Internships: The Why and When

Career tips for students in the Humanities and Social Sciences

By Beverly Ververs

The big question that many humanities and social science students dread is, "So, what are you going to do with that major… teach?"

Even though teaching is a laudable and rewarding profession, it might not suit everybody. Those of us who pursued a major in the social sciences and humanities may have liked the subject but were not looking at the practical application of the knowledge (that was me as a sociology major).

Others may not want to "paint themselves into a corner" by training to do one thing. Perhaps for some students, the humanities and social sciences were not their first choice and they are "visiting" until they can raise GPAs so that they change their major.

Internships: Career discovery
Regardless of the reason, getting out in the "real world" and testing out work settings, types of work, applications of the knowledge and skills we developed through our coursework can help to answer that question, "So…what are you going to do with that major?"

Usually, students venture out into internship territory in their junior and senior years. It's at this stage in their coursework and learning that they have a strong foundation in the understanding of their major and are ready to "compete" for prized learning opportunities.

Skill builder
Internships can, not only, serve as a way to test out a career path if a student is not sure of an occupational choice, but the internship can also hone both transferable and technical skills. For the student who has made a career choice, an internship might be the key element that cements and confirms that student's choice of career path.

Networking with professionals
Besides developing new skills and sharpening the skills you already have, internships help you develop contacts, references, and relationships with professionals in your field. Remember, in today's highly competitive global marketplace, it is not only what you know but who you know that can make the crucial difference.

Okay, so you've decided that an internship is for you… what now? This is the topic in the next article.