Internships for professional careers are similar in some ways but not as rigorous as apprenticeships for professions, trade and vocational jobs, but the lack of standardisation and oversight leaves the term open to broad interpretation. Interns may be high school students, college and university students, or post-graduate adults. These positions may be paid or unpaid and are usually temporary.
Generally, an internship consists of an exchange of services for experience between the student and an organization. Students can also use an internship to determine if they have an interest in a particular career, to create a network of contacts, to acquire a recommendation letter to add to their curriculum vitae, or to gain school credit. Some interns find permanent, paid employment with the organizations for which they worked upon completion of the internship. This can be a significant benefit to the employer as experienced interns often need little or no training when they begin regular employment. It also helps an employer in gauging a student's aptitude, since grade inflation has undermined the reliability of academic grades. Unlike a trainee program, employment at the completion of an internship is not guaranteed.
Internships exist in a wide variety of industries and settings. An internship may be paid, unpaid, or partially paid (in the form of a stipend). Stipends are typically a fixed amount of money that is paid out on a regular basis. Usually, interns that are paid through stipends are paid on a monthly basis. Paid internships are common in professional fields including medicine, architecture, science, engineering, law, business (especially accounting and finance), technology, and advertising.  Non-profit charities and think tanks often have unpaid, volunteer positions. Internships may be part-time or full-time. A typical internship lasts between one and four months, but can be shorter or longer, depending on the organization involved. The act of job shadowing may also constitute interning.
The two primary types of internships that exist in the United States are:
- Work experience: Most often this is in the second or third year of the school period. The placement can be from two months to one full school year. During this period, the student is expected to use the things they have learned in school and put them into practice. This way the student gains work experience in their field of study. The gained experience will be helpful to finish the final year of study.
- Research (graduation) or dissertation: This is mostly done by students who are in their final year. With this kind of internship a student does research for a particular company. The company can have something that they feel they need to improve, or the student can choose a topic within the company themselves. The results of the research study will be put in a report and often will have to be presented.
Another type of internship growing in popularity is the virtual internship, in which the intern works remotely, and is not physically present at the job location. It provides the capacity to gain job experience without the conventional requirement of being physically present in an office. The internship is conducted via virtual means, such as phone, email, and web communication. Virtual interns generally have the opportunity to work at their own pace.
Fees for internship and charity auctions
Some companies now find and place students in mostly unpaid internships for a fee. These companies charge to assist with a search, promising to refund their fees if no internship is found. These programs vary, but they claim to provide internship placements at reputable companies, provide controlled housing in a new city, mentorship and support throughout the summer, networking, weekend activities in some programs, and sometimes academic credit.
Another form of paying for internships is through charity auctions. A company with an internship will select a charity who will obtain an internship position funded by the auction. In some cases, companies have created internships simply to help a charity.
Some claim that fee-based programs and charity auctions restrict internship opportunities to students in wealthier families. These companies respond that "the average student comes from the middle class," and that their parents "'dig deep' to pay for it". Some companies specifically fund scholarships and grants for low-income applicants.
Critics of internships decry the practice of requiring certain college credits to be obtained only through unpaid internships. Depending on the cost of the school, this is often seen as an unethical practice, as it requires students to exchange paid-for and often limited tuition credits in order to work an uncompensated job. Even if the school does not require credit for an internship, companies offering the internship often pressure colleges to give college credit so interns do not complain that they receive nothing for their efforts.
Paying for academic credits can also be seen as a way to ensure that students complete the duration of the internship, as they can be held accountable by their academic institution. For example, a student may be awarded academic credit only after their university receives a positive review from the intern's supervisor at the sponsoring organization. Some employers feel that this enables them to view the intern as having some "skin in the game".
Internship laws and practices vary widely from country to country, and region to region.
Manila is often chosen as one of the most popular options for internships specifically for international humanitarian organizations. This is mainly because the city houses many humanitarian organizations who are willing and capable to provide training and experience to intern applicants from all over the world. To name a few, the World Health Organization, Asian Development Bank and International Committee of the Red Cross are present in Manila.
The potential that international markets have, particularly Asia, is often ignored. Asia boasts some of the world’s fastest growing economies, incredible innovation in a wide array of industries (particularly tech), and rapidly expanding companies that are in search for spots to fill. Asia currently makes up 60% of the world’s population, the languages of Mandarin Chinese and Hindi/Urdu are two of the three most popular spoken in the world. With an internship in Asia, students are able to immerse themselves in the working/business culture there, which will not only be a catalyst for personal growth but will be a very valuable experience for future employment. A professional network in Asia will be useful anywhere students go, especially now that Asian countries are making huge economic impacts globally. 
