12 weeks start to finish.

What can I expect to find myself doing on my internship?
The traditional image of an undergraduate intern is someone that answer phones, files thing and spend 5 hours a day next to the photocopier - with the chance to sometimes 'shadow' a senior member of staff and watch what they do. Fortunately for you this is generally not the case. Companies spend a lot of time and resources setting up internship programmes and ensuring they get the right people, and it is for this reason that it's worth their while to challenge you as much as possible. Often you will find yourself working with other regular staff and other interns on project work and function-specific work that you would be doing on the graduate programme on a day to day basis.

How much can I expect to be paid during my internship?
This varies from company to company, but general rates are between £200 and £400 per week, depending on location and the industry that you are working in. Also remember that as a student you have a tax allowance in the UK of £5225 - so that's money that you can earn tax-free. This means that you will either be paid the full amount without being taxed or be able to claim back the tax you have paid at the end of the tax year in April 2009. For more information go to www.hmrc.gov.uk.

Most internships are now paid placements, however with smaller companies you may still only receive expense payments. This is isn't great for the back pocket but is most of the time still worth it for the valuable work experience that you would be gaining.

Does much change from company to company?
Yes. Obviously the roles and responsibilities of an intern varies between companies and industry sectors. For this reason it is worth asking as many questions as possible at interviews and assessment centres. The working atmosphere in a company is often driven by the company culture. This working culture varies greatly from sector to sector, but also as much from company to company. Amongst other things, company values, the department that you work in, working hours, colleagues, your boss, salary, levels of responsibility and other non-salary benefits can all contribute to your working 'experience'.

There is plenty of information available on all company websites about the experience of staff that work there. However it will often seem that this information is very similar from company to company! For this reason the only way to know actually what a company will be like to work for is to actually try it out - and this is where an internship fits perfectly.

Can I expect to be offered a graduate job after my undergraduate internship placement?
Generally yes - if you perform well. The main role of an undergraduate internship programme from a company's point of view is to recruit those that perform well into their larger graduate scheme. Although the work you will certainly be contributing to the company and its direction, the internship's primary function is to allow both partiers to 'test each other out'. For this reason, it is as much for you to see what the company is like as it is for the company to see what you are like. It is often the case that a student rejects a company's offer of a full time role once they graduate, as they have not enjoyed the experience or have realised that they would like to work in a different department or sector. This is not a bad thing - an undergraduate internship with any company will look good on your CV or applications to other graduate programmes further down the line. The soft skills that you learn and the experience that you gain will be valuable in any industry.

So, with all that information to hand, why not try out our undergraduate internship search?

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