Computer science isn’t a profession that requires graduates to take internships before they can start working, but there are still many internships available in computer science. While these positions can prepare you for the demands of a nine-to-five job, they don’t necessarily teach you how to write code, which is important when you start out as a software developer.
Starting a Computer Science Career
Before you have years of experience in software engineering, you will be tested during your job interviews to find out if you have basic skills, such as converting looping functions to recursive functions and writing pseudocode to solve project requirements. You gain these skills during your undergraduate studies, but most computer science programs don’t spend very many semesters focusing on software development. Most of your degree will be spent learning theory, discrete mathematics and algorithm design. Internships can give you a taste of what it’s like to work on a team to complete a project, and they give you a little experience in a corporate environment, which might enhance your résumé if you plan to go in that direction.
Computer science undergraduates who are on the business track should definitely apply for corporate internships, and students on the science track should apply for summer research internships. However, these opportunities don’t necessarily help software engineers learn the skills they need to begin their careers. Most computer science students are on the software design track, and the best approach for them is to work on a project with other developers. In general, interns don’t contribute meaningful work to a project; they just get to see the way a professional environment operates. Without highly polished programming skills, software engineering jobs will be difficult to come by. If you want to be a software developer, you can still gain useful experience with an internship, but your main focus should be learning how to code on a professional level. The best way to get your feet wet is to look on GitHub or Google Code for open-source projects to contribute to.
Types of Computer Science Internships
As far as internship opportunities are concerned, you can choose corporate positions or university research positions. Corporations have teams of software engineers developing applications, and they allow interns to see the process in exchange for performing small duties. Most of these positions are unpaid, but a few offer a small wage. Research internships are typically very humble positions without pay, but they’re necessary if you plan to go to graduate school. You will get acquainted with the academic world by working under professors and other graduate students, and you might work on a project that you find interesting. When you get to graduate school, the research opportunities will be a lot more interesting, and you can apply for fellowships and grants to fund the research that interests you the most. The internships available from corporations and research fellowships vary between colleges. Ask your professors and your school’s computer science department about the opportunities at your school.
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Computer science is one of the fastest-growing industries in the economy because it has some of the biggest potential for technological development. There are many more jobs in software engineering than in other types of engineering, and strong programming skills are valued by employers. If you’re going to be graduating in a year or two, you should continue looking into the internships available in computer science.