Internships positions in China generally follow the academic calendar, starting in late summer and finishing in late spring. There is a growing trend for overseas students (particularly those from Australia, the UK, and the US) to compete for increasing internship opportunities available in China. It is common for overseas students to use the services of (for-profit) China-based internship providers to secure their internship.
Internship opportunities in India are career specific. College students often choose internships based on their branch of study. Students often perceive it as a way to develop their capabilities by practically applying their degree while learning in a professional work environment.
Most students apply for internships during their summer and winter breaks. In some universities, internships during the college breaks are compulsory and a part of the curriculum. It is common that previous interns become employees to the organization once they have acquired the necessary skills and experience. Moreover, many engineering students also term their training period in certain industrial organization as an internship.
Most universities and colleges in Malaysia require students to complete a minimum of one semester-long internship during their final year of studies before they are eligible to graduate from a diploma or bachelor program. This applies to both government and private universities and colleges. It also applies to most programs offered. Students can either find a suitable internship at a company in Malaysia or they can complete their internship overseas.Once a student completes their internship, it is estimated that they have around 20% more chances to land a job compared to students without prior internship.
Internships in Australia are often referred to as "work experience" when undertaken by high school students and "industry experience" when undertaken by university students. Some degree programs such as engineering require a minimum amount of industry experience (usually 12 weeks) to attain professional accreditation with industry bodies, such as Engineers Australia.
Unpaid internships are legal and allowed under the Fair Work Act 2009. There are a number of criteria used to determine if the engagement forms a legitimate internship, including:
- benefit to the individual
- commercial gain for the company
- period of placement, and
- relationship to a course of study.
In New Zealand, there are a number of colleges where students can undertake an internship while studying. Students studying adventure tourism or hospitality management must complete an internship in order to complete their course studies. Most of these internships are paid by the employer.
Students studying for careers in educational psychology in New Zealand must complete a one-year internship – the internship program at Massey University, for example, is a one-year post masters, post graduate diploma in educational psychology and the majority of internships are carried out with placement in the Ministry of Education. Some funding is available through the Ministry of Education Study Awards program to support interns in their applied practice. The funds are contestable each year. In 2013, there were 10 study awards each worth NZ$15,000.
Students studying for a bachelor of communication studies, majoring in journalism at Auckland University of Technology are required to undergo a two-week compulsory internship in their third year of study. This internship can be at a national or local newspaper, a magazine or a radio station. They are required to research and write stories for publication and broadcast and get experience in a fast-paced news environment.
Work without pay is inappropriate in Denmark. One way it can be done is as part of a work-trial where a person is tested by the authorities in conjunction with putting the individual back into the workplace.
It is also common within most Danish universities to place students in "free work" jobs. The company is then compensated and the intern receives welfare during this period. This normally lasts about three months. The Danish trade unions monitor this type of work very closely so the hiring of an intern does not result in the loss of a paid job.
Students and citizens of the EEA/EU area can freely move and reside in Denmark under EU rules. If their stay exceeds three months then an application for registration with the Regional State Administration has to be filed. If the student comes from outside the European Union than the following rules to apply for residence and work permit for an internship apply:
- the student must be between 18 and 34 years old (excluded from this are health care students)
- the internship must contribute to the student's studies
- the respective internship provider must be able to offer appropriate work
- salary and employment conditions must comply with the regulations of the Danish collective agreements
- a detailed description of the internship and its objective must be handed in with the application
Furthermore, there are special rules for agricultural, healthcare and architectural internships.
At French universities, internships, known as "stages", are common. The duration of French internships usually varies from two to six months (which is the maximal legal length). French labor law requires that all internships lasting two months or longer include a minimum stipend (€3.60 per hour in 2016).
Internships in France are also popular for international students. The primary reason international students intern in France is to learn to speak French fluently. French companies greatly appreciate employees who speak multiple languages and thus international opportunities are available.
As in most other countries, most students take their internship (German: "praktikum") between the fourth or fifth semester of their degree at a university of applied sciences. In some fields of study it is common to write the final thesis in a company as part of an internship. Some degrees do not require practical training in order to graduate.
