Writing or updating your resume brings up a hundred different questions. Should you highlight this, that, or the other thing you did? How should you describe yourself, your education, and your experience?
And when it comes to listing internships on your resume, you’re bound to have plenty of specific questions. Like:
- Should you include your internships at all?
- Where should you list them?
- How much detail should you go into about each one?
- How long into your career should you keep those internships on there?
- What if you had a super fancy internship but it was kind of a long time ago?
As Muse career coach Tina Wascovich emphasizes, your resume is “the thing that gets you in the door.” And having solid internship experience on your resume can often make the difference between getting called for an interview and getting passed over—especially if you’re early in your career. So these questions matter.
But you don’t have to agonize over them or let them cause you too much stress, because we’ve got answers here for why, when, and how to list internships on your resume.
Why List Internships on Your Resume?
In short, you should include internships on your resume because they’re part of your work experience. And especially if you don’t have a slew of full-time roles to lean on, “an internship is an opportunity to show a future employer that you have worked in a professional environment,” says Muse career coach Eilis Wasserman. It signals that you’ve gained soft and hard skills as well as exposure to the working world.
People seek out internships in part to help them find jobs later, she says, whether at the same organization or another one. So why wouldn’t you want to showcase that on the first document an employer will see?
Recruiters and hiring managers “know that entry-level candidates don’t have a lot of experience,” says Dana Leavy-Detrick, the director of Brooklyn Resume Studio. “They’re looking for potential.” And internships can be a great barometer for professional potential, since they resemble the kind of work and environment of a full-time job more than your coursework or hobbies.
Although including your internships is most important for students, recent graduates, and other entry-level employees, it can also be crucial as part of a story you’re telling later on—for example, if you’re changing careers or pivoting back to an earlier interest.
When Should You Include Internship Experience on Your Resume?
There’s no hard and fast rule about when to include internship experience on your resume. But here are a few questions to ask yourself that’ll help you determine which internships to list and when:
How Recent Is the Internship?
If you’re a student or a recent graduate, you’ll most likely want (and need) to lean on your recent internship experiences on your resume, and you’ll probably keep them on there for at least a few years as you embark on your career.
The same applies if you’re not fresh out of school but recently took on an internship or fellowship position to bolster certain skills or as a first step to help you make a career pivot.
“A general rule of thumb is as you progress, your experience further back is going to become less relevant. Things you’re doing today hold more weight,” Leavy-Detrick says.
How Much Other Work Experience Do You Have?
This is a similar question to the one above but not identical. As you start gaining post-internship professional experience and entries about those jobs begin filling up your resume, you’ll have less and less space for internships.
But the number of roles you’ve had will vary. For example, say you’re six years out of college and have worked full-time jobs at three different companies since then. You’ll certainly want to include those three full-time experiences with a good amount of detail, leaving less space (or maybe none) for your past internships. However, say you’re six years into full-time work but have been at the same company the whole time. In this case, you’ll likely have more space on your resume to include some or all of your internships.
How Relevant Is the Internship to Your Next Step?
You should always tailor your resume to the role, company, and industry you’re applying for. So do the same when you’re deciding which internships to include.
For example, if you had internships doing both social media and email marketing, but you’re eager to pursue social media, prioritize including those related experiences. Or if you did a couple of marketing internships but then ended up going into operations and are now trying to pivot back to marketing, those old internships are more relevant than they would be if you were staying in operations.
In short, “anyone at any point in their life can list an internship, especially if it’s relevant to their next step or career vision or goal,” says Wasserman.
How Prestigious Is the Internship Program or Organization?
“There are some companies that the prestige of them is worth mentioning,” says Wascovich, even if your internship took place a little further back than you’d otherwise go on your resume. For example, if you got a really competitive internship at the White House or Apple or whatever the equivalent “wow” program would be in your industry, it might be worth mentioning.
If you’re trying to make a jump to a larger, more prestigious, or national or international company, it could be particularly helpful to show that you have internship experience at a similar organization.
Did Something Go Wrong at the Internship?
