Engineering Internships - Where to Find Them

Updated: Oct 2, 2020

Some companies will advertise engineering internship opportunities. These advertised internship opportunities are extremely competitive because there are just not a lot of them. It makes sense if you think about it: why would a company want to hire an engineer, train them for three months, and then just have them leave? However, if you know where to look, you can still find many engineering opportunities. It doesn't matter if you are a civil engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer or any other type of engineer. The way you get an engineering internship is the same. Below are the top ways I have discovered over the years that engineers can obtain internships.

Finding Engineering Internships – It’s Who You Know

It's all about who you know
Finding Engineering Internships - People Matter

The best place to find engineering internships is through someone you know. Outside of large companies, most businesses only hire interns if they know a specific person who is looking for an internship. Every intern I have hired has been a friend of a friend of a friend. I never advertised the position. That is why when it comes to internships, instead of what you know, it’s more important who you know.

Luckily for you, there are many people you already know in the engineering world. Here is a list to help you brainstorm some of your existing networking connections:

  • Family. Think aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.

  • Engineers you have met while participating in Professional Engineering Organizations.

  • Professors that you have a good relationship with.

  • Former students who have since started working in the industry.

  • Friends of the family.

  • Neighbors

  • People you know through sports, volunteering, or other social groups.

Once you have a connection, try to sit down and talk to them. Ask them about their job and their company. Ask them if it is a career they would recommend for a young engineer. Finally, ask them if their company hires interns to help them gain real world experience.

If you have gone through the list and still can’t think of anybody, try logging onto LinkedIn. If you visit the profile for a company in your engineering field, it will tell you if you have any connections who work at that specific company. It does all the work for you.

Finding Engineering Internships – Cold Calling

If you don’t have any connections inside the engineering world, you should ask yourself why. It might be a better career move to spend a little less time studying and more time networking.

But don’t worry. Even if you don’t know anyone, you can still reach out to engineers in the industry to find out about internship opportunities. Start by e-mailing local businesses and governmental organizations, letting them know you are an engineering student looking to gain real world experience. While these companies may not have been planning on hiring an intern for the summer, they may create the position just for you.

Finding Engineering Internships – Internet

The last place to look is the internet. Everyone can find these internship opportunities with just a couple clicks on Google. Because of that, they will be very competitive. By all means, you should still apply for them. Just don’t put all your eggs in this basket.

Unpaid Engineering Internships

If summer is approaching and you still have no internships lined up, consider an unpaid internship. Approach engineers you know or local businesses about spending 10-20 hours a week volunteering as a way to gain real world experience. It doesn’t even have to be during the summer. You can do this during the school year as well.

You're probably wondering “Why would I want to do that?” You do it because it gets your foot in the door and gets you real world experience! Next year, when you go to find an internship or start applying for jobs, you have something to put down in the experience column. Have you ever heard the saying “it’s easier to get a job when you already have a job”? The same is true for real world engineering experience. The first experience you get is the hardest to find. Once you have it, it is easier to get other engineering internships or engineering jobs.

Is this the type of engineering job I want?

Engineering internships help you figure out what the right type of job is.
Is this the type of engineering I want to do?

When you do get an engineering internship, be sure to you ask yourself, “Is this what I want to do?” I took a job during summer working at a large construction site near my house. The construction company had a project engineer. During my first couple of weeks, I would see the Project Engineer and know that is what I wanted to do when I graduated. From the outside, I thought his job seemed awesome.

As I continued to watch him over the summer, however, I realized most days he was working 10 to 12 hours. He also had to routinely come in on the weekend. After a conversation with him one day, I found out that he lived in another state, where he had a wife and kid. The construction company would fly him home one weekend a month to see them. He had to move around the country, going to wherever the next big construction site was.

By the end of the summer, I realized that there was no way I wanted to be a Project Engineer at a construction company. The experience I had that summer saved me from a career that did not fit me and I know I would have hated.

Engineering Internship Summary

  • There are many ways to find an engineering internship. The best place to start is with who you know.

  • If you can’t get a paid internship, consider an unpaid internship as an alternative.

  • While you are working at an internship, be sure to ask yourself if this what you want to do.

I wish you all the engineering success possible. Indeed, I hope you conquer the job market and change world! Don’t let anyone or anything stop you.

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