What is an internship?

Find out what an internship entails and how to find one that suits your needs.

What is an internship and what are the benefits?

Imagine if you had the chance to give your future a trial run. What if you could test out concepts you’ve learned on campus in a professional context? Picture the doors that might open if you could meet and ask questions to experts working in jobs that you might like to have yourself one day. The great news is you can – through an internship.

Internships act like bridges between university study and your future work life: they help you gain professional experience, form relationships with people working in your field, and even meet potential employers.

Typically, internships are most valuable when they align with your studies. However, some employers seek interns from a range of fields, so you could have the opportunity to gain valuable experience outside of the area you are studying.

The most common length for an internship is 8-12 weeks, and they often take place over the summer holidays (November - February). However, some internships may be longer or take place at other times throughout the year.

A good internship should:

  • Be a learning experience that extends from the classroom to your chosen industry, giving you the chance to apply your knowledge in the workplace
  • Benefit you, so you’re not just performing mundane tasks that benefit your employer alone
  • Build transferable skills that will help you in any future work environment
  • Have a start and end date, and a job description that outlines your role
  • Have clear objectives that support your course of study
  • Be supervised by a professional with expertise in your field who provides regular feedback on your experience
  • Provide resources to help you learn while you are on the job

Types of internship

There are several different types of internships that can give you valuable experience.


A standard internship is between six weeks and three months in length. Often, this will take place over summer (sometimes referred to as a 'summerternship’) but can be at other times of the year. The internship can be directly or indirectly related to your field of study, and the experience you gain could lead to further opportunities in the field or at the same organisation after graduation.

Faculty-led micro internships and placements

These internships are often research-informed projects based in a commercial, non-profit or community organisation. You can undertake these projects on your own or with a team of fellow students. They are usually supervised by an academic and a workplace supervisor.


This is a period of University-approved work or vocational experience you undertake while enrolled at the University. Placements are organised by faculties and might take place in New Zealand or abroad.

Work co-ops

A one-semester structured learning experience in an organisation that enables you to apply your knowledge and skills in a working setting. Co-ops are usually programme-specific and allow you to earn academic credit.

Internships organised by external providers

An internship organised by an external provider in New Zealand that exists simply to find, match and manage internship opportunities for students. You generally pay a programme fee and the internship itself is unpaid. You can undertake a third-party internship in a number of different industries and fields. 

Global internships

Global internships enable you to apply your skills in a foreign environment, and will help you to build cultural awareness and an international network. CDES advertises specific overseas internships, especially those eligible for funding through the Prime Minister’s Scholarships. Visit MyCDES and follow our Facebook page to keep up to date. There are also a number of third party/external providers that develop international internship programmes.

Find out more about global internships.


Some fields of study require experience in the workplace in order to earn a degree. For example, teachers are required to complete a practicum. These are department-specific and are thus not organised by CDES.

How to find an internship

The process for getting an internship is similar to applying for a job, so you will want to get your CV in order and prepare for interviews. This might involve finding out what an average day will look like in your role, who will be supervising you, and what types of performance reviews you should expect at the end of your internship.

CDES offers workshops on everything from CVs to interviews, LinkedIn and networking skills. Login to MyCDES to book your place, and come along to get tips for putting your best foot forward. 

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