Are Internships Only for Students?

Updated June 9, 2023

Many people equate an internship with college students. It's a great way to gain some experience in your industry of interest, and so internships aren't only for active students. Instead, many adults can also benefit from taking on an internship. In this article, we define what an internship is and whether they are only for students, share other instances when you may want to consider an internship, explain the advantages of being an intern without being a student and describe how to get an internship without being in college.

Read more: Q&A: Years of Experience on a Resume

What is an internship?

An internship is a work experience that is more short-term but that provides the intern with the opportunity to work in the industry they're interested in. Interns gain valuable experience by completing relevant work that's related to their interests. An internship is also useful to help the intern understand more about the industry they want to enter into and learn new skills they can apply in the workplace. Internships are paid, unpaid or completed in exchange for college credits.

Read more: Interview Question: 'Tell Me About Your Work Experience' (With Example Answers)

Are internships only for students?

Internships aren't only for students. While most interns are college students, adults may also work an internship for similar reasons as their college-aged counterparts. An adult may be able to negotiate for a paid internship, while a college student may receive college credit instead.

Many adults are already working full-time when they decide to apply for an internship, but there are part-time opportunities that usually have more flexible hours so adults can complete the internship without affecting their regular employment too greatly.

Other times to consider an internship

If you're a recent graduate or older, you may want to consider an internship if you:

Want to change careers.

There may be many reasons why you desire a career change, and an internship can help you understand a certain industry more, so you can decide if it's the place you want to be.

Took a break from the workforce.

Whether you took a break to care for a family member, travel or be a stay-at-home parent, an internship can help you get back into your chosen profession and update you on any recent changes in the field.

Are unemployed.

If you were let go from your position and are having a hard time getting into something new, you may want to consider an internship to prevent having a large gap on your resume. While you may have a valid reason for your gap in employment, a hiring manager will still ask and you'll need to prepare your answer. An internship can also be helpful during unemployment so you can maintain your same skill set and not fall behind.

Desire to work for a particular company.

An internship can provide you with a great way to get your foot in the door at a particular company. You may want to work somewhere for the benefits because you agree with the company values, for the promotional opportunities or because the work environment is ideal for you. Whatever the reason, an internship can give you specific access to managers who can make hiring decisions about you.

Read more: 10 Ways To Get the Most From Your Internship

Advantages of an adult internship

If you're an adult who is interested in working an internship, here are some of the benefits you can expect:


If you want to change careers and try something new, an internship can prepare you for that role. You'll gain exposure to the work and get a true idea of what you can expect in your next position.


An internship should provide you space where you can connect with others in the industry. This can be helpful as you develop your skills and may even rely on those you've worked with during the internship to provide a recommendation for a future employer you're applying for a position with.


If you complete an internship after taking some time away from your profession for any reason, you can get back to a familiar status with your occupation. Depending on your industry, a lot can change while you're on a break, but an internship can reestablish you to help you feel confident when you're back full time.


An internship provides an experience that you can add to your resume. Even if it's unpaid, you can still describe to a hiring manager what you learned and the skills you've gathered that make you a qualified candidate for the role.


Oftentimes, internships lead to full-time jobs. If the company you're interning with is hiring and you've done a great job during your time there, they may be more willing to place you in a permanent role you're qualified for.

Read more: How To List Internship Experience on a Resume

How to get an internship as an adult

Because most interns are college students, those are the ones that employers are expecting to apply for internship positions. However, it's possible to get an internship as an adult. Follow these steps to get an internship as a non-student:

Reach out to your network.

As an adult who likely has an employment history, you probably have several contacts in your network. Think of your friends, family members, previous coworkers and managers, professors, neighbors and even vendors and clients you may have worked with before. Anyone familiar with your skills and work ethic may have a lead for you at those companies that may be looking for an intern.

Contact career services at your alma mater.

The college or university you graduated from probably has a career services office that you can connect with to see if they can help you secure an internship or at least point you in the right direction. You don't always have to be an active student to take advantage of the benefits available to you—alumni can also get career advice and guidance from experts in the field.

Join a professional association.

In nearly every industry, you should be able to find professional associations you can join. These groups may provide things like regular meetings, webinars, conferences and networking events, all to help you grow your network, learn about industry updates and get to know others in the field. One of the other benefits is that these groups may have first-hand access to available internships that you can apply for.

Read more: 57 Professional Associations To Boost Your Resume

Ask alumni.

At the same time as you contact your alma mater's career services department, consider joining the alumni association so you can connect with others who graduated from the same college as you. The alumni association provides networking opportunities and you may even have access to a group web portal where you can post your desire for an internship and see if another alumnus has any leads for you. With a shared connection over having the same alma mater, alumni are usually very willing to assist fellow alumni in their job search.

Look for specific programs.

Do some research to find companies that specifically offer internships to individuals who have already graduated from college. While an internship benefits the intern greatly, it also helps the employer too. A company can benefit from the skills, eagerness and willingness to learn that comes from interns who are passionate about the industry and want to develop their career path. You may find a hiring manager who prefers to take on an intern with some experience post-graduation because they may not have to spend as much time training someone for the job.

Apply anyway.

If there is a company you are interested in working for but you don't see an opening for an internship on their website, contact them anyway. Some employers don't even realize that they may benefit from an intern until someone approaches them about the opportunity. With the right display of passion and an explanation of what unique qualifications you can bring to the organization, a hiring manager may be more willing to bring you in as an intern.

Consider all options.

When you're looking for internships, you may come across a number you're interested in. Just as you should consider your job offers when you're applying for jobs, you should also weigh each internship against the others to decide which is best for you. Think about what's most important in an internship and which factors are non-negotiable. For example, you may be willing to earn less in your internship if you have a larger chance of remaining on with the company once your internship is complete.

Write a well-crafted objective.

An objective is a statement that addresses your employment goals, usually including the position you're applying for, the company you're applying with and what makes you a top candidate for the job. Hiring managers read through objectives to make sure a candidate's purpose and direction for their career aligns with the organization's values and mission.

Take the time to craft an objective that describes what you're looking for in the next step of your career and uses language that will resonate with the hiring manager. You should be able to convey why you want the internship you're applying for and that, even without a vast amount of experience, you can bring something unique to the organization during your time there.

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