Computer Science

Which Internships Boost Computer Science Careers The Most?

Which Internships Boost Computer Science Careers The Most?
Employers are looking for computer scientists with rigorous training and applicable real-world experience. That's why it's so important to choose your internship wisely. Image from Pexels
Abigail Cahill profile
Abigail Cahill April 1, 2021

A computer science internship gives you the opportunity to put what you've learned in your master's program into practice. It also connects you with potential employers and others you can add to your network.

Computer Science Programs You Should Consider

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Today’s job market is desperate for computer science professionals. That’s because technology continues to revolutionize industries at a pace far outstripping organizations’ ability to keep up. According to a World Economic Forum study, the top barriers to employers’ adopting new technologies are their inability to attract specialized talent and the skills gaps in both the labor market and organizational leadership.

Seven of US employer’s top ten emerging job titles fall in the computer science field. Within the digital communication and information technology industry, the second-highest emerging skill employers seek is technology design and programming, trailing only analytical thinking and innovation.

Demand for some of the highest-skilled computer science job titles, such as information analyst, is expected to grow by as much as 31 pecent by 2029, well above the already-staggering 11 percent computer science job market growth predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor.

That’s good news for anyone specializing in artificial intelligence, cloud computing, computer engineering, cybersecurity, or data science. A masters degree in computer science can be a powerful asset, especially when combined with the right internship experience. To bend the digital skills gap to your favor, gain real-world skills and build a track record of efficacy.

Employers are looking for computer scientists with rigorous training and applicable real-world experience. That’s why it’s so important to choose your internship wisely. It could cue up your first post-master’s job and the rest of your career.

In this article about how to secure the best computer science internship, we will cover:

  • What is a computer science internship?
  • What are the top fields for computer science internships?
  • How do you apply for computer science internships?
  • Are computer science internships paid?
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What is a computer science internship?

For those pursuing a master’s degree in computer science, the employment future in this increasingly tech-driven economy looks promising. The U.S. Bureau of Labor expects the demand for computer science professionals to grow four times faster than the general job market, outpacing the workforce’s ability to produce qualified candidates.

Specialized and highly skilled roles such as those in data science, cybersecurity, and software development are among the hardest for employers to fill. Companies use internships to test-drive a prospective employee’s performance before hiring them full-time, which they often do.

Computer science internships help students accrue specialized work experience and build skills that are hard to develop in the classroom. At the end of their internship program, successful students have a product they’ve built or a project they’ve positively impacted. They’ve also burnished soft skills such as adaptability, innovative thinking, teamwork, and communication. If you’ve cleared the hard skill hurdles in a hiring process, a road-tested ability to collaborate effectively will set you apart from the competition.

Internships, sometimes called co-ops, typically occur over the summer and require full-time commitment. Part-time students can sometimes petition for their current job or a specific work assignment to count as their internship.

Graduate students generally must complete a certain number of classroom credits before beginning an internship. Students who complete those quickly—or have transferable credits that satisfy the requirements—may undertake more than one summer internship during their degree.

Will my computer science program help me find internship opportunities?

The short answer is, most likely, yes, but you’ll still have to drive the process.

Most full-time programs facilitate career fairs for employers to meet prospective summer interns. Networking with faculty members and alumni can also surface internship opportunities. Schools often populate a job board (likely using Handshake) with internship opportunities. Proactive career development offices, such as the one at Stevens Institute for Technology, take a hands-on role in helping graduate students identify prospects.

Part-time programs may have fewer in-person networking events. Make the most of any immersive residencies and events offered, and double-up on your own search efforts on job sites such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor.

Universities offering online MSCS programs alongside equivalent in-person degrees—as does Tufts University—often provide the best of both worlds: the flexibility of an online degree with an impressive track record of internship and job placements for their online and in-person students alike.

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“I'm Interested in Computer Science!”

“Typically the additional income from a master’s degree over a lifetime is worth the sticker price you pay for it.” (source)

A master’s in computer science can open countless doors from coast to coast. It will expand your knowledge and can help you advance your career, opening doors to management and leadership roles and increasing your earning potential. Jobs are plentiful around the country in a wide variety of industries, from healthcare to finance, entertainment to manufacturing.

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What are the top fields for computer science internships?

Due to technology’s exponential impact on industries across the board, legacy tech companies like Microsoft and IBM aren’t just competing with tech brand names like Facebook, Apple, and Google for the best prospective software engineer. They’re also competing with everyone from aerospace companies like Boeing and SpaceX to consumer-facing companies, the government, and political campaigns. Before targeting an industry or company, narrow down the computer science field and role best suited to your skills and interests.

