What is an internship?

A Computer Science internship is a full or part-time job in a real-world organization in which you become a paid employee of a company and perform duties for them that are closely related to your CS studies on campus. Internships differ from regular jobs in that you are in "training" status, and you are expected to combine work with studies.

An internship is primarily a training experience. Employers expect you to be ready to work when you first come in the door, but they also expect to provide you with training, mentoring, and other learning opportunities. You will be surprised at how fast you learn!

Why should I intern?

Classroom training is only a starting point in developing your CS career. Because Computer Science is an applied, practical profession, the best way to learn about it is to do it in a real-world context.

The internship is a good chance to determine if you like a company before committing to a full-time job there. The internship also allows an employer to learn how well you fit into the corporate culture, your ability to work both as a team player and independently, and your ability to grasp and work with new concepts, often under a degree of pressure normally not experienced on the campus.

Students who successfully complete an internship often receive offers of full-time jobs from their intern employers when they graduate. You may even be offered a part-time position while completing your senior year. This works well for the employer - it keeps you engaged with the company, increases your worth to the company, and, allows your continued growth in the professional world.

An internship is a great way to discover the best career area for your personal talents and interests.

Internships often pay very well (although some internships are unpaid). Graduates who have interned typically receive significantly higher starting salaries after graduation and have a better chance at the most competitive positions.

After your industry experience you will be able to make fully informed selection of course electives to round out your academic program at JMU.

Where can I intern?

Interns can work for any company that is willing to provide an acceptable internship experience. There is no limitation on the location, company size, or industry domain.

To qualify, an internship experience should ideally, but are not required to, have the following characteristics:

  • The intern should work under the supervision of an experienced IT professional.
  • The internship duties should include work that is creative and challenging in nature, e.g., software development, network analysis, database design. Activities that are not acceptable include help-desk functions, installing computers, clerical work, etc.
  • The internship should include a training agenda, through formal sessions, on the job training, or some other form.
  • The internship should include at least eight weeks of full-time (40 hours/week) employment, or its equivalent (320 hours).

The JMU Career and Academic Planning office is available to help students find an internship, and there are other resources on the Internet. The final responsibility for finding an internship is up to the student.

Why can I intern and will I get paid?

Internships are completed during the summer (May-August) between the junior and senior years of study.

Typically, starting pay for interns in paid internships begins around $10/hour, and many employers offer fringe benefits in addition. However, it is up to you to agree upon an acceptable salary with your internship employer. Many organizations, especially non-profit, offer unpaid internships, which are also a great way to learn and a way to contribute to the community at the same time.

You will also be responsible for arranging and paying for housing, transportation, and a suitable wardrobe for your internship. You should plan for some up-front expenses for these items.

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