Another type of internship has emerged in recent years is the post graduation internship. The purpose of a post graduation internship is to equip the student with knowledge and tools to be successful in their future position. These post graduation internships should last between six and ten months.
Since the Italian university system entered the Bologna process, an internship experience (commonly referred to by the French term stage) has been made compulsory for almost all those who are studying for a bachelors or a master's degree (especially in technical, economic or scientific faculties). The goal of this process is to reduce the gap between companies' demands and the often very theoretical learning offered by Italian universities. However, since the internship is usually completed at university as well and since only few companies who employ student interns rarely offer proper training, these internships are generally not considered real work experience. Almost all students therefore have to do a second or a third internship after they have completed their studies, hoping to receive appropriate professional training and possibly getting employed afterward in the same company or in another company in a close or related business.
Italian internships can last up to six months and can be extended for another six months for a potential year long internship. Internships in Italy can be either paid or unpaid. Student internships, especially the ones not involved with the development of a thesis, are usually not paid.
Almost all graduate internships are paid, but the remuneration is usually only around 600 euros gross per month (that is about ¼ of the gross monthly remuneration of an hired young graduate employee) and without benefits other than lunch and a few paid days for sickness or vacation. This poses a problem for graduates, considering as well that some companies use graduate interns just to save money, making them work for 6 to 12 months without giving them a decent remuneration, without offering them proper training or formation, and without hiring them after the internship even if they were shown to be productive, fast-learning and trustworthy.
In order to get an internship, graduates have to go to interviews, which might be held in cities far from the ones in which graduates have been studying.
In the Netherlands, it is also common to perform internships during college which, like in Belgium and France, is called a stage. Most student internships last between 3 and 10 months. Companies are not obligated to pay the student, so sometimes small companies do not pay anything. Unpaid internships are also the de facto standard in education. The normal internship compensation rate in the Netherlands is around €300 per month, depending on education level and company generosity. Netherlands no.5
At Spanish universities, internship during the education period are uncommon. "Real" work experience for students begins only when they are done with their study.
Some Spanish companies are getting more used to having student internships—mostly these are international students from other European countries. Often, students want to learn Spanish. Placement organizations may be needed as Spanish companies are harder to contact directly. The normal stage compensation rate in Spain is around €500 per month. Retribution is regulated in many universities starting from €6 per hour. Given these rates, Spanish employers who do hire interns often may be taking advantage of unpaid interships in order to get free labor.
In the United Kingdom, work experience is offered as part of the national curriculum to secondary school students in years 10 and 11 (14 to 16 years of age.) Generally, these placements are unpaid.
During their degree programme, students may apply for internships during the summer holidays. University staff give students access, and students apply direct to employers. Some students opt to apply for year-long placements, often referred to as "sandwich placements", between the penultimate and final year of their degree. This is done as part of a degree programme. Some universities and employers hold fairs and exhibitions to encourage students to consider the option and to enable students to meet potential employers. In the modern labour market, graduates with internship work experience are deemed more desirable to employers.
The purpose of these placements is varied. Some university students see it as a way to develop their employability by utilising the academic elements of their degree in a practical setting. International students may also seek to get understanding about how work is conducted in the English-speaking world and to experience cultural diversity. Organisations such as the Trades Union Congress and Intern Aware have been lobbying for a change in British internships to make interns aware of their employment law rights, especially in relation to whether they are entitled to minimum wage and paid holidays.
The legal status of volunteers and interns is not always clear. Various factors determine whether an individual is classed as an employee, a worker, a volunteer or self-employed and these often require further examination.
In Canada, high school, college, and university student placements are typically referred to as "co-ops" (co-operative education) programs. University co-op programs are often highly competitive; students must apply to and compete for admission, as enrollment is limited. Partnering employers will post placement opportunities through the university. These positions typically span a four-month term taking place either during summer break or during the school year. Some summer internships require proof that the student is returning to school in the fall.
While some internships are unpaid (particularly in media, advertising, PR, and communications), there are a few Canadian organizations that do offer paid internships. Not all internships are entry-level positions; organizations may also offer internships for mid-level professionals. For example, in the province of Ontario, paid internships are available for immigrants who have extensive experience in other countries but lack relevant Canadian experience.
