14 answers

Are internships more preferable than research experience?

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Is there one that grad schools and/or employers would rather see on an application? If someone is unable to land an internship, would their research experiences make up for it? I'm more curious about this for STEM fields, but any input would be helpful and greatly appreciated!

#internship #research #stem #science #engineering #math #computer-science

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14 answers

John’s Answer

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Beyond an advantage in the admissions process Ashley, internships provide graduate candidates with many valuable skills and can even help you toward the best fit in the Computer Science field.

GRAD SCHOOLS AND EMPLOYERS BOTH VALUE INTERNSHIPS

EMPLOYERS – If you have a relevant internship displayed on your resume, it will give you a competitive advantage over all the candidates applying for the same position. Employers value internship experience because they provide students with the skills and experience that they cannot acquire in a Bachelor's Degree.

GRAD SCHOOLS – Graduate admissions committees are mainly interested in two factors: your academic performance (GPA, standardized test scores) and your experiences outside the classroom. When it comes to experiences outside of the classroom, admissions officers do tend to prefer applicants that have work or internship experience. Beyond an advantage in the admissions process, internships provide graduate candidates with many valuable skills and can even help steer candidates toward the best fit career field.

MASTERS OF SCIENCE IN COMPUTER SCIENCE DEGREE

Computer science is a very broad field. What are you interested in? If your answer is that you don't know, do an internship. Explore your opportunities. See what you like. If your answer is something very specific, getting a masters will help you become an expert on that topic. Then, companies hiring for positions in that topic will be more interested in you, and you will be more likely to have a good match.

General software engineering careers often give the same salaries to masters and undergrads. However, many roles are specific enough that companies will only hire people they know have the right experience. A masters is a way of saying, "I have this specific expertise" in Computer Systems Analysis, Computer Network Architects, Computer Research Scientists and Information Technology. It can help define which kind of role you will get. If you definitely want a career in specific computer science field, it will show companies that you are qualified.

4 BENEFITS OF AN COMPUTER SCIENCE INTERNSHIP

COMMUNICATION SKILLS – By interacting with others in a professional environment during an internship, you will have many opportunities to become a better communicator – which is an important skill not only for grad school but also for your future employer(s).

CAREER INSIGHTS – You can gain career focus through professional experiences, which, in turn, will allow you to build your network and connect the pieces between your graduate school studies and future career path.

RESUME SKILL – Having internship experience in your field of interest, demonstrates focus and passion for that area – which will be beneficial both in the graduate admissions process as well as your job search.

RECOMMENDATION LETTERS – Recommendations from professional references, such as employers, make great letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation from employers can highlight your professional skills and give you a leg up in the admission process.

Hope this was Helpful Ashley
Thank you! I think I have a better understanding of how internships work now. Ashley T. Translate
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Dexter’s Answer

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Hi Ashley,

As others have stated, it really depends. The research project will be better if you're looking for a career in research (some larger companies have dedicated research teams) or if the project happens to be something that the prospective employer is interested in. The internship will be better for a more general experience in a corporate setting.

I would guess that if we were to take a guess at the value of each, the internship will be valuable to 100% of the employers you send your resume to, versus the research project where it may be 10-50%? But if the field is small, and the research project lines up with the company's interests, then you may get a job off of the research project itself.

I can tell you that I was involved in two research projects both of which did not lead to employment, but the skills I picked up while participating in them did help me in my career when I transitioned to a web developer. My friend who did both an internship and a research project ended up doing similar work to the research project in her job once she got hired, but she had interned with that company two times, so they probably would have hired her anyways.

Hope that helps!

--
Dexter
Thanks! I think I see the difference in value between internships and research. Ashley T. Translate
Awesome! If you can do both, it's even better. But doing one of them is way better than nothing, I can tell you that! Dexter Arver Translate
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Jemima A.’s Answer

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Dear Ashley,

In addition, there are also research interns. So both listed experience are good..No one is better than the other..It depends on the kind of employment you are seeking. This then determines which they will refer.

Then if someone is unable to do an internship, research experience or publication experience can serve that purpose except it is a very highly competitive position/job where others have more than you have to present on the table.
I think that means internships are more valued right? Thanks! I guess I have some more work to do! Ashley T. Translate
Yea... Experience on both will also give you an edge. Also taking short online courses will also help Jemima A. Chukwu Translate
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Christina’s Answer

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Hi Ashley,

Both internships and research experiences are valuable, but it can depend on what your career goals are. If you'd like to focus on academia, research, or like learning/studying one subject area deeply, the research experience may make more sense. If you'd like to pursue a career in a company, the internship experience can be very practical. Plus you can see if you like that type of work and lifestyle.

Good luck!
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Megan’s Answer

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If you are planning a career outside of the scholar-path, I highly recommend work-place experience. I recently interviewed many undergrad college students for internship opportunities at my company and there was very clear differences in candidates who had experiences outside of the lab/scholar roles. Asside from my perspective, my co-interviewing colleagues tend to weigh those candidates with work-place experiences much higher.

I've also seen entry-level engineers with only lab experience interview for positions and they do typically struggle to answer the interview questions due to a lack of work-place experiences.

I hope this helps!

