What is an Internship?

An internship is a short work agreement, typically between 3 and 12 months, that enables you to gain real-world experience in a workplace. Some internships are part-time, some are full-time. The main difference between an internship and a job is that, when an employer hires you as an intern, they are acknowledging that you don’t know everything you need to know yet to work for their company, and they intend to facilitate your learning while you are working for them.

Why do an internship?

  • Gain skills and experience for a competitive edge in the workplace
  • Confirm that an intended career direction is right for you
  • Develop a network in your future field of work
  • Earn long-term positions sooner/more easily

Finding an Internship:

Job Boards

Some internships are advertised on job boards. Where opportunities are posted on job boards, you will typically apply for them the same way that you would apply for any other job:

  • Submit an application, usually consisting of a resume and cover letter outlining your goals and fit with the organization
  • Participate in an interview, if you are invited
  • Join a team and begin work!

Company and Industry Research

Many internships are not broadly advertised because the companies that offer them expect you to research your intended field of work and learn about them. These companies are often well-known in their industries.

You can contact companies that are not advertising internships with a well-written application package asking if they would consider hiring an intern – this has been an effective strategy for many students.

Paid vs Unpaid Internships

Generally, if you perform work for a person, company or organization and are not in business for yourself, then you would be considered to be a paid employee under the Employment Standards Act (ESA). Under specific conditions, where learning is the focus, you might not be an employee.

Choosing Your Internship

Step 1: Assess Your Goals

  • Develop a clear understanding of what you hope to learn or gain from the experience
  • Make a list of skills or experiences you are missing to move forward in your intended field. You may want to review our tip sheet Information Interviews or explore your options in Career Cruising (via CLN under Resources)
  • List some criteria that support your goal, like:
    • Canada or Abroad?
    • Large or small organization?
    • Paid or volunteer?

Step 2: Find Your Internship

  • Research your industry to find companies
  • See the bottom of this page for job boards/programs
  • Apply and interview

Step 3: Go and Learn

  • Demonstrate punctuality and enthusiasm
  • Learn from the people around you
  • Participate on your team
  • Ask questions
  • Understand how the company operates
  • Ask for a letter or LinkedIn recommendation and stay in touch

Job Boards with Internships

The following job boards often have internships posted:

Internship Programs

Most formal internship programs require that you are available full-time for a summer, a semester, or a specific period:

  • Campus Access - This directory contains an extensive list of internship programs that offer students and graduates an opportunity to gain practical experience and explore potential careers
  • Career Edge - This national non-profit connects new graduates with paid internships.
  • Ontario Internship Program (OIP) - 2-year internships in the Ontario government for recent graduates
  • Ontario Legislature Internship Program (OLIP) - 10-month internships working with backbenchers at the Ontario Legislature
  • Co-op at UTSC -  Enrolment in co-op is limited; see the website for admissions information

AA&CC Appointment

  • You can book an appointment with a Career Counsellor or Career Strategist to review your job search strategies.

Please note: While every effort is made to avoid errors, practices and links do change. This tip sheet is intended as an informational document only.

Last update: September 2014