The nature and scope of unpaid internships in Canada is difficult to estimate. This is in part because there are no written regulations defining internships directly. Minimum wage for labour is covered by employment standards legislation and is governed at the provincial level. Ontario provides for a six-point test to be applied to determine if an employee-employer relationship does not exist, where all of the conditions must be met:
- the training is similar to that which is given in a vocational school
- the training is for the benefit of the individual
- the person providing the training derives little, if any, benefit from the activity of the individual while he or she is being trained
- the individual does not displace employees of the person providing the training
- the individual is not accorded a right to become an employee of the person providing the training
- the individual is advised that he or she will receive no remuneration for the time that he or she spends in training
Many internships in the United States are career specific. Students often choose internships based on their major at the university or college level. It is not uncommon for former interns to acquire full-time employment at an organization once they have enough necessary experience. The challenging job market has made it essential for college students to gain real world experience prior to graduation. Yet, only 37% of unpaid interns have job offers awaiting them at graduation compared to 60% of paid interns and 36% of students with no internship experience. In the US, company internships are at the center of NIGMS funded biotechnology training programs for science PhD students. The Office of Personnel Management of the US federal government operation operates a robust internship program for college students and recent graduates.
Not all internships are paid. Many internships that are unpaid involve receiving college credit, especially if an internship is correlated with a specific class. The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division allows an employer not to pay a trainee if all of the following are true:
- the training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction
- the training is for the benefit of the trainees
- the trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation
- the employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded
- the trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period
- the employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training
An exception is allowed for individuals who volunteer their time, freely and without anticipation of compensation for religious, charitable, civic, or humanitarian purposes to non-profit organizations. An exception is also allowed for work performed for a state or local government agency.
Some states have their own laws on the subject. Laws in the state of California, for example, require an employer to pay its interns working in California or offer the intern academic or college credit for their time and labor. As another example, in the state of New York, for For-Profit companies, the activities of trainees or students cannot provide an immediate advantage to the employer. On the other hand, trainees or students do not receive employee benefits like health and dental insurance, pension or retirement credit, discounted or free goods and services from the employer, etc.
- In April 2014, Condé Nast settled the Ballinger vs. Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. lawsuit over unpaid interns. "Former W Magazine intern Lauren Ballinger and former New Yorker intern Matthew Leib" filed the lawsuit in federal court in the Southern District of New York in June 2013. The interns claimed that they were paid below minimum wage when working for the Condé Nast titles and, as a result, Condé Nast decided to discontinue its unpaid intern program.
- In 2012, a former Harper’s Bazaar intern sued Hearst Magazines because of a claim of violating minimum wage and overtime laws. The judge dismissed that case, but the intern appealed the ruling.
- In New York federal court, the Fox Searchlight Pictures litigation is a class-action suit claiming that Fox violated federal and state minimum wage laws by not paying production interns working on its Black Swan film. In June 2013, the judge ruled that the unpaid interns were employees, which "are entitled to wages under the Federal Labor Standards Act." Fox Searchlight Pictures later appealed the ruling.
Internships in Brazil are known as estágios and internship workers are known as estagiários. The term "estágio" applies to both company internships and academic internships.
Academic internships are usually arranged for college credit (research hours). Brazilian research projects do not usually allocate funds for paid interns, and as a result, academic internships are often unpaid.
Company and industry internships are regulated by the Lei do Estágio ("internship law"), which requires that companies provide a monthly salary and personal injury service. The Lei do Estágio further stipulates a limit of 30 worked hours per week. Estagiários also have the right to 30 days of paid holidays for each year worked. In practice, legal interns in Big Law and others in professional services routinely work past that limit and receive no vacation time.
An internship in Nigeria is called a "Student Industrial Work Experience Scheme" (SIWES) or "Industrial Training". Students In universities usually spend six months in their third year for four-year courses or fourth year for five-year courses. Students in polytechnics for a two-year National Diploma undergo four months of SIWES which is in most case a 4 credit (unit) course, at the end of National Diploma program, they will go for another 1 year Industrial Training which is key to gaining admission into Higher National Diploma to complete their studies. Students usually use their semester break period for industrial training. While an SIWES is a type of internship in Nigeria, a more official form of internship is seen in medical and allied health professions. Professionals in radiography, medical laboratory sciences, pharmacy, physiotherapy, and medicine undergo a one-year government-paid internship after graduation from school. These professionals are actually called "interns" in Nigeria.
- Definition of Internship (as set forth in the Ohio State University Department of Political Science, accessed January 22, 2013
- United Nations internship page, listing purposes of internship
- "The difference between Internships and Apprenticeships". internstars.co.uk.
