Types of Internships & Red Flags to Look Out For

Jenna Wiley

In today’s world, internships on job applications are the same as getting a gold star in elementary school. It’s something that sets the applicant apart from the others. There are a lot of different types of internships, and here are some red flags that come along with them. 

To know what internships are best for you, it’s important to understand the different types. 

  • Paid: These are exactly what the name implies: paid. These are becoming harder to come by these days, so be on the lookout. The form of payment can come in a few different forms, as an hourly wage or daily per diem. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 all employees of a for profit organization are required to be paid, but technically interns aren’t employees. With non-profit organizations, the rules are a little more lax. 
  • For college credit: College credit internships are typically affiliated with the college or university you are attending. For GS, more information can be found at internships-co-ops. These are not paid; the form of “payment” is college credit hours. 
  • Summer internships: Summer internships are popular among college students. It’s easiest to work around and leave the traditional Fall and Spring semester open to taking classes. These are usually eight to twelve weeks long and can be either paid or unpaid. 
  • Externships: This type of internship is also often referred to as “job shadowing.” ”Externships are the shortest type of internship, lasting anything from a week to a month. During that time, the intern is offered a third person perspective of what it would be like to work in the position of their choice. 

Christopher Garland, Ph.D, and assistant writing professor at GS, had some insight as to what students should be keeping an eye out for when scouting for internships. 

“A student really needs to know what they are taking on and make sure that they have a clear line of communication with their supervisor. And I know that many companies really do understand that the intern is not just someone to run errands or do ‘menial’ work,” said Garland.

In addition to picking the right type of internship for you, it’s also important to notice the red flags as you search. 

Here are a few to keep an eye out for:

  • Broad/vague job descriptions: If the job descriptions seems to cover a lot of ground, be sure to steer clear. This allows the employer to make you do anything they want because technically the vague job description included it. Make sure what you are applying for will benefit you and your career. 
  • “Busy” work: Pop culture often displays interns as people who print copies, get coffee and occasionally do actual work. While those things certainly could be an intern’s job, speak up if all you’re doing is answering phone calls. That isn’t going to give you the experience you want.  
  • No payment: If you aren’t working for college credit, make sure you understand that most internships are unpaid and always check what you are signing up for.

When it comes to red flags, Garland indicated internships that have not stated responsibilities and not having a clear line of communication are ones to look out for. 

Internships are a great way to boost a resume and really catch the eye of an employer, but it’s important to know which one is the best option for you.