The Hunt for Internships in a Pandemic

Written by on April 24, 2021

Photo caption: As of May 2021, LinkedIn shows results for over 10,000 remote internships for students and recent graduates.

What was once an exciting turning point for the college upperclassmen has turned into a crisis of the unknown. The job board site Glassdoor reported when this all began in May of 2020 that internship openings dropped 49%. It has always been a battle to get an internship but now that battle has become a full fledged war. 

One year ago, COVID-19 flipped the world on its head. This changed almost every aspect of everyday life around the world, including education and employment. For many undergraduate degrees there is a requirement of an internship and where there is not a requirement there is a need for experience.  Director of research, public policy and legislative affairs for the National Association of Colleges and Employers Edwin Koc spoke with Abigail Johnson Hess of CNBC Make It in April 2020 saying, “Of the employers that are continuing with their internships, 75% have made at least one change to their internship program.” 

As vaccines came out and numbers started to settle these internships are still implementing these changes they did a year ago. There are less opportunities, more virtual only internships and many more. 

Kent State University digital media production student Kristin Berchek talks about her internship search in 2020. She says, “I remember like literally applying to like, four or five different places. And within like a week they all canceled their internships.”  

Berchek watched as all her hard work of applying disappeared without care. Indeed recommends applying for at least 20 different internships. But as those opportunities are lessened by COVID-19 and your location getting up to that number has gotten harder and harder. 

“I was like that crazy person on Handshake, Indeed and LinkedIn, like just applying for whatever,” Berchek says. “As long as I enjoy it, that’s all that matters. Like,  hopefully I can get longevity out of it.” 

Many students have turned to other sources to get the information they need. Tim Scroll of George Mason University says, “Funnily enough, I found the thing I’m currently doing through one of my professors basically asking around for geography majors, just to do something for this history professor. Now I’m making like some maps for him.” 

The word of mouth doesn’t stop there. Scroll said that his school has many group chats with the students of each college that can share opportunities with each other. 

From banning together and trying to connect classmates and/or students with internships to trying every job board that exists, the search for internships have become bigger hunt than before. Students around the world are competing for a fighting chance at experience and maybe even school credit. Whether it is jumping into the world of virtual working experience or having to settle for whatever you can get just to graduate, the internship market has been changed forever. 

Looking at this change, one can choose to see both the negative and the positive. The negative has been fleshed out, but there is an upside to all of this. Many bigger companies around the world have been offering virtual internships open to students anywhere in the world. Before if you didn’t have the means to travel to a big city to work with a large corporation, now you could get your opportunity to put that corporation on your resume. 

Hopefully internships will begin to fall back into the normal stressful application process, but now with even more opportunities like virtual internships. Maybe something positive did come from the pandemic. 


Nick Underwood contributed to this story. 

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