Megan
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Jonathan’s Answer

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I think each are important but are weighted differently depending on your path of choice. If you choose to go into industry than internships are viewed more positively than research, although having research is also valuable as well. The inverse is true for grad school and PHD programs.
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Tyler’s Answer

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Both are valuable for your professional development. Overall, internships are more preferred in industry because there are development opportunities that you get with industry experience that you might not get with a research position in academia. Biasing one over the other is a personal choice on where you want your career to lead you. If you like the academia environment or highly technical or specific areas of technology a research position might be more preferred. If you would like to go into industry an internship will provide an experience that will develop skills that are more desired in industry.

Tyler recommends the following next steps:

  • Choose if you would like to go into industry or acedemia. Whichever field you might find more fulfilling?
  • Apply to internships early, our company starts looking at resumes for summer interns in Novemeber.
  • If you cannot get a internship a research position is also a great way to build your resume if you want to go into industry.
  • If you want to do a research position find a position that is focused on a area or technology that you want to persue. The technical knowledge you will obtain it more important than just having a position.
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Blake’s Answer

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Hey Ashley,

I think that both are very valuable. However, I think that they do different things for your resume. I think the most important thing for your future career is that you do something to work towards your goal. In my opinion, if you didn't land an internship but did research anyway, that shows resilience.

Thanks,
Blake
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DISHA’s Answer

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It depends on what your end goal is.
From a personal point of view, Internships give you exposure to the real world. You learn skills like working in a complex environment. You understand the competition, skills needed to work within a team, you are challenged with several tasks surrounded by other smart people. It gives a confidence boost and helps in your personality development. Working for a company exposes you to the various technologies/software being used, multiple skills various people posses.
Working in a company will help you realize the need to improve on your technical skills as well as the communication skills. if you like the position, it can be a step to your future career.

Good Luck!
Disha
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Tyler’s Answer

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Both are valuable for your professional development. Overall, internships are more preferred in industry because there are development opportunities that you get with industry experience that you might not get with a research position in academia. Biasing one over the other is a personal choice on where you want your career to lead you. If you like the academia environment or highly technical or specific areas of technology a research position might be more preferred. If you would like to go into industry an internship will provide an experience that will develop skills that are more desired in industry.

Tyler recommends the following next steps:

  • Choose if you would like to go into industry or acedemia. Whichever field you might find more fulfilling?
  • Apply to internships early, our company starts looking at resumes for summer interns in Novemeber.
  • If you cannot get a internship a research position is also a great way to build your resume if you want to go into industry.
  • If you want to do a research position find a position that is focused on a area or technology that you want to persue. The technical knowledge you will obtain it more important than just having a position.
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Andrew’s Answer

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Typically, a student gains practical experience through internship. Hence, an applicant with internship experience would be looked upon more favorably than those without.

On the other hand, research experience during undergrad years can be useful for both grad schools and employments. The key factor here is the practical experience learned aside from the pure academic pursuit.

I worked as a lab assistant, under the tutelage of a Ph.D. student, in the High Energy Particle Physics Group at the University of Hawaii at Manoa for about two years in the early 1970s. That helped me in securing a graduate assistantship in my MS program at Arizona State University. As a graduate teaching/research assistant, my tuition was totally waived, and I received a reasonable stipend to live comfortably, though frugally, for the duration of the graduate program. Again, based on my experience as a graduate research assistant at Arizona State University, I was awarded a graduate assistantship at Stony Brook University for my Ph.D. program. The research experience was instrumental in landing at the Carnegie Institution for Science as a postdoctoral fellow for a one-year tenure in mid 1980s.
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Bowen’s Answer

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I am a hiring manager in a software company. I would favor internship opportunity over research activities. The reasons are:
1. Internship gives you the opportunity to learn practical skills to ramp up on your job from day 1
2. Working with other professionals in a company is different from doing research with other students in college
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Dominique’s Answer

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As all the other answers it really depends on what you want to do long term. If you are asking yourself "I don't know what I want long term?", don't stress too much about it. Honestly, the majority of people don't know what they want their entire career.

My suggestion if you are so unsure is to try to get an internship and get some experience in the workplace. It might help steer you in a direction and it will only help build your resume. It might be difficult with the pandemic but it is worth a shot and if you are doing computer science you might be able to get something and work remote.

A lot of times I interview students coming right out of grad school and it is difficult to hire them because they don't have work experience. I work in Med Device industry and unless we are looking for someone that has experience with a specific new technology for the R&D space it is difficult to hire them. So getting some work experience on your resume won't hurt you. You can always decide too if you go right into industry that it isn't for you and go back to school full time and do research.

A lot of tech companies also pay for you to get your masters so if you wanted to go to a bigger tech company you may get the best of both worlds.
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Maroua’s Answer

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It really depends to the career path that you want to peruse.

If you are more interested in perusing an academic career, like doing master's and PHD, I would say that you should rather get involved in an academic research.
This will give you the opportunity to be in contact with more professors and researchers, and will facilitate your academic journey as you move forward.

However, if you rather prefer to get hands on experience and explore how the real world works, you should get involved with an internship.
Internships are highly considered when you apply for jobs outside the academic career path.

Personally I did both when I was a student. It is nice to get exposed to different experiences before you choose your career path!

Good luck with everything :)
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