What Is a Remote Internship and Should You Do One?

student gaining internship experience from home

Your college classes will prepare you to pursue success as a professional in your chosen field. Yet, there are lots of opportunities for learning and growing outside of the classroom. Students are strongly encouraged to consider taking advantage of internship opportunities, including a remote internship program, if available.

What is a remote internship? Quite simply, it’s any internship experience that can be completed from anywhere, provided you have a good Internet connection. If you’re pondering whether you should apply to a remote internship, you can check out this guide for help making your decision.

What Is a Remote Internship?

If you decide to apply to a remote internship, you can generally expect to do lots of your work on your computer. You’ll likely stay in touch with your supervisor and coworkers via email, phone or online chat apps. You may use various web-based apps for organizing your tasks and submitting your work.

There are a few fields that lend themselves well to the remote work environment. Journalism, marketing, software development and information technology (IT) are some examples.

What Are the Benefits of Doing a Remote Internship?

Now that you know the answer to the question, “What is a remote internship?” you may be wondering whether it’s worthwhile. There are many benefits of internships in general and remote internships in particular. One of the reasons why many students enjoy remote internships is the convenience.

Remote internships are more likely to have more flexible hours, which means they can be easier to complete during the school year and may fit around a part-time job during the summer. Plus, you won’t have to deal with a commute or parking. You can complete your internship for a company that is headquartered across the country without having to relocate.

You’ll also enjoy the following benefits:

  • Real-world experience – Even though you’ll be performing your work from the comfort of your own dorm room (or the local coffee shop), you’ll gain valuable real-world experience. You’ll develop practical skills in your field, and you’ll see firsthand how a company in your field operates.
  • Remote work experience – These days, remote work experience is just as valuable as real-world experience. Many jobs are 100% remote, and if you want to pursue them, it can be helpful to demonstrate that you already know how to work effectively in a remote environment. The successful completion of a remote internship program demonstrates that you have good time management and organization skills, and that you’re intrinsically motivated to get the work done.
  • Cost-effective – Not only will you not have to deal with a commute or parking fees, but you can look forward to other cost reductions as well. For instance, the dress code for a remote internship tends to be more casual than that of an in-office internship, so you probably won’t have to buy a bunch of office-appropriate clothing. In addition, you can save money by eating lunch at home or in the campus dining hall, rather than having to buy lunches near work.
  • Office politics – Employees and interns who have shifted to a remote work arrangement may have noted one unexpected perk of avoiding the office: It’s a lot easier to avoid office politics. With no water cooler to gather around, chatter with coworkers tends to be far more focused on the work itself.

A remote internship program is also more environmentally friendly than an in-office one. Without a daily commute, you’ll be contributing fewer greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Are There Any Drawbacks to Doing an Internship Remotely?

As beneficial as a remote internship program may be, there can be some drawbacks. In-office internships do typically provide more structure, support and mentorship. You may not be able to communicate with your supervisor and coworkers as often, and you won’t experience the interpersonal interactions that comprise a typical day at the physical office.

This also means that it can be more difficult for remote interns to practice their office etiquette. Although it’s fun to be able to work from your dorm room while wearing sweatpants, you won’t benefit from immersion in the workplace culture. In addition, you may find it difficult to manage your time wisely and remain motivated to get your work done.

Should You Pursue a Remote Internship Program?

Given the potential downsides of a remote internship, would it be worthwhile to pursue one? Absolutely, since any type of internship experience can prove valuable for your future. A remote internship program will enable you to acquire real-world skills, work experience that will bolster your resume and professional connections that may even lead to a job upon graduation.

However, you may want to be selective about the particular position you pursue. Look for a remote internship program that introduces some sort of structure and offers sufficient support. Be sure to ask what type of training you can expect to receive, and whether you’ll be working closely with a mid-level or senior professional who can offer frequent feedback and guidance.

Although remote internships can certainly be worth the effort, it’s also important for college students to acquire some in-office experience. Consider pursuing a remote opportunity during the school year, as this will give you greater scheduling flexibility to accommodate your classes and a part-time internship. During the summer break, you might pursue an in-office internship so that you’ll have an opportunity to develop a sense of professionalism and improve your interpersonal skills.

How to Make a Good Impression During a Remote Interview

Remote interviews can trigger butterflies in your stomach just as much as in-person ones can. It’s natural to be a little nervous, but you should strive to project confidence and positivity. One of the most effective ways to feel more confident about your interview is by being thoroughly prepared.

