Each week, TopResume's career advice expert, Amanda Augustine, answers user questions like the one below from Quora and our Ask Amanda form. A certified professional career coach (CPCC) and resume writer (CPRW), Amanda has been helping professionals improve their careers for nearly 15 years. Have a question for Amanda? Submit it here.
Q: Do internships count as years of experience on a resume?
I have 5 years of finance experience but worked for 3 summers as a finance intern in college. Is that considered 5 or 8 years of experience? – Samantha T.
The short answer is yes, internships count as professional experience and should be added to your resume, especially when you've recently graduated from college and are putting together your entry-level resume after graduation. It doesn't matter if the internship you performed was paid, unpaid, or for college credits. Experience is experience, and the skills you learned and the exposure you gained to your employer's industry during your college internship are worth touting on your post-college resume.
However, how you calculate the amount of work experience you have from your internships and how you work it into your resume will depend on a number of things.
How to calculate your internship experience as years of work experience
First, consider how much time you actually spent working at the company as an intern. Were you there on a full-time or part-time basis? If it was a part-time internship, approximately how many hours did you clock during a typical work week?
In your case, Samantha, working three summers as a full-time finance intern does not count as three entire years of finance experience. And how could it? You worked for approximately three months out of the year, each year, which is technically about a quarter of that time. While I don't doubt the value of your internships, the reality is that you received far less experience in those summers than if you had worked at each of these companies for a 12-month period.
But that doesn't mean that your experience isn't worth mentioning on your resume. You just need to be realistic when adding up how much relevant experience you truly have under your belt and evaluating if you're qualified for a specific job opening based on its professional experience requirements.
There is no precise formula to calculate internships as years of professional experience, so my best advice is to use your best judgment. In your case, I'd round those nine months of relevant experience up to one year when you're calculating your years of professional experience. You should feel comfortable telling people on your resume, LinkedIn profile, and in person that you have six years of finance experience. I'm sure that your internship experience made the transition to your first full-time position after college much easier and helped you ramp up more quickly with your new employer. In many ways, those nine months of internships acted as your first year of entry-level work.
How to add internship experience to your resume
How and where you add your internship experience to your resume will depend on how far along you are in your career. If you had recently graduated from college and were pursuing your first full-time entry-level job, then your internship experience would be prominently displayed at the top of the work experience section of your resume.
Sample Internship Experience on a College Grad Resume
In the example below, Nicholas' internships include detailed information about his position, such as the company he worked for, his dates of employment, the location, the responsibilities he held, and a couple bullets highlighting how he helped add value to the company and its clients. Click on the following link to view Nicholas' recent college graduate resume in its entirety.
If your internships aren't as noteworthy as the ones held by Nicholas, you can follow the sample format we used for Shane's internship experience, where we stuck to using a series of bullets to quantify his responsibilities.
Sample Internship Experience on an Entry-Level Resume
However, if you possess more than three years of experience in your field outside of your internship experience, then your early internships should become more of a footnote on your resume. Instead of detailing out each of your internships in the work experience section, add a career note that summarizes the information. This format is very similar to the career notes used by senior-level professionals who need to cut their resume down to two pages.
For example, Samantha, your resume's “Career Note” might follow a formula like the one below:
Career Note: Additional finance experience includes multiple full-time summer internships as a finance intern at the following firms: Company A, Company B, and Company C. Additional details available upon request.
If you worked with any namedrop-worthy clients during your internships or were responsible for certain tasks that are considered desirable by employers (and you haven't completed them in any of your non-internship work), then you might want to include one additional line to this blurb that calls attention to these details. Otherwise, it is quite acceptable to keep your resume career note short and sweet. The career note is usually included at the end of a professional's work experience section in the resume.
Once you're no longer considered an entry-level professional – typically seven or more years into your career – then it's time to retire the internship experience altogether. Assuming your professional experience supports your current career goals, in most cases, you will no longer need to reference your internship to attract employers. Focus on dedicating more space to your recent work experience and accomplishments, and leave your internship experience off.
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