Is a Virtual Internship Right for Me?

Online education has rapidly expanded, creating countless opportunities for students to explore new fields, enroll in classes otherwise unavailable to them, and even earn full degrees online. However, this advancement in technology does not just impact these areas of education, as numerous companies are now creating remote work roles, including internships.

But is a virtual internship right for you? Here are several pros and cons to consider:

Positive #1: The ability to work from virtually any location
For many students, internships have become an expected--and, in some instances, mandatory--element of college. An internship may be a necessary step in your major, or it may be essential for securing a job in your industry.

Unfortunately, many internships are unpaid. If your ideal internship is in a city or town other than your own, you may incur several thousand dollars of additional debt while pursuing the opportunity. Thus, completing an unpaid internship while working remotely from your apartment, dorm, or parents' house may make financial sense. In addition, a virtual internship allows you to intern with companies across the globe, and to select the best company with the most meaningful learning opportunities, rather than the organization closest to your home.

Negative #1: Fewer opportunities for mentorship
Taking full advantage of your internship allows you to learn as much as you possibly can about your field, and to truly prepare for your future career. This is why identifying a mentor (who may or may not be your supervisor) is so heavily recommended. The ideal mentor is someone who will take the extra step to explain every nuance of your industry and to fully commit to teaching you as much as he or she can.

Of course, it is difficult enough to find an individual who is willing to take on that responsibility in a brick-and-mortar office, where you will naturally cross paths. It can be even more challenging with a virtual internship, as not everyone will be willing to mentor you remotely over the telephone or via Skype.

Positive #2: A flexible schedule
Working from home has many advantages. The dress code is looser, and there is no commute, which frees time in your schedule. If you are meticulous with your search, you may be able to locate internship opportunities that operate outside the typical 9:00-5:00 office hours--perhaps even one that suits your classroom schedule.

This can provide you with a tremendous advantage over other students, as it essentially enables you to add an additional internship to your resume. For example, say you intern during your junior year of college, as well as during the summer between your junior and senior year. Then, you complete an internship during the first semester of your senior year, while also taking classes. Other students in your year may only have one or two internships, but you may have three.

Negative #2: Limited access to certain projects
In some instances, it is just too challenging to complete work projects virtually. In order to truly excel on them, you would need to be present for training exercises, daily or weekly status meetings, brainstorming sessions, and so on. You may also need access to resources that are only available in a physical office. As a result, you may find that your supervisor avoids sending certain types of projects your way, which may impact the scope of your learning experience.