Does an Internship Count as Professional Work Experience in 2021?

Jan 29, 2021

Written by Caitlin Proctor

Written by Caitlin Proctor

Career Expert, ZipJob

An average of 250 resumes are sent for a single opening. See how Zipjob uses professional writers and technology to get your resume noticed.

When you’re just starting out on your chosen career path, it is often difficult to convince prospective employers to give you the chance to prove your worth. This is especially true when you have little or no work experience to list on your resume. After all, today’s employers want to know that you can make an immediate impact on their bottom line. As a result, they will generally want to see how well you have performed in similar situations in the past. But what if you are applying for your first job in your chosen field? What if all your only work experience consists of an internship? Do unpaid internships count as work experience? Is a paid internship considered work experience?

The answer is almost always yes!

Internship work experience 2

Do Internships Count as Actual Work Experience?

That internship that you landed during or after college may not seem like something employers will be interested in, but it is. Moreover, that’s true regardless of whether it was a paid or unpaid position. For many entry-level workers, an internship may be the only way to acquire valuable experience in their industry. And, as internships have evolved over time, the distinction between an intern and a full-time employee has blurred. In fact, many workers acquire internship work experience that is every bit as valuable as that received by those full-time employees.

Employers understand that as well, and that means that they are often very interested in your internship work experience. As a result, that experience is something that you will usually want to include in your resume. Of course, there will also be times when you may want to omit that experience. But how can you know when to include internship work experience and when to leave it out of your resume?

For more great ideas, check out our recent post: How to Include Internship Experience on Your Resume

Know When to Include Internship Work Experience and When to Omit It

There are some fairly simple rules about when to include internship work experience. Always include this type of experience if one of the following describes your situation and internship:

  • You are applying for your first position in your chosen field. If that’s true for you, then that internship work experience is the only relevant experience you can include on your resume. Don’t make the mistake of omitting that detail!
  • Your internship work experience directly related to the job you’re seeking. If that’s the case, then the experience is extremely relevant and will help showcase your qualifications.
  • The experience is not directly relevant, but you had important achievements during your internship. In that instance, you may not be able to directly tie your experience to the job at hand, but you can demonstrate your value as a potential employee.

On the other hand, you may want to omit that internship work experience if you have other more relevant real-world work experience. Of course, if that was the case, then chances are you wouldn’t be fretting over the experience section of your resume – would you? The bottom line is simple: your entry-level resume probably won’t be complete without that internship work experience!

What to Focus on When Including Internship Work Experience

Now that you’ve come to realize the importance of your internship work experience, the next question is obvious. What should you focus on when you’re including those details? Here are some basic guidelines to help you properly present that internship:

  • Focus on the responsibilities and achievements first, detailing the skills you learned, developed, and used.
  • Where possible, identify real value that you provided in your role. Use hard numbers to quantify that value if the data is available.
  • Don’t bury your internship in the middle of other non-relevant jobs. For example, if you worked part-time at the local fast food place, don’t let that job take precedence over your internship. One way to highlight that important internship is to place it in its own section. That way, you can position the section either before or after your traditional work history, depending on how relevant those other jobs were to the position you’re seeking.
  • Pay attention to formatting. List the organization’s name and location, the timeframe you worked, any title you held, and your role and responsibilities. In other words, give it the same level of attention that you provide to the rest of your work history.

Internship Work History Example:

Here’s an example of internship work history and how it can be properly displayed in your resume:

Marketing Internship (Dec 2017 – Mar 2018)

American Corporation Marketing, Anytown, AnyState

Junior Marketing Assistant; Acquired direct, hands-on experience working under the direction of an experienced marketing assistant and the company’s Director of Marketing.

  • Assisted with client communications, and coordinating meetings and schedules
  • Implemented the development of client marketing plans which increased sales by xx%

It can be difficult to land that first major job without any relevant work experience. That’s why so many of today’s workers actively seek out roles as interns prior to entering the job market. The good news is that your internship work experience can be a tremendous asset to your resume. By learning how and when to include that experience in your resume, you can dramatically improve your odds of landing an interview and the job you need!

An average of 250 resumes are sent for a single opening. See how Zipjob uses professional writers and technology to get your resume noticed.

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