The best time to do an internship is a recent discussion I’ve found myself having with my peers. Some feel it’s better to do one before graduating, even if it leads to falling behind academically by taking a semester off. A postponed graduation to these individuals is worth having the experience before the degree.
You can study a topic for years from a textbook, but the ultimate knowledge comes through experience. When saying you’re a graduate in whatever you majored in, you’re essentially saying this field is your specialty. If you have no experience in an actual workplace involving your field, your knowledge is limited.
When entering a position, there are basic things, such as control operations or even jargon, that could have been picked up through interning. Entering a position with actual experience will better prepare you for the work setting of your profession. Ultimately, by participating in internships early, you’re placing yourself above other applicants, even if only by a little.
However, critics of this theory believe speed and efficiency to be of greater importance. They see no logical reason to halt the earning of their degrees, even to gain deeper knowledge in their fields. They believe there will be all the time in the world to gain experience after walking across the stage.
With these two arguments in play, it would seem the opinion of when to do an internship strictly depends on the person and his or her priorities. If you value education and would most likely want to pursue graduate school, it would probably be in your best interest to finish your undergraduate degree, then do an internship during the summer before grad school. You could even intern during the summer as an undergrad. Either way, your ultimate goal would be to plan around your academic schedule to graduate on time.
If you are aiming for a respectable career right after graduation, then you should be researching an internship your freshman year. A great internship will not only allow you to learn an enormous amount of information but also strengthen your résumé. This can make a huge difference when applying for jobs and even in salary offerings as employers will look at you as a greater asset. So if you’re trying to decide when the best time to intern is, keep your long-term goals in mind and choose a time period that coincides.