Overview of Virtual Internships

For some students, finding the ideal internship can be a challenge. There can be scheduling conflicts or perhaps the desire to complete an internship with a company that doesn’t have offices in their particular city. At one time, it may have been impossible for students in such situations to find a solution. Now, with virtual internships on the rise, no doors are closed.

Virtual internships offer students the chance to gain real world experience by combing knowledge that was gained in the traditional classroom setting with on-the-job training and experience, while not having to physically be there. Virtual interns communicate with their employers via email, video chat, instant messaging, phone and webinars.

Although virtual internships have been rare in the past, they are growing in popularity. This is a result of improvements in technology and social media. Small, online and start-up businesses find virtual internships valuable when they are in need of extra help. It is only recently that larger companies are beginning to explore the world of virtual internships.

The first virtual internships program was initiated by Columbia University several years ago. The United States Department of State operates the Virtual Student Foreign Service Program. Research has been done that showed nearly 350 “eInterns” had worked with US diplomatic posts in nearly 100 countries.

These particular types of internships are more common in the following fields:

There are instances when student with interests in politics, engineering and / or public relations are offered the opportunity to complete their intern assignments virtually.

Remote internships make total sense in a world of global companies and virtual work forces laboring from afar. Larger companies find it useful to have younger interns who know how to navigate such popular networks such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Pros and Cons of Virtual Internships

The pros of virtual internships are that they offer students a wider variety of opportunity without the stress of worrying about housing or traveling expenses. In addition to this, the hours are more flexible; allowing students to maintain their course load and perhaps part-time employment.

However, not everyone is in agreement with the idea. Many believe that virtual internships don’t give the students the guidance and mentorship that internships were designed to provide. Remote interns miss out on being in the middle of it all. A director of the Media Effects Lab, Shyam Sundar, said, “While these options can provide today’s students with valuable experience, they are not accompanied by the training component that teaches them how to become better workers.”

Making the decision to complete a virtual internship can be a tough one. Students should research the company thoroughly, prior to signing on. Weight the pros and cons and take time to figure out if a virtual internship will be as beneficial as being on location. At least now, you know that there are more options available to you