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Career skills

How many internships you need to get a job

When you’re preparing to enter the job market, the right internship in your desired field can be just the ticket to landing your dream job. However, many people are confused about the purpose of internships and wonder how these positions can enhance their careers in the long run.

We’re here to help you navigate some of the most popular questions about internships and determine how many internships you should do when preparing for your career.

How Many Internships is a Normal Amount?

Many students complete at least one internship related to the job they’re applying for. This experience helps you test the waters of the field without committing to a career long term. Alternatively, having a part-time job, personal project, or academic work related to your desired job field can substitute as a great bonus to your resume.

That said, according to Westmont College, more than half of employers expect college graduates to have at least two internships under their belts when applying for jobs. In fact, many people have up to four internships.

Why do some jobseekers prefer to participate in multiple internships? Getting experience through a few different internships can help a person test out various positions to see which is a better fit.

On the other hand, another person may know exactly where they want to work after their studies and aim to start an internship with just one specific company.

What’s the Point of an Internship?

First and foremost, the point of an internship is to secure a job in the near future. As mentioned above, some people are certain they want to work for a particular company. When you start out as an intern with that company, you’ll have a greater chance of eventually being hired full-time. In fact, paid interns get hired by the same company they interned for around 65% of the time.

You may even seek an internship with a specific company simply because they are held in high regard within the industry. Showing a future employer that you worked with this big-name organization signals to others that you are competent enough for top-tier companies to choose you over other candidates.

What if you’re not sure what company you want to work with? Don’t worry. Even interning with a random company in your chosen field will give you the opportunity to learn and demonstrate skills that make you a competitive candidate for roles.

One prized benefit of completing an internship is that you can share your accomplishments with future employers. Some examples of projects you might find yourself working on during your internship include:

  • Creating a portfolio of website designs
  • Launching a mock social media campaign
  • Developing an app for a retail chain

You’ll also get the opportunity to see if you like the work, an often-underrated perk of internships. It’s not unheard of for someone to intern in their dream job only to learn they actually don’t gravitate toward the role as much as they thought they would! Alternatively, you may enjoy the job but don’t feel like you quite have a knack for it and don’t want to pursue it any longer.

How Many Internships is a Good Amount?

Your satisfaction with your first and any subsequent internships will likely influence the number of internships you take part in overall. All you need is one highly successful internship or one with a well-known brand.

Quality over quantity is key, so if you have a great internship with the company of your dreams, you don’t necessarily need an additional internship. Likewise, if your first internship doesn’t quite live up to your expectations, you can try another one.

According to a survey conducted by the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions at the University of Wisconsin, about 1 in 4 students reported “less than satisfactory” experiences in their internships. Of course, many other students reported being “very satisfied” with their internships, too.

Keep in mind that you’re really looking to find out two things during your internship:

  1. You want to determine whether you enjoy the role (for your own benefit).
  2. You want to ensure that you excel in the role (to attract future employers).

Focus on finding an internship that leaves you with substantial experience. For example:

  • SEO Internship: You may write 100 articles that bring in 20,000 additional visits, ultimately garnering $25,000 in revenue each month.
  • Sales Internship: You might place over 300 calls each day. The result? $50,000 in revenue generated with a $10,000 commission.
  • Software Internship: An intern might build a feature for a software system, improving functionality for users. This feature could result in several more users.

Once you’ve finished your internship, use your experience to your advantage. Add the information to your LinkedIn profile and your resume, highlighting the results of your work to showcase your acquired skills and experience.

But Can You Have Too Many Internships?

You might be thinking, Hmm, if one internship is good, surely multiple ones must look even better on my resume? Not so fast. While technically you could have as many as 10 internships (participating in multiple summer ones and additional part-time internships throughout the year), this isn’t the best route for most people.

How do you know if you have too many internships? Consider what you’ve accomplished during each of them so far. If you can’t think of concrete accomplishments, the number of internships could be a red flag for a future employer. How so? A high number of internships could signal to an employer that you don’t have the follow-through to continue with the same organization. In other words, it could be a sign that you have difficulty committing to a role.

Instead of trying to rack up as many internships as possible, focus on landing one quality internship with a respected brand. You may need to use a few internships as stepping stones to help you gain experience until you get that great, final internship.

Once you’ve had four or five internships, you may be putting in unnecessary effort. Unless, of course, you simply want to try out dozens of different roles!

Are Two Internships Enough?

The short answer is “Yes.” In most cases, if you have two internships where you accomplished something impressive, you don’t need more. But keep in mind that your internship should always reflect a field you’d eventually like to work in.

Other resources:

With a bit of research, you can find internships that you enjoy in the short term and can help you gain employment with a similar (or even the same) company in the long term.

For help finding the right internship, see:

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 HBR.org 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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