By Kevin Pitts
September 18, 2011
An internship is one of the best ways to ultimately achieve a permanent position in industry. For many companies, the majority of their new hires are people who have previously interned with them. And even if it doesn't turn into a permanent position within the same company, an internship provides crucial experience for students. In many cases, an internship experience will be the highlight of a student's resume.
In physics, we tend to emphasize research opportunity more than internships. As I've written before in this blog, an undergraduate research experience helps a student going to graduate school in the same ways that an internship helps a student going into industry. These two paths (internship, research) are not exclusive of one another. Some students engage in undergrad research and still go into industry.
We would like to improve the opportunities for students that want an internship in industry. To do this, we are trying to make our curriculum more flexible (see my post on elective options) and we are also trying to help companies understand what physicists bring to the table.
And now there is good news on the internship front. To help encourage more students to make the transition into engineering and engineering related careers, a group of companies have pledged to double the number of internships they offer. This was done in conjunction with the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Companies include Boeing, DuPont, Intel, Facebook, Nalco and Tektronix, the kinds of companies that want smart, motivated, well-trained scientists and engineers.
This is good news, but there is much more work to do. We need to continue to help our students market their skills and we also need to get employers to fully appreciate the tremendous strengths that physicists bring to the table. The good news is that this process will become easier as we get more students into internships. Once companies hire a few physicists and realize how great they are, they'll want to hire more!
If you have questions about the Physics Illinois Undergraduate Program, contact the Undergraduate Office, 217.333.4361.
If you have any feedback or suggestions for this blog, please contact Kevin Pitts.
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