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Suppose that someone in their 30s seeks a career switch. Perhaps they have worked in science/academia before and are looking to get into programming or something else for which their skills overlap only partially and their network doesn't overlap at all. Often, getting the first relevant experience is done through internships during or shortly after ones university education. Can an internship be an effective strategy to gain experience in a new field when seeking a career switch, or are internships typically strictly only for people with little to no work experience?

Asking for a friend.

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Answering the question "are they useful": Any experience is obviously going to be positive (or certainly not negative).

But I get the feeling you want to know: Is it worthwhile?

To that I would say no. Generally speaking, internships are to learn how to work in an office environment and show that you can commit to a job. Some people are lucky and get ones with proper experience in their field but I would say it's rare. Interns tend to spend their time on coffee runs and doing copying - I certainly did! They are also often unpaid.

Switching fields don't always require experience in that field, especially with most major companies requiring programmers and the cost going up! Personally, I switched to a programming role with no experience of coding outside of the very limited bit I did at uni, otherwise I was totally self taught and that didn't even just land me an entry level job!

Since your friend worked in science, they are already set up well (i.e. have the right mindset) they should aim to read up and learn a little bit before applying and then just go for entry level jobs.

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    Frankly, having worked in countries where internships don't really exist at all, I question whether they're useful anywhere. – Player One Feb 20 at 11:27
  • @PlayerOne I think you'd struggle to get a well paid office job in London without any sort of work experience or internship. It just shows you can reliably get up and go to an office on time 5 days a week and gives the opportunity for someone to give a character reference. I think they are good - little practice runs for a first job. As I said a lot are unpaid but will usually comp lunch and travel. A lot offer full time placements on graduation. – Bee Feb 20 at 11:44
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    sure, I'm not saying they're not expected/required in some places, I just personally don't think they're useful or actually prove anything that can't be proven other ways. There's loads of ways to get a character reference and prove you can show up every day - retail/fast food was how I did it, and I got paid while it happened. But like I said, I was in a country where internships aren't the norm. – Player One Feb 20 at 11:51
  • @PlayerOne Yeah they don't always count for a lot round here but I guess it's regional! – Bee Feb 20 at 12:05
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    This is a great answer - I would only suggest potentially adding one other point. Internships are often marketed specifically at people still in school, or very recent graduates. Someone with years of professional experience may not even be "eligible" much less the target audience for such positions. – dwizum Feb 20 at 18:32

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