Teachers, parents, even peers push students to think of their future careers as soon as possible. However, preparation for their upcoming careers is often overlooked. So, how can students prepare for the “real world?” How can universities and colleges better prepare students for their careers after they graduate?According to Katharine Hansen of Quint Careers, many college graduates struggle with getting hired, because they lack experience. Hansen stressed the importance of doing internships in college, especially in today’s job market.

Students from Oregon State University echoed that thought as they talked about their reasons for internships, and three main points stuck out.

1.  Internships provide hands-on experience.

Jazmin Schneider, an animal science student at Oregon State University planning to apply to veterinary school soon, talked about her current internship with Paws Animal Hospital and its impact on her career life. “[The internship] gets me more of a hands-on reality of what my career would be instead of hearing about it in a classroom and reading about it in a textbook,” said Schneider, “It gets me more comfortable with what I would be doing in my career.” Schneider’s internship allows her to shadow Debra Johnson, a veterinarian at the clinic, and see all of the veterinarian’s responsibilities. Observing the vet, seeing real world veterinary procedures, and getting to assist in handling and restraining animals has given her a different perspective on her future job.

Besides just seeing the actual responsibilities of a veterinarian, the internship at Paws Animal Hospital made Schneider more comfortable with the difficult situations that happen at a vet clinic. For example, the concept of euthanasia (putting an animal down) is emotionally difficult. Schneider had a hard time coming to grips with the procedure before her internship, she said.During her internship, the vet performed euthanasia on a dog, and Schneider saw how the vet handled the procedure with care and empathy towards the pet’s owners. She said, that situation, though hard, made her more comfortable with euthanasia, as she now knows how to apply her practical knowledge to real world situations in an empathetic and caring way.

Gabrielle Redhead, an agricultural business management major, also emphasized the importance of hands on experience. “[An internship] also allows for students that don’t do well in a classroom setting to grasp knowledge kinesthetically,” she said, “It allows you to apply knowledge that you already have to your career faster.” Thanks to the promise of hands-on experience, Redhead was excited to announce that Northwestern Mutual selected her as a financial representative intern for this summer.

Jennifer Wolf, a Bioresource Research major in Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, also appreciated the practical applications to a future career through her internship at the Southern Oregon Research Experiment Station.“The hands-on experience was the best part of the internship. I got to use science equipment that I had only read about in textbooks, and critically think through my own project,” Wolf remarked, “I really enjoyed being given the space, guidance and encouragement to head my own project.”

2.  Internships allow interns to experience life and make connections.

Elijah Wilson, a graduate research assistant at Oregon State University, received the chance to intern with two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to help implement wood-powered cook stoves into rural communities in Nicaragua. Though he gained valuable knowledge about bioenergy, the international experience was just as important to him. Traveling became something Wilson wanted to do in the coming years both in and out of his job. In fact, he now has an International degree all because of that internship.

Redhead will have a similar experience this summer when she travels to France through her internship. She has never had the opportunity for traveling internationally, and this internship provides that opportunity. Besides the out-of-nation experience, internships allow interns to work in businesses and fields where they broaden their network of people and grow their bank of career skills. Interns carry their connections made at internships for many years afterward.

Northwestern Mutual gives staggering statistics on the numbers of past interns getting hired in the company and moving up in the ranks. The company states that 60 percent of college unit directors are former interns, and those interns and college unit directors become field directors, managing directors, and managing partners. Redhead will have many opportunities from her internship this summer. Not only will Redhead experience the “real world” and broaden her network, she will also explore the career she plans on working in the rest of her life. She will see if the financial world is the place for her, which leads to the third reason for internships.

3.  Internships give insight into one’s actual desires for a career.

“[An internship] gives you the ability to find what you do and do not like, and where you see yourself in a future career,” Redhead explained when reasoning why internships impact careers.She hopes see if the world of finances is truly the industry for her, or if she should continue looking at different venues of agricultural business management.

Brittenee Payne, another Oregon State University student, echoed Redhead’s thoughts about internships. Payne majors in animal science and had plans of becoming a veterinarian. Because of an internship, she decided to change her plans. The internship changed her perception of the veterinary world. She went into the internship with an inaccurate vision of the realities of a vet clinic. When she gained more knowledge of that world, she realized the veterinary industry may not be the place for her.“I had an idea of what a veterinarian is, but interning helped me see what the job actually is, and that I would need a back-up plan,” Payne explained.  She currently wants to work in animal behavior, specifically training animals. She hopes to get an internship that focuses on animal behavior, so she can get another glance at her potential career.

Wolf had a similar experience with her internship as a research assistant. During her internship, Wolf became more confident in her decision to become a teacher and not a researcher. “I realized that I didn’t want to do research for the rest of my life,” Wolf said. Both Payne and Wolf learned more about their fields of interest, and learned more about what they wanted for a career because of their internships. The time spent at their internships was still valuable to them.

Internships prepare students for their future careers through hands-on experience, a broadened network, a wider variety of life skills, and guidance for types of jobs one actually desires. As Wilson so eloquently put, “It is absolutely necessary for every single college student.”