News - April 5, 2012

Are internships overrated?

Marlies Bos (the left-wing fluffy type) and Jillis Herweijer (the right-wing Hooray Henry type) rarely see eye to eye on matters of politics, the environment or student life.

Marlies: An internship, whether in the Netherlands or abroad, is a good opportunity to experience what you can actually do with your degree and what working life will be like after you graduate. It also gives you an advantage when you apply for jobs if you have clearly gained some work experience thanks to an internship. And it can help you to decide what kind of work you want to do after graduating, or perhaps precisely what you don't want to do. Especially in Wageningen, where the two-year Master's courses give you enough time for depth in your academic studies, I don't think it is a good idea to scrap the internship.
Jillis responds: Those four months of work experience are not worth much when you apply for jobs. You will soon get more work experience than that anyway. And by the time you are doing your Master's, you should already know what kind of work you want to do, it seems to me. So you shouldn't need an internship for that. And precisely because of that extra ‘Wageningen year', you can specialize in a subject that particularly interests you.
Jillis: A internship in the Netherlands is a nice experience, but I have my doubts about its value as part of your degree programme. The requirements for your internship report are very vague, anyway. The experience you get in four to six months with a company is nice, but it won't put you at an advantage on the job market compared with students from other institutions where an internship is not compulsory. It is better to offer students more depth in the range of courses they follow, rather than an internship. I think further specialization in the Master's provides more relevant knowledge for the student, and that companies realize that as well.
Marlies responds: From an academic point of view, a thesis has more value, it is true. But that is not the only thing that matters. Most students are not going to go into research, after all. That is why it is useful to get some work experience as well.