The Ultimate Guide To Internships In The UK

Internships are a fantastic way to gain practical skills, professional work experience and greater knowledge of the industry you want to go into, before graduating from university and securing a permanent job. 

Quite often, people confuse internships and work placements, which is why we’ll be highlighting what exactly an internship involves, as well as how you can apply for UK internships. 

We’ll also be discussing what the benefits of undertaking an internship are, so carry on reading our guide to find out! 

uk internships

What Exactly Is An Internship? 

An internship is a short-term work experience offered by companies to help give university students and recent graduates a real insight into the working world and gain practical skills that can boost employability. 

The difference between internships and work experience is that internships usually take place during the summer after the academic year is over, and last between a few weeks to a few months. 

Whilst work placements on the other hand, usually last to up to 12 months and can count towards your university degree. 

There are plenty of different internship opportunities out there, offered by a range of sectors from fashion to marketing to law to engineering and so on. 

The nature of work you could be doing on an internship really depends on the job role and the industry.

However, you’ll usually work on relevant projects, learn more about the field, make industry connections and develop your skills. 

what exactly is an internship

Are Internships Paid?

Are you a university student or a recent graduate considering doing an internship? Are you unsure about whether or not you’ll be paid? 

The question of whether internships are paid or not is a tricky one, as this depends on the circumstances. 

All UK interns should be paid as legally anyone who’s defined as a ‘worker’ must earn at least minimum wage.

Although, many internships can be unpaid if the intern isn’t classed as a worker, which is the key word here. 

A person is classed as a ‘worker’ if the following applies: 

  • They have a contract or other arrangement to do work or services personally for a reward (a contract can be written or unwritten)
  • Their reward is for money or a benefit in kind, for example the promise of a contract or future work
  • They only have a limited right to send someone else to do the work (subcontract)
  • Their employer has to have work for them to do as long as the contract or arrangement lasts
  • They are not doing the work as part of their own limited company in an arrangement where the ‘employer’ is actually a customer or client

Students who are required to do an internship for less than 12 months as part of a higher education course, aren’t entitled to the National Minimum Wage. 

This means if you’re doing a work placement as part of a sandwich year at university, you don’t legally need to receive payment. 

If an internship is unpaid perhaps because you’re shadowing someone, you’ll still be compensated for your work in some way whether it’s travel expenses, accommodation, lunch or so on. 

Money is definitely an important factor to think about if you’re considering an internship.

However, you’ll still be gaining valuable skills and experience within your chosen sector and will hopefully be one step closer to securing your dream job by the end!

To find out more about employment rights and pay for interns in the UK, head to the official website.

Are Internships Paid

Benefits Of Completing An Internship 

Whether you are a student or a graduate who has just finished their studies, completing an internship can offer numerous advantages.

Internships can benefit everyone in some way, from gaining transferable skills to expanding professional connections to improving your CV to preparing you for graduate jobs and so on. 

Below, we’ve highlighted some of the top reasons why you should apply for an internship!

benefits of completing an internship

1. Gain Transferable Skills & Experience 

When it comes to the benefits of completing an internship, there are plenty of transferable skills you can take through into the working world. 

Internships enable students and graduates to gain a wide range of soft and hard skills.

A few include problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, adaptability, project management and good communication skills. 

Whilst embarking on an internship, you’ll be working within a real-world setting where you’ll gain practical work experience.

You’ll also be able to put any of the knowledge you’ve gained from your university degree into practice. 

skills and experience uk internships

2. Boost Your CV 

Looking to improve your employability? Completing an internship can help boost your CV and make you stand out within the competitive job market. 

Regardless of whether the internship you completed was paid or unpaid, it will provide you with firsthand experience within your chosen field and make your resume stand out from other candidates when applying for jobs. 

If you’ve completed an internship, be sure to add the relevant experience and skills you gained to your CV and cover letters to add a competitive edge! 

boost your CV internships

3. Prepares You For Graduate Jobs 

Studies suggest that 70% of interns are given a job offer at the same company they interned with. 

So, if you leave a good impression on the company you’re interning for, there’s a good chance you could receive a job offer for when you graduate university. 

Whilst there’s no promise that you’ll definitely be offered a permanent job with a particular company, completing an internship can still help you to prepare for graduate jobs and get a taste of the working world. 

internships preparing you for graduate jobs

4. Career Discovery 

An internship will provide you with valuable insight into whether a certain company, job role or industry is a good fit for you before you apply for full-time roles. 

Whilst doing an internship, you’ll learn more about yourself and the career path you want to take in the future. 

You may even spend time within a particular sector and realise it’s not for you, so an intern program can help you to decide on the future career which is right for you! 

uk internships career discovery

5. Build Professional Connections 

Whilst working as an intern, you’ll meet plenty of people within a working environment which will help you expand your professional connections.

Building your industry contacts as an intern can help you to advance your career, receive career advice and support, access new information, strengthen business connections and so on. 

So, try your best to create a professional network and build relationships with those you’re working with including your colleagues and team members.

You never know what doors could open in the future! 

build professional connections

How To Get An Internship 

If you’re wanting to secure an internship as a student or a graduate, you’ll firstly need a CV which highlights your relevant skills and experience.

We’ve listed below some of the ways you can get an internship: 

  • Search online job sites such as Indeed or Student Jobs. 
  • Communicate with employers directly through LinkedIn. 
  • Reach out to specific companies.
  • Search for university careers centre opportunities 
  • Attend careers fairs.
  • Use social media. 
  • Make use of your professional network. 

how to get an internship

That’s a wrap on our ultimate guide to UK internships, we hope it’s been helpful for all of you students and graduates out there. 

As we’ve discovered, there are so many perks to undertaking an internship, and we wish you all the best if you’re trying to secure one! 

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