What Does Engineering Intern Do? Why Do You Need One?

If you are an engineering student, then at some point, you have to do an engineering internship. This means you have to work in a company for a while to learn what it means to be an engineer. But there is so much uncertainty about what engineers do in the internship, how to find one and why you need to do one.

If you would ask an engineer who did an internship before, was the internship worth it? The answer depends on what company you worked at and what you did during the internship.

Let us explore first when an engineering internship is useful and when it is useless; then, we can discuss why you should aim to do your best during the internship.

When engineering internships are useful

Internships are fast exposure to what it feels like to be an engineer but with a mild scope. Engineers get to see how engineers actually deal with other engineers and how things get done in their industry. Students start to connect between their engineering course and real-world problems.

While the engineering internships might not always be very pleasant but it is the cup of truth that every student needs to be exposed to.

When engineering internships are useless

While there are many benefits to getting an engineering internship, some internships can be counterproductive. Unfortunately, some engineering companies run internship programs to endorse their public image to clients, consumers and future engineering graduates. Yet the internship program offers no value to students.

In a small study done in 2017 run by engineering students at the University Of Technology Sydney, some students who did their internships recently and in the last 2 years have reported low learning opportunities and zero lessons learned in their internships. This is because of the way the internship program was set up. Students were not given challenging engineering problems to work on, and many reported doing admin work, answering phone calls and doing coffee runs. At the same time, most of those students felt they were undermined as undergraduates engineers.

This is where internships can be useless. Many students reported staying at that company for 6 months because they wanted to complete the internship requirement of their course, not because they enjoyed the position and the company dynamic. In contrast, some decided to leave the company early because they did not see any learning opportunities in that position.

How to prove yourself during an engineering internship?

So should you quit the internship if you do not find value in it? The answer is Yes.

While the internship can be useful, if you do not feel included in that company, maybe you need to look for another internship that can teach you something. Which is what students should be aiming for is to prove themselves as capable future engineers who can make an impact.

Applying for an internship, proving yourself through the interview, and distinguishing between a useful, structured internship and one that is not is all part of proving yourself as an engineer.

Sometimes the goal of the internship is not to try to be the best but to understand your skills and personality better. This will help prepare you for your future engineering job. Read our guide How can an engineering student stand out in internships? In this guide, you will learn 10 techniques that can boost your confidence and success in an internship.

The challenges of getting an engineering internship

If you think getting an engineering job is difficult, getting an internship might be even more difficult. Many companies are usually not looking to hire interns for a few months but have to let go later because they have to go back to study, and many positions are usually not advertised.

This is very bad from the engineering student’s perspective. Nonetheless, getting an engineering internship early in your study is very beneficial for learning.

If you want to apply for an internship, see our guide on how to get an engineering job: How To Get an Engineering Job? 6 Actionable Steps To Follow

Joseph Maloyan

Hi, this is Joseph, and I love writing about engineering and technology. Here I share my knowledge and experience on what it means to be an engineer. My goal is to make engineering relatable, understandable and fun!

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