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engineering internships: Woman working on a project on her computer at work

Your Guide To Engineering Internships: Interviews, Applications, and Skills

by | Feb 18, 2021 | Internships

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Becoming an engineer is a great way to play an active role in the development of the future. Technology is rapidly evolving, changing everything from the way we communicate with each other to drastically improving government capabilities. In fact, engineering is at the heart of just about everything these days. From entertainment and social engagement to medical and legal fields, there are endless opportunities for engineers.

Where technology is the lifeblood that keeps things functioning, engineers are the brains of the operation. If you love using technical skills to innovate and create products that change the way the world works, becoming an engineer may be the perfect career path for you. One of the first and most vital steps on that career path is landing an engineering internship.

Here, we’ll show you what to expect from engineering internships. You’ll learn what it takes to succeed as an engineer and find handy tips on how to navigate the internship application and interview process. Finally, you’ll find resources on where to find engineering internships so you can jumpstart your career.

Types of Engineering

engineering internships: Male engineer training a couple of interns

Engineering careers can vary dramatically depending on the type of engineering role. Some engineers are focused on software while others are more concerned with hardware, logistics, and manufacturing.

Figuring out what type of engineer you want to be can take some time. Take classes from various engineering fields to see what you enjoy most. You can also try out different roles as part of your engineering internship.

Here are the main types of engineering roles:

  • Mechanical engineering: These engineers are responsible for designing and manufacturing products, tools, and machines. Industries that employ mechanical engineers include aerospace, robotics, architectural design, automotive, medical, and nanotechnology.
  • Electrical engineering: These engineers design electrical components and systems for electronics, batteries, and power plants.
  • Civil engineering: This type of engineer focuses on designing and developing city infrastructure. This includes everything from bridges and dams to roads and communication infrastructure.
  • Industrial engineering: This type of engineering is focused on designing complex organizations. As an industrial engineer, you’ll design buildings and information systems while also conducting project management tasks including managing timelines and the workforce.
  • Chemical engineering: This engineering discipline is more heavily science-focused. You’ll need physics, biology, biomedical, or chemistry knowledge and will work to develop products for food, industrial chemicals, and even pharmaceuticals.

How Engineering Internships Build Your Career

engineering internships: Engineering student reviewing a project on his computer

Regardless of the type of engineering you choose, an internship program can help you develop and build your career. So what’s an internship like? Each engineering internship is different, but most have similar characteristics. There are co-ops, summer internships, full-time internships, and part-time programs. Most entry-level engineering internships are open to undergraduate students, advanced college students, and recent college grads.

A good internship will allow you to work hands-on on real world problems. As an engineer intern, you’ll be able to create an impact on the company and the products they’re putting out.

An engineering internship will also help you develop vital skills that you can’t just learn in a classroom. While it’s easy to read a book and learn about the basics of designing a city or creating an electrical circuit, employing those skills to create more complex products can be hard. At an engineering internship, you’ll get support from mentors and colleagues to use those skills on a larger scale.

Internships are also a great way to build a network to support your career. At your internship, you’ll be paired with a mentor who will guide your learning. You can use your time to develop a relationship and learn as much as possible from them. You’ll also likely work within an engineering team or department, where you’ll have access to other colleagues that are interested in the same things you are.

By building your network, you can create relationships and seek advice. You may meet people who will hire you in the future or work with you to create a new company or innovative product. An internship is one of the best ways to build your network so you can leverage it to propel your career forward.

What To Include on Your Resume

engineering internships: Male engineer working with a colleague taking notes behind him

OK, so you’ve decided that engineering is the career path for you and know you want to look into internship opportunities. The first step is to make sure your resume and cover letter are ready to go before you start applying.

Your resume should be a representation not just of your skillset and education, but also your passion for the role. Take time to tweak your resume for each internship you’re applying for. Each role may require slightly different skill sets so tailor your resume to feature those attributes.

The same goes for your cover letter. Don’t just change the name of the company when applying to multiple openings. Craft the cover letter specifically for each opportunity. Use quantitative information to show your success in past roles.

If you don’t have any work experience, you can talk about passion projects or engineering competitions and activities you took part in.

Most entry-level engineering roles require a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as computer science, math, science, or various engineering majors. More advanced roles may require a master’s degree or several years of experience.

In general, you’ll need a certain set of skills to succeed as an engineer. These include communications skills as well as technical skills. Each role is different and you may need math skills for one engineering position or science skills for another.

Some of the main skills and engineering principles employers look for when hiring engineers may include:

  • A natural curiosity or desire to create new things
  • Problem solving skills
  • Logical reasoning skills
  • Good communication skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Great science, math, or computer skills depending on the type of engineering you’re interested in
  • Knowledge of programming languages
  • Computer science skills
  • Conceptual data modeling
  • System analysis
  • Process management

Whether you’re applying for an aerospace engineering role at Boeing or a software engineering project at a company like Salesforce, Cisco, or Shopify, you’ll need to hone your skills to be successful. Not sure exactly which skills you need? Talk to your professors, advisors, or other students for guidance. You can also look at the internship job posting and job description. Most include a list of the required skills and qualifications so you know if you’re applying to a role that’s a good fit for you.

How To Prepare for Engineering Internship Interviews

Two male engineers working on a drone

So you’ve decided on an engineering internship program, applied, and now you’ve been invited to your first interview. Congratulations! While interviews can be intimidating for engineering students, you’ll be able to master them with ease thanks to a little preparation. Here are some tips to prepare for your engineering intern interview.

Practice your interview with a friend, family member, or in front of your mirror. You can run through a list of the most commonly asked questions and develop your answers. This helps you overcome jitters and also enables you to prepare thought-out responses. How do you know what questions will be asked?

Here are some of the most common interview questions that qualified applicants encounter:

  • Tell us about your most challenging engineering project.
  • What technical process do you use to avoid making mistakes?
  • Tell us about a time where you showed creativity and leadership skills.
  • Why did you select your field of engineering?
  • Tell us about the most advanced technical report you’ve written.

You’ll also likely be asked specific technical questions in relation to the role you’re applying for. The hiring manager may ask about tools such as surveying equipment if you’re applying for a civil engineering role or programming languages if you’re applying for an information technology position. Some interviews also include technical skills tests where you’ll have to prove your ability to use these tools.

It’s also a good idea to do research on the company before the interview. Find out what they value and try to incorporate these into your answers. This also shows the company that you care about who they are and enables you to show why you’d be a good addition to their team.

How To Find Engineering Internships

Female engineer wearing safety equipment while working

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, engineers make almost double the median wage of other workers. Plus the job market is dramatically expanding, offering exponential opportunities as technology continues to drive changes in our world. If you’re interested in science and technology, landing an engineering internship is a great way to put yourself on a path to success.

Look for internships on the websites of your favorite companies. Many of them feature student or university sections where they outline their internship programs and how to apply. You can also find internships right here at Scholars. Sign up today to get early access to internship and job opportunities from your favorite companies. From gaming heavy hitters like Activision, Nvidia, and Riot Games to other engineering powerhouses including Twitch and VMware, the opportunities are endless.

Want more advice on how to land an internship? Check out our blog where we offer advice for everything from crafting a resume to understanding the various internship program arrangements. Our podcast also offers firsthand advice from hiring managers at the top companies so you know what it’s like to intern there and what you can do to stand out from the crowd and land the gig.

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Want early access to insights, content, and news about your dream employer? Join our community! We send one email per week so we won't clutter your inbox.

Congrats! You've taken the step to gain early access to information about your dream employers.

The Report Card: January 2021

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