As engineers, most of us were great students in high school. It conditioned us to believe that school is the most important thing. That the faster we graduate and get a degree, the sooner we’ll be living our dream lives with our dream careers. This is not the case for engineering.
If you’re wondering “how many internships should I do in college?”, you’re not alone. There is no magic number for how many internships you “should” do in college. You should aim to do at least one, but realistically, you could probably do up to five. It just depends on your goals.
- How many internships should you do?
- Why internships are important
- Are internships worth delaying graduation?
- How to fit in internships without delaying graduation
- Are internships stressful?
- Model semester plan with internships
How many internships should you do?
As an engineering student, you should aim to do at least one internship during college, but realistically you could do up to five. You should do as many internships as you can without extending your graduation date by more than a year.
If your goal is to get a job in industry after you graduate, the more internships you do, the better. This may not be true if you plan to go to grad school or do something else after graduation. If this is the case, it may be beneficial to do research or some other extracurricular over the summer. It just depends on your career goals.
Why internships are important
When you graduate and go to apply for jobs, the number one thing that recruiters will look for on your resume is internships. Internships and co-ops are the only way to get true industry experience during undergrad. It is the best way that you can prepare for a full-time job in college.
Employers love to see internships and co-ops on your resume. Any employer would take a 3.0 GPA student with multiple internships over a 4.0 GPA student with none. That being said, don’t neglect your grades entirely. Most internships have a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0 (occasionally 3.5). You just shouldn’t be putting applying for internships on the back burner in order to keep your perfect 4.0 GPA. This will not benefit you in the long run.
Are internships worth delaying graduation?
Yes, it is worth delaying graduation for an internship or co-op. In engineering, it is super normal to take 4.5 or 5 years to graduate. No employer will think less of you for taking longer to graduate, especially if you have industry experience to show for it.
Additionally, graduation is usually not delayed unless you do a co-op. A co-op is essentially an extended internship that lasts for 6-7 months over the course of a summer and either fall or spring semester. If given the choice, you should absolutely try and do a co-op during your undergrad. They are easier to get than internships. You will also learn so much more in 6-7 months compared to just 2-3.
Read Co-ops vs. Internship: 7 Major differences for more information.
How to fit in internships without delaying graduation
If you can’t delay graduation for personal reasons, there are still ways to fit in multiple internships. The first and most obvious way is to use summers. Most engineering degrees are designed to be completed in 8 semesters. This means hypothetically, you could do an internship every summer and still graduate on time.
Another great way to fit in more internships is by taking online courses. Strategically save your “easy” courses to do in parallel with internships or co-ops (think your gen-eds, tech electives, art appreciation, ect). This is especially effective if you chose to do a co-op. If you took only one course online every summer and one during your co-op semester, you could essentially knock out an entire semester’s worth of credits and still be able to graduate on time.
Are internships stressful?
A lot of students talk themselves out of applying for internships because they’re scared that they’re not ready or that they will be too stressed. Many students find internships to be less stressful than school. Sure, it can take some time to get comfortable on your team and feel like you know what you’re doing. But your team is there to help you and guide you. No one expects interns to just show up and jump right in.
With internships, you have a 9-5 schedule. That means that after 5 is your time. With school, it can feel never-ending. Even after a full day of classes, you still have studying, homework, extracurriculars, and more. Having that built-in free time is really nice during internships.
You also make good money during internships. On average, engineering companies pay $20-$30/hour. Combine this with provided subsidized housing, and you can save a lot of money. Over several internships, we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars. That can make a huge difference as a broke college student.
Model semester plan with internships
So you might be wondering, how can I really fit in a bunch of internships? Take a look at this model plan.
Year 1 Fall
Year 1 Spring
Year 1 Summer
Year 2 Fall
Year 2 Spring
Year 2 Summer
Year 3 Fall
Year 3 Spring
Year 3 Summer
Year 4 Fall
Year 4 Spring
Year 4 Summer
Year 5 Fall
With this plan, you could graduate with over a year of real-life industry experience under your belt. That’s even without doing an internship your first summer, since many students struggle to find internships as freshmen. By taking a co-op, you only extend your graduation by one semester, and you free yourself to do an additional summer internship.
This is just one sample plan of many. There are dozens of ways you can fit internships in. It just all depends on what offers you receive and what the best course of action is for you. The point is to prove that while having 3-5 internships sounds like a lot, it’s actually very doable.
Remember, college should be a time of both fun and growth. Don’t feel guilty for taking a summer off to study abroad, travel, or spend time with your family. You don’t need to fill every possible semester with internships. Even if you graduate with only one or two internships, you’ll be ahead of the curve. Some people, despite their best efforts, don’t graduate with any internships and they still eventually get jobs. There is no set amount of internships you “should” do. It’s completely up what you are offered and what you want to do.