Summer break can be more than just an internship

A student highlights alternative summer opportunities students can pursue aside from internships.


As the end of the spring semester inches closer, many students are searching and applying for summer internships to build their resumes and gain real-world work experience.

Internships can reduce job search difficulty and improve workplace skills, but students may face self-inflicted anxiety and external pressure from professors, parents and peers to secure a summer opportunity.

While internships are beneficial for students looking to jumpstart their careers, lack of available positions, relocation requirements and financial barriers can make it a complicated or unattainable process for some. 

It’s okay to not have an internship this summer. Students can instead develop their skills and prepare for future careers by exploring a variety of other options, like part-time jobs, volunteer work and studying abroad.

“Recognize there are other ways,” said Robert McMahon, associate director of career development at Temple’s Career Center. “Look for internships, of course, but also be open to other opportunities for gaining some extra learning and building some skills that may not be called or labeled internship.”

Forty-one percent of currently enrolled college students have had an internship while pursuing their bachelor’s degree, according to a March 2023 survey by Gallup, an analytics organization. Those who haven’t had an internship cite difficulty in obtaining one due to a lack of internships that interest them, affordability and the need to relocate. 

In some career fields, like media and entertainment, opportunities can be limited and those available may offer little to no pay in exchange for experience and could require relocation. Nearly half of interns in the United States were unpaid in 2022, PBS reported.

Louis Jackson, a junior criminal justice and geography and urban studies major, is still looking for a summer internship and can’t afford an unpaid option, complicating the process.  

“They honestly feel classist in a way because there are certain people who genuinely can’t afford to be working somewhere for like 20 to 30 hours a week and not getting any money from that,” Jackson said. “And also, depending on what you’re doing in the internship, not being paid for that favor can be exploitative.”

Many students cannot sacrifice time off school or paid work without financial compensation. Others may not be able to afford to live away from home for the summer or simply don’t want to. 

However, students should have work options other than internships during the summer, like a part-time job, said Holly Logan, the ​​associate director of internships and experiential education at Temple’s Career Center. 

“Part-time jobs, that can be a really critical piece of the puzzle too,” Logan said. “So many transferable skills that can be obtained in a part-time job that can be really impressive to future employers.” 

Working in positions, like food service or retail, offers skills applicable to future employment opportunities, like multitasking, time management and how to adapt to environmental stressors. Choosing to work a part-time job during the summer may also allow students to gain a level of financial stability that may not be available during the fall or spring semesters. 

Outside of paid work, volunteering is another option in which students acquire experiences and skills like teamwork and leadership that may be applicable in their future career choices while developing meaningful connections if they aren’t offered an internship position, McMahon said. 

Programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters, a mentor organization, and MANNA, a food and nutrition counseling organization, have volunteer opportunities open year-round in the Philadelphia area and can be good places for students to start. They could also explore volunteer work aligned with their passions. Websites, like VolunteerMatch and Idealist, can connect students with local volunteer opportunities of interest. 

“Going out and being engaged in your community, wherever that community is, volunteering, doing some part-time jobs, just being out doing something, all of those things can land and build, right it helps to build a solid foundation on your resume,” McMahon said.

Studying abroad is another enriching summer experience for students who want to take advantage of school programs and traveling before committing to a full-time career. Temple offers summer study-abroad programs at its Rome and Tokyo campuses and faculty-led programs in various locations across the globe.

When students study abroad, they advance their academics by completing credits and learning applicable skills, like adaptability and communication. In future employment, students can use these experiences while navigating an unknown workplace.

Paid online opportunities are also available for students to do from home — or even abroad. Freelancing through sources like Fiverr, a website that connects freelancers to work, allows students to create and produce content for a client. Another online pay opportunity is, a website connecting tutors with students who need academic help.  

Online work opportunities allow students to be flexible and tend to their other summer responsibilities while gaining professional skills. 

Students can take the summer to gain confidence in their skills and learn about different paths for their aspirations. The Career Center offers outreach resources for students to broaden their options for their future while strengthening transferable skills. 

The Career Center offers career coaching appointments during the summer for in-person and remote appointments to assist students with their resumes, cover letters and other career-related topics. 

Students should be able to pursue their career paths at their own pace without feeling like they are falling behind. Any route a student takes during the summer applies to their future, even if their choice is not the standard internship.

“It’s all about how the student tells their story about the skills that they obtained,” Logan said.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.