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Internships for Veterans – The 5 W’s


Internships for Veterans – The 5 W’s

You probably already know that companies want to hire veterans. Veterans bring knowledge, skills and abilities that can’t be taught in school. Leadership, discipline and adaptability are just a few of them.

Internships can make a clear path to the front of the applicant line. With the right one, you might be able to skip the line completely.

The 5 W’s of Internships for Veterans

  • Why you should do an internship
  • Who can get them
  • What kind of internships are available
  • When to look for them
  • Where to find them

An internship is a paid or unpaid temporary position with a business or organization that gives a person experience in a career field or job they’re interested in. Every industry has internship options. There are internships with corporations, non-profits, all levels of government, and businesses of all sizes.

More and more companies are creating internships. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 2019 was the third year in a row that employers increased internship positions. For veterans and transitioning service members, it means even more opportunities are out there.

Why You Should Do an Internship

  • Internships are more than just a temporary job – they’re an opportunity to permanently level up your knowledge, skills and abilities
  •  Internships lead to jobs – over 50% of interns are offered jobs at the company where they do their internship
  • Interns keep their jobs – after five years, employees who did internships have a higher retention rate than those who didn’t
  • Interns get paid to learn – the average pay rate is over $19 an hour according to NACE
  • Veterans can check a job fit – get the inside scoop on culture, training and promotion possibilities
  • Internships grow networks – 70% of jobs come from networking and your internship co-workers become part of yours

Who Can Get Internships

Internships are for veterans interested in getting hands-on experience and growing their networks in a career field. They are not just for students.

Transitioning service members are perfect candidates for internships.  Veterans entering or returning to the workforce can build skills and develop professional networks with them.

Recent graduates can launch their careers with them. Internships also offer a great opportunity for mid-level professionals to expand their skills and explore new industries.

What Kinds of Internships are Available

Internships are as different as the organizations that offer them.

They can be full time, part time, paid, unpaid, seasonal, project-based or long term. Some programs give you academic credit for your internship.

Think beyond traditional summertime academic internships for students. For instance, Goldman Sachs offers a Veterans Integration Program (VIP) in the spring for veterans with at least one year of service and an interest in financial markets. A veteran friendly hospital in Las Vegas has ongoing internships for licensed healthcare professionals. Non-profits are another source of paid and unpaid internships.

The Los Angeles County Veterans’ Internship Program has 12 and 24 month paid internship programs. The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs has a Do It Yourself (DIY) internship program to help you build your own.

Veterans get hiring preferences for paid federal internships, not just jobs. Most federal agencies offer internships. Did you know that military commands offer internships? For example, U.S. Southern Command offers both paid and unpaid internships.

When to Look for an Internship

When to start looking for an internship depends on your status and timeline.

  • Student veterans – as soon as you start your school or training, start thinking about when and where you might want to intern

Internships are available throughout your entire academic career, from freshman to post-doctoral. The application process usually requires references, proof of grades and military service, and other information you will need time to gather. Check with your academic advisor for information on program requirements and deadlines.

  • Recent Graduates – don’t wait until after you graduate to set up your internship

Having an internship set up at a great company before you get your diploma can be a great way to get your foot in the door for a job there. If you got a late start, don’t worry. Many recent graduate programs allow you up to a year after graduation to apply for an internship position.

Some internship programs, like OPM’s Recent Graduate Program, can hire you from an internship right into a federal job. Many corporate and civilian internships for recent graduates do the same.

  • Transitioning Service Members – timing is especially important for transitioning service members

Time your internship to your terminal leave dates or EAS. Consider a non-paid internship while you are still drawing a paycheck and then pick up a paid one to gain even more experience and networking opportunities.

Through the SkillBridge program, you can have a paid internship for the last 180 days of your active service. The time it takes to get it set up varies and requires command approval. Check with your base Transition Office or Education Office for more information.

The Hiring our Heroes program connects “transitioning service members with professional training and hands-on experience in the civilian workforce.” Sessions run throughout the year and information is posted on their website.

  • Mid-career veterans, unemployed veterans and veterans returning to the workforce – timing a mid-career or workforce re-entry internship depends on you and your goals

Non- academic corporate and non-profit internships are a growing trend. Companies such as Bank of America offer internship programs specifically targeting unemployed veterans. The public relations firm, Wunderlich Kaplan Communications, started “The Enternship”, a “program to help women over 40 to return to work.”

Non-profits offer internship options that give you a chance to use your professional skills to explore a special interest, make a difference and expand your professional network.

Where to Find Internships for Veterans

There are a many ways for veterans to find internships.

  • Dedicated internet sites – a popular one is internships.com. Enter “veteran” in the search function
  • Google search – use “veteran internship” and keywords for an industry, location or company
  • USAJOBS – your veteran preference applies to federal internships that can turn into jobs without additional application requirements
  • College/Alumni groups – some have internship agreements with businesses who don’t advertise openings to the general public
  • Linked In – check the Student Jobs portal, contact recruiters directly and tell your connections you’re looking for an internship
  • DIY – make your own internship by setting up an informational interview at a veteran friendly company, pitching your skills, explaining how an internship could help them, and asking for the chance to make it happen

Internships are valuable tools for veterans. It doesn’t matter if you are transitioning from active duty, attending a school or a training program, entering or re-entering the workforce. Internships give veterans experience and networking advantages that make a difference no matter where you are in their career path.