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning: AI refers to the creation of human-like intelligence that can plan, learn, and process language. ML involves feeding computers algorithms that generate new algorithms based on their learning. This field is moving at a break-neck pace. It’s critical to be up-to-date on the latest developments and showcase work that demonstrates your creativity.
  • Back-end, front-end, and full-stack engineering: Back-end engineers build and maintain the technology that powers servers, applications, and databases. Front-end developers build everything a user interacts with, and a full-stack jack-of-all-trades works cross-functionally on both ends.
  • Cloud computing: Cloud technology enables multiple computing components (servers, networks, development tools, and apps) over the internet, relieving companies of data storage burdens and increasing their ability to scale. Cloud security, data engineering, and site reliability are all fast-growing specializations.
  • Cybersecurity: Cybercrime is on the rise, and so is the demand for professionals who can protect networks, hardware, and data from attack and unauthorized access. Any industry with sensitive data needs to protect it, including the government, military, corporate and medical sectors. Market demand for cybersecurity professionals outstrips supply by 145 percent, according to an ISC2 workforce study.
  • Data science: Data analysts use various techniques to retrieve large data sets and mine valuable insights from them. This discipline is particularly suited to those with a detailed-oriented eye toward pattern detection paired with an ability to communicate effectively with key stakeholders.
  • Database administration: Database administrators ensure databases are always available as needed. Their responsibilities involve database security, monitoring, troubleshooting, and planning for future growth.
  • DevOps engineering: These highly skilled engineers oversee collaboration between the software development and operations departments, ensuring agile methodologies and optimizing success. In addition to hard skills, DevOps roles require exceptional leadership and communication abilities.
  • Game design: Which CS discipline sits at the intersection of visual computing, AI, and machine learning? That would be game design, whose specialists consider how the work of front- and back-end engineers should come together to determine how a player progresses through a game.
  • Graphics and visual computing: Creative students with an attention to visual and artistic detail and strong collaborative skills may be drawn to this specialization. It focuses on creating realistic visuals within limitations such as bandwidth, screen size, and system memory.
  • Human-computer interaction: HCI is a multidisciplinary field of study focused on the interaction between information technology and humans. HCI is a broad field that overlaps with user-centered design (UCD), user interface design (UI), and user-experience design (UX). HCI tends toward a more academic focus, though, and prioritizes time-intensive scientific research and empirical evidence.
  • Information systems and information technology: While these two specialties overlap, there are also significant differences. Both strive to meet the needs of businesses heavily reliant on information (data with context), but the systems specialist focuses on implementing efficient systems while the IT specialist focuses on fixing them
  • Networks: Most organizations use wired and wireless networks to exchange information internally and externally. Network architects create plans and layouts for data communication networks and work closely with the systems engineers responsible for building them.
  • Programming analysis: Programmer analysts typically work directly with businesses and clients to determine their needs and then design and develop systems meeting specific needs. Because a programmer analyst bridges business needs with technical builds, the role requires both business and technology acumen. While the tech skills are non-negotiable, specialists distinguish themselves with soft skills such as stellar written and verbal communication.
  • Software engineering: Software engineers develop, operate, and maintain software using principles and best practices that advance alongside increasing technology and user demands. Their mandates typically stem from a need raised by either an organization or observed organically in users. While software engineering is not a new practice, it is constantly evolving, and its practitioners must be comfortable with wrestling theory into code-heavy reality.

How do you apply for a computer science internship?

Students begin applying for internships as early as August for the following summer. The most desirable internships get snapped up by January, so don’t wait to get started.

Begin by scanning your network of contacts. Brainstorm a list of people who work at companies of interest and ask them for informational interviews. Start a spreadsheet to track your progress with each prospective employer.

Once you’ve identified a list of potential internships, submit your resume manually on company websites, personally through a connection, or via application platforms such as LinkedIn. Make sure your resume is free of fancy formatting; application platforms often will not accurately scan resumes with graphics and irregular fonts.

If your resume piques a company’s interest, they will invite you to interview. You may have as many as three interviews before receiving an offer.

Remember to seek formal permission from your graduate program for the internship to count as course credits toward your degree. You’ll also need to identify a professor to serve as your faculty sponsor. Submit your application to the university, including an official offer letter, by the beginning of the semester.

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Are computer science internships paid?

Yes, and handsomely so. Of the top 25 highest-paid internships, 15 are are at technology companies, with Facebook topping the list at $8,000 per month, the equivalent of a $96,000 annual salary. The average software engineering intern earns $22.48/hour, or $44,960 annually.

That’s good news, not just for your bank account during your internship, but for your future employment prospects; a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers showed that paid internships result in more job offers and higher salaries.

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

To learn more about our editorial standards, you can click here.


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Computer Science Programs You Should Consider

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