A Guide to Postgrad Internships

By Brandi Lucey · December 08, 2023 · 8 minute read

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A Guide to Postgrad Internships

Think that internships are just for students? Think again. College grads can also snag internships. An internship can be a good way to gain work experience when a full-time job is hard to find. It can also provide a good opportunity to test-drive a field you are interested in but not sure is right for you.

Getting an internship after graduation can help you gain exposure to the work world, add to your resume, and build professional experience.

Here, you’ll learn more about internships for recent graduates, what a postgraduate internship is like, and how to find one.

Benefits of a Postgraduate Internship

Can you get an internship after college? Yes, indeed. There are a lot of reasons why college graduates might consider doing a postgrad internship. Aiming to go right into a full-time job after graduating may be the right choice for some people, but there are some benefits to completing an internship first.

•   Doing a postgraduate internship can allow graduates to explore their career options before making a long-term commitment.

Not every student is going to have an exact goal in mind for what job they’d like to have after graduating, and most degrees will give students more than one option to consider. Starting an internship after graduation can give you the ability to test out a variety of jobs and also allow you to live in different locations and see what suits you.

•   Another benefit to applying for internships instead of full-time jobs is that it may limit some of the stress of transitioning to postgrad life. Applying for full-time jobs could feel like a big commitment for graduates who are coping with the end of their college experience. Internships can make for a great in-between, stepping stone for graduates to use to get their feet wet and hopefully experience less stress during their final semester of college.

•   Internships also provide graduates with valuable hands-on experience and potentially a connection to their first full-time job. Getting a degree is important, but it isn’t the same as having previous experience in the field.

Doing a postgrad internship can help recent graduates bulk up their skills and fill out their resume. Some internships will even transition into full-time jobs with the same company. For employers, it can be easier to hire someone they’ve already seen in action.

•   Getting an internship can also help recent graduates build up their network outside of college. Developing relationships within the field of interest can benefit students when they start their job search after completing their internship.

💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

So, What are Internships Like?

What postgraduate internships are like will vary tremendously from position to position, industry to industry. An internship for recent graduates at, say, an animal clinic vs. an investment bank could be the proverbial “night and day.”

There are, of course, some common concerns and questions about these gigs. If you’re considering applying for postgraduate internships, the first question most people are going to have is: Is it paid?

The answer to this question will vary by internship and by industry. For example, internships in banking, accounting, and government are often paid.

The determination for whether or not an internship will be paid can depend on how much the student is benefitting from the experience vs. the company.

•   An unpaid internship is usually more learning-based and it’s expected that the recent grad will be gaining more from the internship than the company does.

•   A paid internship usually involves the company benefiting more from the grad’s efforts than the person does.

Another way to look at the position is that if it’s paid, the postgraduate can do the same tasks as employees and get hands-on knowledge that way. If the recent grad is not paid, they may only be able to observe what the paid employees are doing and perform adjacent tasks. This can, however, still be useful.

Because internships are usually short-term commitments, most of them won’t provide the same benefits that full-time employees have. There may be other perks though, such as social events, vacation days off. What’s more, some internships may cover the cost of housing and other expenses, such as transportation.

Another point to recognize is that a graduate internship will give you experience in the world of work, which can boost your confidence as you job hunt. You get used to how businesses function, how colleagues interact, and how employees prioritize competing responsibilities. All good intel!

Recommended: How Student Loans Affect Your Credit Score

How to Get an Internship

Getting an internship will require some effort, and it’s often better to start before you get your diploma as things can be competitive. Here are some ways to start your hunt for a graduate internship:

•   One place to start is networking with professors and alumni and utilizing the school’s career center.

•   Graduates can use platforms like LinkedIn or their school’s alumni database to find people in their chosen career fields to reach out to. Grads should get comfortable communicating with these people and being clear about what types of internships they’re looking for. These conversations can help open doors that otherwise may have been hard to find.

•   Internships (paid and unpaid) are increasingly posted on online job sites. Take a look using “internship” as a keyword, and you may be surprised to find a good number of opportunities.

Get Your Resume Ready

It’s also key to have a resume and cover letter ready to go. These may have to be tweaked for each internship. If a recent graduate is searching for an internship in a specific field, then they might be able to get away with making minimal changes.

If you haven’t already honed yours, check in with career services, or look at the many templates and examples online. Experiment with them, and have a trusted family member or mentor review it from the perspective of, “Would I interview this person based on this resume?”

Grads should be creative (but not untruthful) when listing their skills and experiences on their resume. Even if you haven’t had a full-time job yet, you’ve probably picked up valuable skills at part-time jobs and in college that merits inclusion. Holding a job of any sort can show that you are a responsible, hard-working individual.

Practice Your Interview Skills

Preparing for interviews will also help recent graduates snag an internship. A few pointers:

•   It’s vital to do research on the company before the interview for a postgrad internship. Review things like the company’s mission, what their current projects are, and what the company culture is like. Having knowledge of the company can highlight that the applicant has done their research and is excited about potentially joining the company.

•   Preparation for interviews also includes studying common internship interview questions and prepping for those. You can find them online, from friends’ experience, and likely from your school’s career services office. The interview will be less nerve-racking when you know what to expect. It’s also helpful to prepare a couple of your own questions to ask the interviewer. This shows an interest in the company and commitment to learning more.

•   Many interviews take place by video meetings today. Get familiar with the possible ways these are conducted (Zoom vs. Microsoft Teams, say). It can also be wise to check your connectivity in advance and log in early.

•   Thank your interviewer, always. And if you are offered an internship, research how to accept a job offer.

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Repaying Your Student Loans

In addition to job (or internship) hunting, graduates will also have to face the reality of paying back their student loans. The exact timing for when repayments start will vary by the type of loan. Graduates should keep this in mind when applying for internships and full-time jobs and develop a budget for their postgrad life.

For federal loans, there are a couple of different times that repayment may begin.

•   Students who borrowed a Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, or Federal Family Education Loan, have a six month grace period after graduation before they’re required to make payments.

•   When it comes to the PLUS loan, it depends on the type of student who’s taken one out. Undergraduates will be required to start repayment as soon as the loan is paid out.

•   Graduate and professional students with PLUS loans will be on automatic deferment while they’re in school and up to six months after graduating or after you drop below half-time enrollment status.

With the repayment period coming up, graduates may consider refinancing their student loans. What does that mean? Refinancing student loans occurs when a lender pays off the existing loan with another loan, typically at a lower rate or for a longer term, which can help lower payments. However, it’s important to know that when you refinance with an extended term, you may pay more interest over the life of the loan.

Also, while both federal and private student loans can be refinanced, when federal student loans are refinanced by a private lender, they’ll forfeit their federal benefits and protections. Graduates will want to consider this before deciding to refinance any federal loans.

Recommended: Student Loan Consolidation Rates: What to Expect

The Takeaway

Postgrad internships can help students build their resume, expand their networks, and gain valuable job experience. Depending on factors like the company and industry involved, postgraduate internships may or may not be paid. Students still exploring their career options may find value in pursuing a postgraduate internship, whether or not it brings in income.

After graduation, students will likely begin repayment on their student loans. Some students may consider refinancing.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

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If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

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