Engineering internships: What you need to know

If you’re looking to put your engineering knowledge into practice, an internship could be the next step…

Whether you’re still studying, you’ve just graduated, or you’re looking to change careers, gaining some practical experience could be the best way to get your foot in the door, and start a career in the engineering industry.

To guide you in the right direction, here are a few things you need to know if you’re considering an engineering internship:


What is an engineering internship?

An engineering internship is a practical way of providing temporary work experience to those looking to start a career in the engineering industry.

They combine theoretical knowledge with practical skills, and offer prospective engineers an opportunity to work on real-life projects, learn more about the industry, and develop the essential skills needed to progress within their field.


Why should I do one?

Engineering is a highly competitive industry. Gaining some practical, on-the-job experience will help you learn your craft, and start adding real value to your applications.

Not only will it show you have the ambition and drive it takes to succeed, it’ll also prove your practical skills, and that professional expertise that you could carry over to a permanent role. Whether that’s a full-time position at your current company, or someone else within the sector.


What types of engineering internships are there?

Engineering is a broad field, with a range of different sub-sectors.

Deciding on your most suited specialism is essential to finding the right internship for you, so it’s important to do your research, and play to your strengths.

Here are just a few of the main engineering fields you could choose to work in:

Civil engineering – Civil Engineers design, build and protect structures such as roads, bridges, pipelines, and large buildings. If you’re commercially aware, interested in creating things that make life easier for people, or want to help support the environment, civil engineering could be for you.

Mechanical engineering – Mechanical Engineers design and develop machinery, products, and components of all sizes, and can work within manufacturing, power, construction, or medicine. If you’re interested in joining the most diverse field of engineering, you should choose mechanical engineering.

Industrial engineering – Industrial Engineers use excellent problem solving skills and mathematical calculations to reduce wastefulness in production processes. If you’re a critical thinker, with an aptitude for identifying strengths and weaknesses, industrial engineering may be your most suited specialism.

Electrical engineering – Electrical Engineers are in charge of planning, creating, and maintaining electrical control systems or products. If you’re interested in the technical design and building aspect of electrical machinery, you’ll probably enjoy electrical engineering.

Other fields to consider: biological engineering, aerospace engineering, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, software engineering.

Although these specialisms have slight differences, they also contain a large amount of similarities in terms of essential skills and attributes.

So, if you’re not sure on a field yet, don’t panic. Doing an internship in any one of these areas will undoubtedly teach you valuable skills, and ultimately help to find out which path is right for you.


How do I qualify?

Engineering internships are most common amongst engineering students, and recent graduates.

However, almost anyone can apply for an internship, and employers will favour any candidates with a real enthusiasm and passion for engineering. Any other relevant experience and/or qualifications will also help you stand out from the crowd.


Where can I work?

The type of company you’ll work for will depend on the specialism you choose, but engineers are needed in a variety of sectors.

You could work for the food industry, in manufacturing, construction, medicine, design, power, transport, or for environmental agencies.


When can I start?

Lengths and start-times of internships will vary, and could last from a few weeks, to a few months or a year – dependent on the company and specific type of internship.

Although engineering internships are available all year round, yearlong placements will often be put in place in conjunction with a degree, and shorter ones will be most common in the summer time, and during Christmas and Easter.


How can I find one?

If you’re currently studying, and your degree doesn’t provide a year in industry, getting in touch with your University careers service is the best place to start.

Internships will also be advertised locally and on job boards, and searching direct through reputable engineering companies is also a good idea.

To cover all bases, it’s always best to incorporate a proactive approach into your search. Alongside your application, getting in touch with an employer directly about potential opportunities is a great way to show your interest and get involved.


Looking to break into the engineering industry? View all engineering internships now.