Well ahead of your interview, you should visit your college’s career services department. Ask for some help polishing your interview skills. Career services offices typically offer mock interviews, after which you’ll receive guidance on what you did well and how you can improve.

In addition to considering your responses to common questions in advance, you should develop a list of questions you’d like to ask your interviewer. For example, you should find out the following information:

  • How many hours per week will the internship require and are they set hours or flexible?
  • What sort of training and mentorship will you receive?
  • What would your responsibilities be and who can you go to if you have questions about a task?
  • Will you receive college credit and/or pay?
  • Is there a possibility of a full-time job offer at the end of the internship?

You may also have some company-specific questions. Prepare for your interview by thoroughly researching the company online. Learn about their core services or products, check out recent news articles about the company and look for reviews from previous and current interns and employees.

Always dress professionally for a job interview. There is a common misconception that people only need to dress professionally from the waist up when doing a remote interview or meeting. However, it’s best not to risk it; instead, dress professionally from head to toe.

You won’t need to worry about getting to the office 15 minutes early for your internship interview, but you should log on at least five minutes prior to your interview time. This will give you some time to download any necessary software updates and make sure there aren’t any technical glitches. You’ll also be able to turn on your camera early, enabling you to correct the angle and lighting if necessary. You should also position your computer so that your interviewer will see a clean, orderly background. Use good lighting that is positioned behind and above your camera.

During your interview, stay focused and engaged. Take notes and don’t hesitate to ask follow-up questions if you need clarification on anything.

Best Practices for Working at a Remote Internship

If your internship requires set hours, you should be sure to log on at least a couple of minutes early for your shift. On days that you will have videoconference meetings, you should dress in business casual attire. During virtual meetings, it’s good practice to use an orderly background, just like during your interview, and to mute yourself when you aren’t contributing to the conversation.

Be sure to sign on promptly at the start of your shift. Try to respond to emails and other messages in a timely manner to demonstrate that you’re engaged in the internship. It’s also a good idea to actively solicit feedback on your work from your supervisor and your coworkers. Not only will this allow you to develop your professional skills, but you’ll also make a good impression. You might also consider requesting a virtual, one-on-one coffee date with each of the coworkers in your department for the purposes of professional networking.

What to Do Before Your Remote Internship Ends

You’re likely to hear a lot of advice about how to make a good impression while you’re working as an intern. But it’s just as important to end the experience on a good note.

At least a couple of weeks before you’re scheduled to leave, you should have a conversation with your supervisor about wrapping up any projects you may be working on. If a particular project cannot be wrapped up by the end of your internship, you may need to get another intern or an employee up to speed on what needs to be done.

Other steps to take toward the conclusion of your internship include the following:

  • Solicit feedback – Your remote internship program may include an exit interview, but if not, schedule a time to sit down with your supervisor to discuss your performance. Discuss what you did well, what you need to improve upon and whether your supervisor has any advice or recommendations for you. It’s not always easy to hear critiques of your work but identifying areas of improvement will be critical for your career aspirations.
  • Discuss your future plans – You can also discuss your future plans with your supervisor. If you made a good impression at the company, you may be invited to interview for a job as you near your graduation date.
  • Reflect upon your experience – Take some time to write down a few notes about your experiences in the workplace. (What was the biggest challenge you faced and how did you handle it? What did you get out of the internship experience?) Write down notes about the skills you learned or refined, the knowledge you gained and what you learned about yourself. This is important because potential employers may ask you about your internship experience and taking some time to reflect will help you give thoughtful responses.
  • Request references and recommendations – Ask your supervisor if you can list them as a reference moving forward. You won’t need to request letters of recommendation right away, unless you’ll be applying to another internship or a graduate school soon. Be sure to keep your supervisor’s contact information in a safe place.

Make a positive impression on your last day. Although you can’t thank your coworkers and supervisor in person, you can send a group email letting them know how much you appreciate the opportunity and that you feel the internship was a valuable experience that allowed you to grow as a person and a future professional.

Lastly, maintain a record of your experience for future reference. Write down your start and end dates, the name of the company and the name and contact info of your supervisor. Update your resume with your internship experience and your new professional skills.

When you become a student at Grand Canyon University, you’ll receive the full support of the dedicated Career Resources staff at the Academic and Career Excellence (ACE) Centers. We help students find purposeful internships and careers through meaningful support activities, including practice interviews and resume assistance. Our robust internship program connects our students to invaluable opportunities, where they can learn real-world skills, potentially earn college credit and begin to develop a professional network.

Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to find the degree program that suits your career aspirations.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.