The Internship vs. The Summer Job

Over the years, I have been asked many times, “Would it be okay if I had a summer job instead of an internship? I need the money.”  My response, as a career counselor, is always a struggle.  Unthinkingly, I want to respond that an internship would be better because you would learn the industry, determine if it’s a good fit, make connections, etc., etc.  However, my nurturing counselor side makes me want to respond that of course a summer job is fine, I understand and respect that you need the money.

So which is it?  Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve seen students land internship after internship and get great jobs after graduation.  I have also seen students work their way through college and each and every summer, and land great jobs after graduation.

To put this dilemma to the test I asked two rising sophomores, one who worked this past summer and one who interned, to tell me five things they learned while “on the job.” I’ll let you be the judge.

Intern #1 –Accounting major with an internship in the human resources department of a national accounting firm with 8 offices and 650 employees:

  1. How to use Microsoft Office (PowerPoint, Excel and Word) extensively in support of presentations and office operations.
  2. How to write professional correspondence e.g., an email without slang or acronyms and with proper grammar.
  3. How the behind the scenes work and client relationships impact the business and the bottom line i.e., the profit (something she never learned in class).
  4. The culture of the office and reality of day-to-day operations.
  5. Learned the pros and cons of working for a corporation, which expanded her awareness of to other industries that need accountants.

Intern #2 – Health Sciences major with a summer job at her university career center with one office and 10 employees:

  1. Developed stronger decision making responsibilities while managing the front reception area
  2. Developed more independence, confidence and self-reliance.
  3. Learned the importance of punctuality and how others rely on you.
  4. Learned how to communicate effectively with and put your best attitude forward when working with various clientele including rude or unhappy clients.
  5. How her knowledge of the services and the workplace can help others take advantage of the resources.
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Suzanne Pike

Suzanne Pike currently serves as the Director of Career Development & Assessment at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. She provides career counseling and job search coaching to students and alumni, as well as handles data management and outcomes reporting. Suzanne previously worked in human resources and in management consulting. She earned a Master of Arts in Public Administration from Syracuse University and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs from the University at Albany.


    Either should be related to the career you want! Summer jobs give short term $ but internships can get you more in the future.