How Engineering Internship Programs Help You Hatch Your Career

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Lectures and courses provide you with the knowledge of how to build things, but internships give you a chance to apply that know-how and experience what you learned in the classroom in a practical setting.

According to the University of Toronto’s internship program, these types of opportunities for engineers are “crucial to their ongoing career development.” Through the U of T’s 33-year-old Professional Experience Year (PEY) Internship program, engineering students get placed in a variety companies and fields.

Internship timelines differ from school to school. Some programs, like York University, offer shorter four- or eight-month internships in addition to longer options, while Ryerson University, the University of Calgary and U of T, for example, have internships that are 12 months or longer.

The length of these internships is typically what sets apart them apart from co-op placements. Rather than alternating between an academic term and then a four-month placement, internships typically run longer, allowing more flexibility for recruitment and hiring.

These programs are typically only open to second- or third-year students of a certain grade point average (usually 2.0 or higher).

Mark Pingal, a Chemical Engineering graduate, did his PEY placement at Petro-Canada while he was a student at U of T. Over the course of a year, he worked on a variety of projects that gave him a wide range of experience. His favourite was optimizing a reactor by process control, a project that has saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Mark says being able to work on these projects – each with measurable outcomes – made it feel like he really made a contribution while doing something that he enjoyed.

For students concerned with their finances, many of these internship programs are fully paid. York University’s engineering internship program, for example, makes students an average of $30,000 to $40,000, while the University of Saskatchewan’s engineering students earned anywhere from $33,000 to $54,000 on their internships.

Money isn’t all you’ll gain in an internship program, however. Getting hands-on experience during your education allows you to get a sense of what you future might shape up to be. Mark says the internship gave him a chance to reflect and figure out whether engineering is what he really wanted.

When it came to exploring his potential career, he wasn’t alone. During his internship, Mark was able to work with other professionals in his field, get their input and make great networking contacts.

He says it was “a great opportunity to learn, to develop and to develop relationships with other people.” Meeting and working with employers gives you a chance to demonstrate you skills. As a result of his internship, Mark returned to Petro-Canada for a full-time position as a Production Engineer after graduation.

Engineering internship programs are offered at numerous universities across Canada so be sure to check if this opportunity is available to you, it could just help you build your future.

Here are a few more examples of engineering internship programs across Canada:

Engineering Week: Visit the Engineering Career Guide to learn more about careers in engineering, and find student and entry level jobs from top engineering employers

Photo credit: Electrical Engineering by Lafayette College on Flickr

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About the author

Ishani Nath is a proud McMaster alum, aspiring writer and current journalism grad student at Ryerson University. When she's not hammering out articles, she can usually be found on a patio or nestled on a couch trying to keep up with those crazy Kardashians. She hopes to one day have a job that makes her excited to get up each morning, or at least one that gives her free food. Intrigued? Enthralled? Learn more by following her on @ishaninath.