July 10, 2014

Along with fellowship opportunities, I include some internship opportunities in the GradFunding newsletter. Internships can be invaluable for both the academic and professional life of a graduate student. For more information about internships, I contacted Jeff Patten, UA Career Services career coordinator and counselor, and Cynthia Van Driess Watson, the Assistant Director of the UA Career Services. If you are interested in an internship, their insights may be useful.

Why seek out an internship?

“Experience is the name of the game,” Patten explains. Patten emphasizes that it can be extremely helpful to bring knowledge gained in graduate school into practice and to learn where that knowledge might depart from what happens outside of academia.

Also, internships create what Patten calls “resume fodder,” which he defines as “content that provides concrete examples of what you’re capable of doing for future employers.” He points out that resume fodder also demonstrates to prospective employers that you are personally engaged in your field.

How much do internships typically pay?

When looking for an internship, a graduate student needs to decide if he or she wants monetary compensation or experience. Ideally, an internship provides both. But many are either unpaid or provide only a small stipend.

If gaining practical experience is your priority, then consider balancing an internship with a part-time job or finding an internship that lasts only a few weeks. Studies have shown that internships have a positive effect on starting salaries. So as well as adding to your knowledge base, an internship may literally pay off in the future.

On the other hand, when asked about paid internships, Patten explains that, “Many paid internships will be on par with pay for entry-level positions. The best source for this kind of information is probably the NACE Salary Survey. NACE (The National Association of Colleges & Employers) does an annual survey of graduates entering the workforce to determine the salary range for specific fields/types of positions. A print version of the NACE Salary Survey is available in Career Services.”

When should I begin looking for an internship?

According to Watson, one should begin as early as possible. She explains that “many employers need six months to filter, evaluate, interview, select and hire interns. The more desirable the internship, the more competitive it’s going to be and the earlier the deadlines are likely to be.”

However, if you are considering an internship for this summer, do not be discouraged. Some organizations are still looking for summer interns.

How can I find an internship?

  • Begin with your advisor and other colleagues in your field. Let them know that you are looking for an internship and ask them to help make connections to possible employers.

  • Check out and use the great resources of the UA Career Services;  

  • Find local business or non-profits in your area of interest. Even if they do not publicize summer internships, they might be willing to create something for you if you realistically show how your skills can meet their needs. They will be particularly willing if you offer your services for free.

  • Most government agencies (EPA, CIA, CDC, etc) have summer internships. Libraries and national labs also typically offer internships. Search on USAJobs for summer student opportunities at or check specific federal agency websites. Many applications are currently open for summer 2014.

  • If you are a writer or artist, consider applying for a residency, conference, or colony. Some of them provide room and board. Check for opportunities in Pivot or boards specifically for writers and artists such as Funds for Writers (

  • Watson and Patten recommend the following websites as well:

    • -  includes the ability to search by location, field, company, or other variables

    • - search jobs from over 20,000 job sites, newspapers, and company career pages

    • -  information, advice, and searches for people interested in health careers

Article by Shelley Hawthorne Smith, Assistant Director Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement, Jeff Patten, UA Career Services career coordinator and counselor, and Cynthia Van Driess Watson, the Assistant Director of the UA Career Services.

Feel free to redistribute this information, but please acknowledge the University of Arizona Graduate College Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement.