How to Get a Computer Science Internship

Computer science professionals can get real-world experience and invaluable networking through an internship in the field.

Computer science internships aren’t a frequently discussed subject, but these experiences can be your key to the job of your dreams. If you’re wondering what these kinds of programs entail and why you should enter into one, then read on!

What Is an Internship for Computer Science?

A computer science internship is a structured program where students shadow and work under professional computer scientists who have years of experience in the field. These experiences give students real-world knowledge of how companies are run day-to-day and the skills needed to be successful upon graduation. It’s a time for the student to take the theoretical knowledge and skills that they have learned in the classroom and apply them to real-life situations. 

Since these experiences are often in big businesses, an internship is an excellent opportunity for students to hone soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and networking.

There are two main types of internships available to computer science students: those in corporate settings, and those in academic research settings. In corporate settings, students work under one or more computer scientists or software engineers in order to experience their daily job responsibilities. Individuals who choose an internship at an academic research setting will get the opportunity to work with professors and graduate students on the research that they are conducting. 

Are Internships Necessary for Computer Science?

Internships in computer science may not necessarily be required to learn the technical skills necessary to become a computer scientist, but they are excellent opportunities that students should take advantage of when available. There is often a large gap between the information learned in school and the actual knowledge needed to succeed in any job. Internships give students the opportunity to better understand their field and develop a framework for approaching and solving the problems that they are likely to encounter in the future. 

Computer science internships are also a great place to meet future mentors, employers, and colleagues. One of the primary advantages of internships is the ability to work closely with a seasoned computer scientist. It’s not uncommon for a computer science intern and the computer scientist or software engineer that they work with during an internship to develop a special relationship in which the computer scientist becomes a mentor during and after the internship is complete. Mentors are invaluable resources for when you have personal and career difficulties and need someone to turn to for guidance. 

After all, finding a job after graduating with your computer science degree can be a stressful and uncertain period. And computer science internships are opportunities to network with possible future employers and can make this process easier. During a computer science internship, students spend quite a bit of time working with a company, and companies pay attention to promising upcoming talent. 

Software companies and other organizations know how difficult it can be to find a quality employee, so if you show up to your internship ready to impress, you can be sure word is going to reach the top. Sometimes these internships even result in job offers by companies before you graduate, which can take loads of pressure off you as graduation approaches. At the very least, putting your all into an internship can result in a great reference letter, which could be the deciding factor between you and another computer scientist when applying to jobs.

When Should I Get a Computer Science Internship?

Computer science students start applying for internships at different times throughout their program. One of the most common times to complete an internship is during the summer when students commonly have a break from classes. Some students apply for internships every summer of their schooling, giving them at least four opportunities to network with professionals and gain valuable experience. These programs often require potential interns to apply to their program by answering interview questions and filling out an application. 

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Computer science programs often structure opportunities for an internship during the last year of a student’s study. CS programs understand the importance of its students participating in an internship, which is why these programs often allow students to earn credits for these experiences. CS programs that offer credit for internship experiences often have partnerships with specific companies, which may limit the type of internship you’re able to complete for credit, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t intern with your company of choice on your own time.