Career skills

Does internship count as employment?

Applying for a job that requires prior work experience? Are you asking yourself, “Does an internship count as employment?” You’re not alone!

Homer Simpson wondering: does my internship count as employment?
Homer, wondering if his Duff Beer internship counts toward the minimum employment required by Springfield Power Company.

The short answer is – yes. An internship is work, so it does count as employment / work experience.

Why internships count as employment

As someone who’s written dozens of job descriptions, I can tell you the reason they include a minimum work requirement: employers want to hire people who’ve done it before.

They’re looking for people who’ve made mistakes, developed processes, and succeeded in the past – people who’ve gone to the right school of experience for the job they need to fill.

A good internship is probably the fastest you’ll ever move up the learning curve: you get to see how people do a job, you have some responsibility and you’re constantly learning – so if a job requires “prior experience,” you can certainly add your internship to your total employment experience to qualify for a job.

When do internships not count as employment

All of that said, there are some circumstances when internships may not count as employment:

  1. Part-time internships. While you can still include part-time internships in your job experience when applying for a role, employers realize that you didn’t spend as much time (and learn as much) as you would have in a full-time role. So a yearlong part-time internship won’t get you 1 year’s worth of credit for an employer. Typically, it would count for the amount of time it would have taken if you were working full-time.
  2. Internships that aren’t relevant for the job you’re applying for. Most jobs require a certain amount of relevant prior work experience. So, if your job requires 2 years engineering experience and your internship was in marketing, you’re not going to get credit towards the required experience.
  3. Internships without full-time work. Let’s say you’ve had a total of 2 years worth of internships. Most jobs looking for two years of work experience won’t accept only internships. (They’ll wonder why you couldn’t get a full-time job.) So, while it’s OK to add internship time to your other experience, it’ll be hard to satisfy an experience requirement with internship experience alone.

For resources on getting a job:

By Taylor Thompson

Taylor is a co-founder at Purpose Built Ventures, where he helps launch mission-driven companies. Before Purpose Built, Taylor led growth at Almanac, strategy for Curious Learning, and product at PharmaSecure. His work helps 100,000s of people collaborate at work, 4 million children learn to read, and protects billions of medicines from counterfeiting. He has hired dozens of people, helped raise more than $50 million, and contributed to as a researcher with Clay Christensen. Taylor is an Echoing Green Fellow, and he has degrees from Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School.

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