- "Wonkblog". The Washington Post.
- Greenhouse, Steven (2 April 2010). "The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not". The New York Times.
- Thompson, Derek (December 2012). "The Role of Higher Education in Career Development: Employer Perceptions" (PDF). The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
- 
- "Internships – Jobs, Reviews, Advice – RateMyPlacement". ratemyplacement.co.uk.
- Virtual internship
- Sue Shellenbarger (January 28, 2009). "Do You Want An Internship? It'll Cost You". The Wall Street Journal.
- Timothy Noah (January 28, 2009). "Opportunity for Sale; Psst! Wanna buy an internship?".
- "Unpaid internships face legal, ethical scrutiny", The Bowdoin Orient, Bowdoin College, April 30, 2004
- "Australian graduates pay for internship programs in China". News.com.au. 4 June 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
- "Graduates going to great lengths to get ahead". BBC. 25 August 2010. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
- "The China Internship Business Is Booming". Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
- Pettitt, Mark (27 February 2013). "Understanding China is vital for today's graduates". The Independent. London. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
- "Graduates look overseas as jobs dry up". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
- "Foreign interns seek experience in Chinese firms". China Daily. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- "Unpaid work". fairwork.gov.au.
- Til debatten om sort arbejde, by Ellen Herkild, Arbejderen, September 4, 2004
- Jobtræning eller grov udnyttelse, by Claus Andersen, Arbejderen, February 9, 2005
- SiD Hillerød får ret i klage, January 7, 2003
- Nyt kvote 2 system fjerner motivation fra unge frivillige (New system removes motivation from youth volunteers), by Morten Münster, Metroxpress, May 13, 2008
- "New to Denmark – Family reunification in Denmark for Union citizens and EEA nationals". nyidanmark.dk.
- "New to Denmark – Interns". nyidanmark.dk.
- "Gratification minimale d'un stagiaire". service-public.fr.
- Crnković-Pozaić, Sanja, "Transition from School to Work: Internships and First Entry to the Labour Market in Croatia", European Training Foundation (ETF) agency of the European Union, Turin, Italy, working paper, 2009.
- "Absolventen Praktikum". semesterticket.net.
- Guillermo Peris Peris. "La FAPE insta a Trabajo a actuar contra los abusos laborales a los becarios". Diario Siglo XXI.
- AGR report 2008
- Rowley, Tom; Savage, Michael (September 14, 2010). "MPs should pay us as employees, say Parliament's revolting interns". The Independent. London.
- Taiwo Odumosu, Volunteers and Interns: Practical Guidance for UK Charities (2012). http://a4id.org/sites/default/files/user/A4ID%20-%20Guide%20for%20UK%20charities%20on%20the%20Use%20of%20Volunteers%20and%20Interns_2%20LG.pdf
- "Are Unpaid Internships Legal in Ontario?". labour.gov.on.ca., discussing Employment Standards Act, 2000, S.O. 2000, c. 41, s. 1(2)
- Adams, Susan (July 25, 2012). "Odds Are Your Internship Will Get You a Job". Forbes. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
- "National Institute of General Medical Sciences: Biotechnology Predoctoral Research Training Program Institutions". Retrieved 2 July 2009.
- "Hiring Authorities Students & Recent Graduates". Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved 14 April 2014.
- "Advisory: Training and Employment Guidance Letter No. 12-09" (PDF). United States Department of Labor. April 2010.
- "Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act" (PDF). United States Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division. April 2010.
- Greenhouse, Steven (April 2, 2010). "The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not". The New York Times.
- "Wage Requirements for Interns in For-Profit Businesses" (PDF). A Division of New York State Department of Labor. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
- Steigrad, Alexandra (4 April 2014). "Condé Nast Settles Intern Lawsuit". WWD. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
- Venturi, Richard (8 April 2015). "Meet the new forever interns". BBC. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
- Law of Internship
- Lucas, Clay, "Unpaid internship: code for modern-day exploitation?", The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Australia, April 11, 2012
- Perlin, Ross, Intern nation : how to earn nothing and learn little in the brave new economy, 1st ed., Brooklyn, NY : Verso Books, 2011. ISBN 978-1-84467-686-6
- Conlin, Michelle, "Intern Abuse?", Bloomberg Businessweek, May 5, 2009
- IITians shun fat paychecks to start their own ventures, inspired by success of IIT alumni startups