Career Advice Workplace Professional Development

How to Choose Between an Internship or Entry-Level Job

Melanie Bacallao
By: Melanie Bacallao
Sep 28, 2020 • 7 min read

How to Choose Between an Internship or Entry-Level Job

From an observant point of view, internships and entry-level jobs sound like distinctively different positions. The truth is, they blend with each other in many aspects. If you are looking to join the workforce, you know your first job will be the foundation of your resume. Does an internship or an entry-level job have more value? Do they provide the same experiences? There is much to consider when choosing the right opportunity to advance your career. 

internship or entry-level job

What are Internships?

It’s hard to nail it down. Internships have varying aspects, depending on how a company structures their internship program. According to the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, “A detailed and standardized definition for what constitutes an “internship” experience does not exist.” However, we best know internships as an educational experience and professional development with little to no pay. If you’re impressionable, the company might even hire you onboard. Your tasks may also consist of a lighter load, typically to relieve the burden of full-time employees.

Pros and Cons of an Internship

This short-term experience can provide a plethora of benefits despite its time frame and general position. Even so, it also comes with its negatives. 

Benefits of Internships include:

  • Free trial. If you are skeptical or interested in a career path, internships allow you to test the waters without risking much.
  • Short timeframe. Since many internships tend to be unpaid, the briefness of it can be relieving yet still educational.
  • Academic growth. It tests your academic knowledge in a work environment.
  • Networking. You can connect to other professionals in the field and drastically increase your chances of getting hired by the same company or elsewhere.
  • Skill building. You can start building or continue to develop your soft and hard skills professionally. 
  • Portfolio development. Your work can be used for your portfolio to showcase to other potential employers in the future.

internship or entry-level job

Drawbacks of Internships include:

  • Unpaid or cheap labor. Some companies take advantage of interns due to its cheap costs compared to an entry-level position.
  • Not guaranteed a job. Despite the amount of effort you can go through applying, interviewing, and working, you still may not even get an offer after your internship is over.
  • Getting the short end of the stick. Some employers see interns as temporary labor, so the work given to them may not build any essential skills.
  • Conflicting schedule. Hours may be demanding or conflicting according to your personal schedule.

If You Choose Internship

While no study proves if employers tend to have a bias over internship or entry-level experience, internships still look appealing on a resume. To make sure you choose the right internship experience, you will need to evaluate your options. If you have the luxury to wait out for better opportunities, you should do so. If you are on a time constraint, pick the one that seems most beneficial to you. Whether you’re pressured or not, follow these tips to secure the best internship possible to gloat about in your resume and interview:

  • Find an internship that offers flexible hours do accommodate your personal schedule.
  • Scour for benefits, if possible. Most don’t offer them, but search for those that give college credit, certifications, or even a job offer after finishing your internship.
  • Do not overlook smaller businesses. They tend to have a more hands-on experience and are a lot more personal than a more prominent company.

Discovery Process

Internships are the easiest way to find out if you like a particular career choice or not. If you manage to synergize well with your employer, you may be granted the opportunity to work as an entry-level. This is the best outcome, considering that you are already accustomed and trained to perform a seamless transition from intern to entry-level. In support, the CCWT mentions that “[interns] have higher rates of job satisfaction… which [results in] the reduction of “entry shock.”” However, they also report mixed evidence when it comes to proving that an internship can impact employability in the long-term or on wages. When using an internship experience on your resume or during an interview, you have the upper hand. You can leverage the fact that you’ve committed to an unpaid internship because of your passion for personal and academic growth. 

internship or entry-level job

What is an Entry-Level Job?

Entry-level jobs, unlike internships, have a set definition and an expected amount of experience. They are positions, like internships. However, they are meant for people who are entering the workforce with little to no professional experience. The main difference between an entry-level and an internship is the pay. 

Pros and Cons of an Entry-Level Job

Entry-level jobs may sound better because of the payment opportunities. However, there are still things to look over in your job searching process. 

Benefits of an Entry-Level job include:

  • Paid experience. You will most likely experience the same things that an internship goes over, except they pay you.
  • Professional growth. Professionals in the field are accessible, and you may be trained under one of the best. 
  • Skill building. Like internships, you can also build your soft and hard skills even more in an entry-level role. 
  • Networking. You can connect to your coworkers or even your boss to increase your chances of getting promoted or find another company.
  • Promotion. Your pay may get bumped as you climb the ladder of your career.
  • Benefits. Some entry-level jobs offer compensation packages or benefits such as health insurance, equity stocks, or 401k.

Drawbacks of an Entry-Level job include:

  • Risk. Companies can decide to sever ties with you without even giving a warning. If you’re dependent on this pay or experience, this will be inconvenient for you.
  • Fast-paced environment. Most entry-level jobs expect you to keep up the pace with the amount of work they provide. 
  • Conflicting schedule. Some timeframes given may be undesirable, but are possibly the only time shifts available for the role you applied for.
  • Competition. While internships are still competitive, entry-level jobs are even more so due to the salary and benefits.

If You Choose Entry-Level

If you have the luxury to do so, choose an entry-level position that aligns with your career path. It will build the foundation for your skills and allows easier access up the ladder to your success. Remember to look around you for your school; if you study education, try to be a teacher’s assistant. Some jobs don’t consider internships as professional experience, too. If this is the case, it is best to go with an entry-level position. 

internship or entry-level job

Qualifications

Despite internships and entry-levels offering the same experience, it may be harder to qualify for an entry-level. Both options will introduce students to the workforce. However, entry-levels are starting to have stricter barriers. According to a 2018 study by TalentWorks, 61% of “entry-level” jobs require 3+ years of experience. They also estimate that number to increase in the near future. However, there is still little evidence of an internship or entry-level job having more value on a resume. 

Leverage

The barrier for entry-level jobs is getting more and more strict. So, you can use that to your advantage on your resume or during an interview. If you are or have already taken an entry-level position, you may stand a better chance amongst other candidates. You can leverage this success in future interviews.

internship or entry-level job

The Final Decision

It’s not just professional experience that is gatekeeping entry-level jobs, but they may also require other qualifications beforehand like degrees. Some internships are lenient, but there has also been a rise to stricter qualifications for internships. Regardless, internships and entry-level jobs seem to have a similar reputation when hiring managers go over your resume.

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