Do Internships Count as Work Experience

do internships count as work experience

It’s a common question, for both entry-level workers and recent graduates. Do internships count as work experience? Should I add my internship experience to my resume? And how much time working on my internship qualifies as levels of experience for future job applications?

In this guide we’re going to break down everything you need to know about your internship experience and how to utilize it in a way that’s effective for your resume and future employer.

Ready? Let’s dive in!

When Employers Ask for Relevant Work Experience

You may be reading a job description and under the requirements section, it states, “Must have 2 years relevant work experience” for your entry-level role. But you may have only been with your previous internship for 3-months. A summer internship.

What should you do?

The first thing to note is, employers are flexible. They would much prefer to hire an employee who has passion, has a desire to educate themselves, and shows a willingness to be adaptable than to hire an employee who simply has 2-years work experience.

That’s why it’s vital that you spend time writing your cover letter stating impactful achievements, preparing for your interview in advance, and generally knowing how to present yourself in a way that’s going to make you stand out.

When “2 years relevant work experience” is on the job description, should I list my internship? Yes. You should.

Any prior work experience is most likely relevant to your new role. Let's presume you had a job at Starbucks in High School. And the role you’re applying for is a Customer Service position. At Starbucks, Customer Service is part of the job! It is relevant. As long as you position it that way.

When Does Internship Experience Not Matter?

The only time when your internship experience isn’t going to be impactful to list on your resume is when you have enough prior work experience to disregard your internship.

Your internship experience may have been the first real “professional experience” that you had in the workforce. But years from now, you might have had four or five full-time positions in relevant job titles.

At that point, your internship may be disregarded from your resume simply because you won’t have enough room. And your other positions will be more impactful to your employer.

How to Make Your Internship Experience Impactful

The worst thing you could do for your resume is to make your internship sound like it wasn’t a full-time job with real responsibility. Try to think through the achievements that you were able to make during your time as an intern.

Were you able to impact the company culture? Did you take on certain important responsibilities? Did you communicate with customers? Did you communicate with clients? Did you perform research?

Any of these types of responsibilities will make your internship more impactful. Simply because it shows your employer that you understand what’s required to perform the job title.

If you list your internship experience as a single line on your resume with a note next to the company name that it was an internship, you might be missing an opportunity to show your future employer that your internship was more than 3-months of playtime.

Use bullet-point style formatting to speak to four to five achievements, responsibilities, or significant company events that occurred during your time on the internship. You might not have a large amount of prior work experience so don’t be afraid to go beyond five bullet points if you have enough to speak to. Keep them achievement based and focused on what impact you made on the company while on the position.

Example Listing Internship Experience on Your Resume

In this prior work experience section we’re going to modify your internship mention to be more elaborate than you might want to list it in the future when you have more work experience.

This is more ideal for recent graduates, those who are applying for entry-level positions, or those with limited work experience.

XYZ Company
2019 - 2019
Internship / Software Engineer

In this example, we show dynamic work experience and the ability to be an agile player. Which helps if you were applying for positions or job titles that aren’t the exact same.

This shows employers that you have prior work experience and knowledge of how to be a valuable team player within the company.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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