James Madison University

Internship Opportunities for Engineering Students

What is an internship?

An engineering internship is a full or part-time job with a company in which you become an employee of the company and perform duties for them that are closely related to your engineering studies on campus.  Internships differ from regular jobs in that you are in “training” status.

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.

Why should I intern?

Classroom training is only a starting point in developing your engineering career. Because engineering 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 (though 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.

Where can I intern?

Interns can work for any company that is willing to provide an acceptable internship experience.  There is not limitation on the location, company size, or industry domain.

An internship experience should ideally, but are not required to have the following characteristics:

  • The intern should work under the supervision of an experienced engineer.
  • The internship duties should include work that is creative and challenging in nature.
  • 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.  Internships are also posted on the Department of Engineering blog.  The final responsibility for finding and internship is up to the students, however.

Is there a list of past internships held by engineering students?

Below is list of past internships. Check back soon to get a more personal perspective of what an internship might be like.  We will post student internship stories soon.

  • J.F. Taylor - California, MD
  • Inscope International - Reston ,VA
  • Advanced Control Components - Eatontown, NJ
  • Northrup Grumman (Information Systems) - Quantico, VA
  • Invario Network Engineers - Alexandria, VA
  • Virginia Institute of Marine Science - Gloucester, VA
  • WhiteWave Foods - Harrisonburg, VA
  • Cenergy Power - Carlsbad, CA
  • Truland Systems - Reston, VA
  • Arrington Engines - Martinsville, VA
  • Defense Logistics Agency - Ft. Belvoir, VA

When can I do an internship?

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

Will I be paid?

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.

Ten Ways to Land an Internship
by Lora Moran, Mainstreet.com

  1. Talk With Your Teachers
    Some organizations that are looking to hire interns go directly to professors or college advisors because they assume faculty will already know which of their students are best equipped for the job.
  2. Use Your School
    Most colleges and universities have a career services department that can help students trying to find an internship. In addition to providing students with advisers and counselors, these career centers often hold job fairs with employers who are looking for full-time employees and interns.
  3. Network With Friends
    Talk with friends at school to find out what types of positions may be available at their parents' companies. Your roommate's mother could be the vice president of communications for American Express (AXP Quote - Cramer on AXP - Stock Picks), and you may never know unless you ask. Fellow students may also have contacts from past internships.
  4. Go Straight to the Source
    Sometimes approaching a company yourself is the only way to get in the door. Ask to speak with someone in the human resources department. Many companies have information about internship programs, along with contact information, on their Web sites. Other companies may not have an internship program but would be willing to build one around you.
  5. Update Your Resume
    It is important to keep your resume current -- even if you don't have that much to put on it. It can also help to add an objective statement at the top to identify which positions interest you and include the name of the company where you're applying. It sounds simple, but recruiters like seeing the name of their company at the top of a resume.
  6. Practice Interviewing
    Aside from a resume and cover letter, the only thing an internship employer has to go on is your interview. So, practice until you're confident that you can out-interview your peers. Most campus career centers offer "mock interviews." Practicing with family or friends will also improve your interview skills.
  7. Choose the Right References
    Due to the competitiveness of the positions, employers check an intern's references just as they would a full-time job applicant. Choose a diverse group of people, including previous employers, professors and coaches. The best references can talk about your work-related skills and abilities.
  8. Look Beyond Your Comfort Zone
    The fact that your home is on the East Coast shouldn't stop you from applying to positions on the West Coast or anywhere else in the world. Although some internships do not pay, if it means moving away from home, some companies will pay for living arrangements.
  9. Don't Rely On Just One Source
    Ideally, students want to be offered two or three of the internships that they apply to, so they can choose the best fit. Do not just apply to one internship and hope for the best. Use all the resources available.
  10. Remember, It's Never Too Late
    Although many of the large organizations begin the search for their summer interns early in the year, you never know what is available until you ask. A recently hired intern may have backed out, or perhaps the company decided at the last minute to hire a few more staffers. Do not assume the door is shut until you know it is shut for sure.

Who do I contact for more information?

For information about resume preparation and searching for an internship, visit the Career and Academic Planning office.