Soon-to-be college graduates and early career professionals often wonder, "do internships count as work experience?" The answer, in short, is yes!
Internships absolutely count as work experience. If you've spent time at internships, you absolutely should have them on your resume and be ready to talk about your experiences during interviews. To help you be prepared, here are some tips and examples to help you do both of those things successfully.
How (and whether) to add internship experience to your resume
How, where and whether you include internship experience in your resume depends on how far along you are in your career.
These are the rough guidelines:
1. If you're a college student or soon-to-be professional, display your internship experience at the top of the work experience section of your resume.
Work experience needs to be in reverse chronological order, which means starting with the most recent job, and going back to the oldest experience. Whenever possible, you should try to have a more detailed title than simply "Intern," so you should ask your supervisor if you have a more detailed title, such as "Marketing Intern" or "Sales Association Intern."
2. If you're an early career professional who's had one or two full-time jobs, list those first and keep your internship experience in reverse chronological order (meaning they'll be listed last).
3. Once you have over three years of experience in your field outside of your internship experiences, it's time to move your internships to a career note at the end of your work experience section summarizing that information.
If you worked with any namedrop-worthy clients at any of your internships, or were responsible for certain tasks that are desirable to employers and which you haven't completed at your full-time experiences, then you could consider adding a line to the career note calling attention to those specific details.
4. Once you're no longer an entry-level professional — typically seven or more years into your career — it's time to drop internship experience altogether from your resume.
Assuming your professional experience supports your career goals, this is the point at which you'll no longer need to reference your internship experience to attract employers, and will instead want to focus on your recent work experiences and accomplishments. You can drop internship experience sooner if your resume no longer has room for it, or, the internships aren't aligned with your current career path.
Explaining internship experience in an interview
When interviewers or recruiters ask you about your past internship experiences, they're typically interested in understanding whether you have relevant experience and whether you've had practice applying knowledge and skills to real-world situations in the workplace. If you're a student or recent graduate, they might also want to assess whether you have the ability to handle a real work environment.
Here are some useful tips to help you be prepared to answer questions about your internships and leverage those experiences to demonstrate your suitability for the role you're interviewing for:
- Succinctly summarize your experience and what you learned at the internship. You can prepare for this by preparing a list of the skills you developed at your internships prior to interviews, circling the skills that are relevant to the job you're interviewing for, and making sure to mention those specific skills when answering the internship question.
- Prepare some relevant anecdotes from your internships to illustrate your use of the skills you want to demonstrate competency in. To achieve this, use a three-part setup: 1) describe a situation or challenge, 2) explain how you took action to solve the problem and 3) give an example of how your action led to some positive impact.
- Be prepared to answer questions about how your internships have influenced your career aspirations. They could have been confirmatory (e.g., a great marketing internship is why you want to be a marketer) or have helped you build relevant skills (e.g., you enjoyed developing writing skills at a past journalism internship, which is why you're now interested in a career in public relations).
Examples of including internship experience on resumes
This example of an entry-level college graduate resume is one way to showcase your internship experiences when you're starting your career. In this example, the applicant's internship information includes: the company’s name, a brief description of what they did, the dates of employment, and the company’s location.
To use this yourself, use the following format:
[Company Name] [Start Month] – [End Month] [Year]
[Internship Title] City, State
[Brief description of your internship role]
Feel free to add extra sentences (or bullets) to provide further information about the internship, if it’s necessary. If an internship was outside your primary country (for example, if you’re a U.S.-based candidate who interned in the U.K. at some point), include the country as well for international experiences.
For those with three of more years' worth of work experience, here's a career note may serve to effectively summarize past internship experiences without taking up an unnecessarily large amount of space on your resume. Career notes are frequently used by senior-level professionals when they need to cut their resumes down to two (or fewer) pages, and are a good way to squeeze numerous internship experiences into your resume in two to three lines so you can save space to provide more detail about your more recent full-time experiences. Here’s an example career note for someone who’s held a few finance internships prior to starting their professional career:
To use this yourself, use the following format:
Career Note: Additional [industry] experience includes [internship experience 1], [internship experience 2], and [internship experience 3]. Additional details available upon request.