Your Complete Guide to Internships in the United States

    Updated on: 11 Aug 2022

     


    The United States of America is the undisputed land of opportunity and innovation. Students worldwide want to expand their horizons and upgrade their resumes with an internship in the US. The US beckons students from many disciplines and academic realms to work with the best innovators in their field. 

    Silicon Valley is attractive to young IT aspirants to work with the leading tech giants, while Manhattan is ripe with finance-related opportunities. The US opens up a wealth of opportunities for young minds to sharpen their aptitude and build lucrative careers. 
     

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    Why Aim to Intern in the United States? 

    Whether you're interested in media and broadcasting, fashion and health, biochemistry and quantum physics, or artificial intelligence and big data - the land of opportunity never disappoints hardworking and dedicated students looking to land lucrative career-building opportunities. 

    However, applying for an internship in the United States is no walk in the park. The earlier you start, the better - as visa applications and internship requirements are lengthy and time-taking. Statistics shared by the International Education Exchange revealed over 1,095,200 students studying in the US. 

    The competition is tough, which is crucial to get your affairs and paperwork in order. This guide will help you map out your journey with valuable information.

    How to Find an Internship in the United States? 

    It's essential to leverage the power of your social and online networks to find lucrative internships abroad. Companies and business leaders are inclined to hire young professionals they know or referred by individuals of trust. That's a corporate norm that all students must navigate carefully.

    Referred candidates always have a higher chance of landing the internship. You can explore multiple avenues online but be sure to exhaust your existing networks in the US. If you can't get any referrals, don't lose heart. 

    Luckily, several online platforms will facilitate your search for a career-making internship abroad. 
    These include: 

     

    Research is a powerful tool that will help you explore opportunities that best satisfy your ambitions of interning abroad. It's crucial to engage professionals at your university's placement department to explore internship opportunities sponsored by US-based colleges. 

    The US government runs several programs, such as the Fulbright Program, to attract professionals and students from diverse academic backgrounds. 

    Why Apply For The Internships? 

    An internship abroad is a career move that will help you ditch your comfort zone and cultivate leadership skills. If you harbor dreams to work and live in the US, an internship will help you get a lay of the land. Interning with US firms can also open up lucrative career-building opportunities. 

    Anyone aspiring to build a successful career in tech, finance, or even fashion sets his/her sights on the US market. The United States offers a facilitative corporate infrastructure that nurtures young professionals and entrepreneurs. 

    If you're up for the challenge of interning in the US, it will undoubtedly prove a grand milestone in your career.
     

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    How To Prepare For The Internship? 

    Preparing for an internship in the US comes with lengthy applications, and it's wise to get an early start. You will have to sort out the visa requirements and secure an internship position with a US-based business. 

    Exploring Visa Options 

    If you're arriving in the US with the sole purpose of interning, you will most likely require a J-1 visa. International students studying in the US on an F-1 visa are also eligible to apply for internships. 

    Students studying in the US with a J-1 visa can participate in Academic Training for 18 months. It's crucial to consult your J-1 Responsible Officer, and the internship must be directly relevant to your field of study. 

    International students who desire to arrive in the US to complete an internship will require a J-1 Intern or J-1 Trainee visa. Aspirants will have to find sponsors willing to place them in an internship program. However, these sponsors charge their fees and often facilitate logistics, housing, and other matters. 

    To apply as an intern, applicants must be currently enrolled in an international university or college. Applicants can also qualify for an internship 12 months after their graduation. To apply as a trainee, applicants need a degree and at least one year of work experience. 

    Applicants with five years' work experience can also explore opportunities in their target fields. Internship opportunities last for 12 months, while training positions last for around 18 months. 

    Both processes require a designated sponsor to obtain the J-1 visa successfully. It's crucial to research sponsors, as they offer a wide array of programs that differ in costs and benefits. They can facilitate several aspects, like housing and logistics, to make the transition easier and smoother. 

    However, sponsors can help with the paperwork and legalities if you have already landed an internship or apprenticeship. Some sponsors can help you obtain your visa and housing at a significantly lesser cost. Be sure to devote ample time to research to find the right sponsor for your needs.

    Budgeting 

    Preparing a budget is of the utmost significance because an internship in the US is a costly endeavor. Aside from visa and logistics, you also have to consider housing, food, and transportation costs. The costs vary, depending on the state and organization you're targeting. 

    Be sure to conduct rigorous research on transportation, living, and housing costs to compile a flexible budget. You will need a monetary cushion, especially if you're applying for an unpaid internship. 

    Preparing a Resume 

    Have you Americanized your resume before applying for internships? If not, then it's essential to take the initiative to sharpen and upgrade your resume. If you're finding your own opportunities, it's crucial to improve your resume in terms of presentation and quality. 

    You can start by consulting professionals at your college's placement department. They will give you valuable advice and feedback on your resume. Be sure to compare resume writing in your native country and the US. There will be several differences, and you must Americanize your resume to stand out. 

    LinkedIn is a significant resource to consider and add to your resume. Potential employers and HR specialists are likely to explore your profile on LinkedIn before approving your application. Be sure to build your network and connections before adding LinkedIn to your CV. 

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    Getting Familiar With American Workplace Culture

    Workplace culture in the US can either come as an unpleasant shock or a delightful surprise, depending on your cultural identity. However, as a foreigner, you will have to open up and embrace new cultural norms. 

    American workplaces value team spirits and networks, despite the great emphasis on individualism and creative exclusivity. Interns are expected to shine as individuals and work as reliable and contributive team players. 

    Each workplace varies in terms of organizational style and culture. Finance and legal firms are associated with formal work cultures, while media and fashion promote inclusivity with an informal culture. It's wise to research dress codes, workplace culture, and employee code of conduct once your internship application is approved. 

    Get Familiar With Labor Laws

    The US Employment Act contains comprehensive guidelines for all employees working with a contract of service. Interns are also employees engaged within an official agreement. It's crucial to familiarize yourself with labor laws to understand your rights as a foreign intern in the US. 

    The Act states that interns deserve financial compensation for additional work hours and working on public holidays and rest days. 

    Final Thoughts

    In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, landing internship and training opportunities in the US has gotten increasingly challenging. Businesses and governments are hesitant to resume educational and career-related exchanges. 

    However, once the pandemic blows over, internship activities are likely to resume in full spring. If you're having trouble applying for a US-based internship because of the pandemic, don't lose heart. You can engage yourself with lucrative summer and winter school programs to upgrade your skills. 

    Online courses and workshops will help you upgrade and polish your resume, increasing your marketability as an intern. After all, we must focus on the opportunities available to us to qualify for the opportunities we think we deserve. 

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