Thanks for the question. Whether a summer job or an internship is the right choice for you depends on what you are looking to get out of the experience.
A summer job can help you earn money that can be used to help cover the cost of college. The more of your personal funds you put towards your education, the lower the student loan debt in your adult life. You will also learn the value of money and how to budget your finances. It also teaches you valuable life skills. Your organization and time management skills will improve and so will your communication abilities. These talents will also help you in your college years.
On the downside, free time won’t be as plentiful with a summer job, even if it’s part time. That means less time hanging out with your friends, participating in activities, or kicking back and relaxing at the pool. You may be earning decent wages but if it has nothing to do with your intended career path, you may not get that work experience that would hold you in good stead when the time comes to apply for a job.
Doing an internship during the summer can give you an insider look in a field of study you wish to pursue. This insight will help you either solidify your career choice or help you realize that it is not the right fit for you. You will get the opportunity to network with professionals in your prospective career. If you make a right impression at the workplace, these professionals will go out of their way to help you out, whether as a mentor while you are in college or to give you a job opportunity after you a graduate. Also, the work experience will look good on your resume.
However, keep in mind that some internships are unpaid internships, meaning that while you’re earning valuable experience, you won’t earn money for your hard work. If money is tight, this may not be an ideal option.
It’s a tough choice but in the end you have to make a choice depending on what you are looking to get out of the opportunity. It is also possible that you might find a paid internship opportunity so you can earn some money while getting valuable work experience in your intended field.
Hope this helps and Good Luck!
I would definitely recommend getting some internships - it will help you to understand what would you like to do in your professional life in the future. Try to focus on this what would you like to do in your future and check if it might be the fit for you.
Sachin's answer was perfect advise, to follow up on the Internship route - If you have a company in mind that you really want to work for, and they offer an internship program, that is the perfect example of when to choose that option. Take for example Cisco Systems, there are a few options within Cisco for internship programs - if your dream is to work for a company like Cisco - go for for the internship, this will give you first hand experience of what it may be like to work for them.
If your goal is to have a summer job for money, and your concern is not career based, then a summer job likely will offer more flexibility and allow you to still enjoy time with friends and family.
I hope this helps!
I can only speak to my experience, and that is that trying to be overly prescriptive about "what is best" for a career is exceptionally difficult. Definitely consider the pros/cons that others have provided, but I'd like to add an idea:
There's an old saying that goes, "It's not what you know, but who you know." This is true, but don't think of "who you know" as a resource to be leveraged. Instead, I'd suggest that we ultimately become like the people we surround ourselves with. Think of the way we begin to share a sense of humor with friends. Even our aspirations and self-perception is changed by the aspirations of those we are around. For example, if you take the exact same high school graduate and place one version of him/her in a job stocking a warehouse while you place the other in a liberal arts college, these versions of the exact same person will start to perceive their identity and future ambitions in different ways. Their whole life will take on different shapes. They will have different ideas about what a fun weekend looks like, what activities a good date entails, what a smart way to save money would be, etc. See, the real secret about "what you know" versus "who you know" is that the one is focused on what you are, and the other is focused on who you are. In the long run, who you are is more important. "Who you are" informs your entire life. "What you are" informs only a portion.
So, there isn't an obvious decision between job or internship. The most important thing is which opportunity involves the type of people you admire? Because whatever your intentions may be, at the end of the summer, you will be more like the people you've spent it with. Keep that in mind as you make your decision.
Best of luck,