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If you can't get a job, get an internship. If you can get an internship, maybe you can get a job [with the same organization] later. Maybe you can get an internship that is also a job-i.e., pays a salary or wage for its duration. That pretty much sums up the most common internship scenarios-work that involves on-the-job temporary mentoring and responsibility as an organization intern, with or without pay, depending on the individual organizational policy or plan.

Business internships must not be confused with medical internships, also known as "residencies". A hospital intern is a medical school graduate gaining practical experience through long hours-50 per week or more, compensated at around $43,000 per year, in the U.S. Unlike many business internships, a medical internship is almost certainly a decently-paid position, averaging about $13-$15 per hour.

Despite the image of business and other non-medical internships as non-jobs, competition for them can be fierce and exacerbated by well-connected or extremely well-qualified competitors.

Internships, whether paid or unpaid, involve a temporary period of on-the-job training, responsibility and transfer of knowledge from experienced staff to those who have little or no experience about a job. Usually such learning and jobs occur in the white-collar domain, which is what tends to distinguish interns from those who are participating in apprenticeship programs, which tend to have more of an artisan trade, crafts, industrial, agricultural or other vocational focus.

College students and younger workers are typically those who become interns. Some seek such learning opportunities right after they leave college-perhaps as a preliminary to more fully-committed employment subsequently, e.g., after a period of travel and other experimentation. Others, entry-level and seasoned workers alike, in desperation, pursue internships after job searches prove fruitless. Still others fall somewhere in between, hoping to use an internship as a wedge into permanent employment with the organization-or at least one like it.

These positions can expose them to real-world working structures and enlighten them about what they may be interested in doing in terms of their career or about the limitations and drawbacks of that kind of career.

The internship period is filled with learning opportunities, networking, meeting diverse people, learning about positions and the required duties, understanding where their skills are best applied and gaining other experience in a variety of ways. Some organizations pitch at universities to recruit potential interns in the same manner that summer students are recruited. It is also possible to get paid quite well as an intern while gathering this knowledge and experience.

However, some positions may be unpaid and may be structured to resemble a volunteer opportunity. Depending on the situation and on the individual, this may still be an opportunity to gain valuable experience, even without a paycheck. It could also serve as a foot in the door for organizations that are difficult to get into when seeking full-time employment. Knowledge of the organization and all the experience gained during the months or years as an intern can prove to be quite valuable when the organization is ready to hire full time employees.
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