Hopefully, this isn’t an issue for you. But in the rare case that there was some extremely difficult situation or even a legal issue during your internship, Wasserman says, you may decide to leave it off. You don’t want to run the risk of the recruiter or hiring manager reaching out to someone there—and hearing only negative things about you.
Does an Internship Open You Up to Potential Bias?
If you worked at an organization with a certain political affiliation, for example, or interned with a hot-button advocacy group, and are concerned that a prospective employer might judge you unfairly (or even illegally), you might decide not to include that particular internship on your resume.
It’s up to you, of course. While you might not even want to work at a company where this would give a recruiter or hiring manager pause, not everyone has the financial freedom to be open and unapologetic in their application materials.
How Should You Include Internships on Your Resume?
Okay, you have a pretty good idea which internships you’d like to list on your resume. But where do you put them? And what do you actually say about your internship?
In general, you should treat your internships just like any other work experience, which means you’d list them under the section labeled “Work Experience” or “Professional Experience” or “[Industry, i.e. Marketing] Experience,” and fit them right in where they go chronologically.
The format should be the same, too. In the first line, include:
- Title: Try to go beyond “Intern” and be specific here. Was it “Graphic Design Intern” or “Copywriting Intern” or “Business Development Intern”? If you had a title that didn’t explicitly include the word “intern,” you can put it in parentheses if you want, as in “Crime Reporter (Intern).”
- Location: Write [City, State], as in “Toledo, OH.”
- Dates: When did your internship take place? You can put [Month–Month, Year] or [Season Year], as in “June–August 2019” or “Summer 2019.”
Below that, you’ll want to include a description, most likely in bullet point format—again, just as you would for any other work experience. Start with an action verb that’s relevant to the industry, try to include numbers as well as any achievements or accomplishments, and incorporate keywords from the job description for the role you’re applying for, if possible. Focus on your most substantial projects and assignments rather than on busywork you might’ve done. In other words, talk about the detailed event plan you put together more so than the photocopies you made.
“You want to show the employer what you can do for them,” says Wasserman. “Don’t just think about duties or responsibilities you had, go beyond that and be very specific about what you accomplished and achieved and what skills you developed.” So instead of “Composed tweets” you’re better off writing, “Composed dozens of tweets a day that garnered an average of 100 likes and 25 retweets.”
But don’t panic if you can’t think of giant achievements. With internships, you’re “probably not going to have a ton of accomplishments. Show the potential. Show what you learned in some way,” says Leavy-Detrick. “What functions of the business did you get exposure to?”
Examples of Internships on a Resume
An internship entry under your work experience might look like one of these examples:
Video Editing Intern, ABC Productions; Topeka, KS
- Edited rough and fine cuts of 18 one-minute videos
- Created an easy-to-navigate library of video graphics and templates
- Worked closely with video and marketing teams on day-to-day tasks and long-term planning
Websites Galore, San Francisco, CA—Web Design Intern
- Updated existing websites to improve user experience
Would You Ever List Internships Somewhere Else on a Resume?
There are a few other ways you can incorporate internship experience in cases where you have a good amount of other experience:
- Include just the title, company, location, and dates—without any details below—in your work experience section.
- Add a footnote at the end of your work experience section, along the lines of “Previous experience includes design internships at [Company A] and [Company B].”
- If you’re well into your career, you can mention older but significant internships under a leadership or significant accomplishments section lower down on the page or below the degree during which you completed them in your education section.
What If You Were an Intern and Then Got Hired?
If you were impressive and lucky enough to get hired at an organization where you first interned, there are a few ways to go about including both your internship and your subsequent role(s) there. You could:
- Create two separate entries, a good choice if you don’t have many jobs to list or if the two experiences weren’t consecutive.
- List it as you would two roles at one company, with two sub-entries under the company name.
- List the full-time role and mention in a bullet, “Promoted from software developer intern to full-time role,” or, “Initially brought on as an intern to support development department, promoted to membership assistant.”
By Stav Ziv, Senior Editor/Writer for Muse