I've been applying to internships lately, and many require that applicants be "current students," or in some cases "current students returning to school" at some given point in time.

My question is - why do positions require this?

is it just to weed out applicants who don't have any schooling? most of the internships are limited 4-8 months, so it doesn't seem likely that this requirement is included due to students "extending their stay" so to speak.

In Canada, where I go to school, the government pays for part of the intern's salary in some cases, so they require students if the company wants the subsidy. AFAIK though, this isn't the case in the US (where i'm applying for the most part), so it would seems odd that this requirement is included.

These are mostly software development positions by the way.

  • Hey Cole, and welcome to The Workplace. As explained in our help center, "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face." If you want to apply to internships without being a student, editing your question to say that will get you much better answers. In general, "Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site" which most 'why...' questions end up being. Thanks in advance!
    – jmac
    Mar 31, 2014 at 0:18
  • @jmac There's generally fair reasoning behind these requirements in job posting, and I was just wondering what those reasons were - i don't think that the question is open ended such that it diminishes the usefulness of the site. If someone posted "i'm a HR person and we hire only students because of X, Y, and Z" then I'd happily accept their answer. Mar 31, 2014 at 0:55
  • Cole, those types of questions are exactly what the primarily-based close reason is for. Three different HR people may give three different reasonings (and all would be correct!). That's why we ask people to focus on "practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face" -- if someone in the future wants to get an internship as a non-student, an answer that address how to accomplish that is better than understanding why they are facing the problem in the first place. If you edit, you will get much better answers.
    – jmac
    Mar 31, 2014 at 1:05

3 Answers 3


Why do companies want interns at all?

1, Large companies will do it to attract future hires. If you intern with them it is likely you will want to work for them after you graduate. So by offerring you some paid work for a summer they get a graduate recruit. Even if you don't eventually work for them - you will (hopefully) say nice things about them to your fellow students, the company will be known in the dept, and other students will apply.

2, Small companies often want somebody cheap to do some small bit of extra work. The intern is like a cheap contractor. They don't have the time / resources to have their existing developers sift through 1000s of resumes from people who might be brilliant programmers but currently work in fast food. By only interviewing people who are currently studying Computer Science at XYZ university they get a head start on finding suitable candidates.

  • @VarunAgw cheap labour isn't necessarily a negative. I might have less important tasks that don't need a $200/hr contractor but regular staff are too busy to do. For the student - it's better than stacking shelves Sep 6, 2014 at 21:48
  • Personally I don't like this. To me it sounds like you are just caring about getting your work done and not care whether student learns or not, whether the tasks are trivial and repeating or challenging...of course there can be exceptions...Just my opinions
    – user10125
    Sep 8, 2014 at 20:28
  • @VarunAgw, in the USA 'intern' generally means a student doing work experience (often unpaid) relevant to their career/course. In other places it means any casual student employee doing office work. Whether it is worth it to the student to be payed $20/hr to do some backups rather than $10/hour to flip burgers, or $0 to follow a VP around depends on the student. Sep 13, 2014 at 23:22

There are a few reasons:

  • Companies, depending on the state, can receive subsidies for employing an intern. There are also generally heavy strings attached to these subsidies, sometimes including a requirement that the person in question is going to a college and receiving credit for your tutelage. If they bring you in, they may still not be paying you but they are often out a good deal of money; a good internship isn't going to just sit you down and tell you to do something they could hire someone for, it's going to take other people off of their own work to teach you stuff.
  • Internships aren't really there for you to audition for a job (although they can be used that way) so much as they are used to teach you how to do a particular job in an actual work environment. I realize that there are internships out there of the "go get everybody a coffee" variety but those places generally pick up a bad reputation very quickly (at least outside of the entertainment industry).
  • Look at this from the perspective of the employer: they want to bring someone in and teach them how to do a job and/or have them do some low-level work for several months without pay. If you are currently a student, presumably you have your financial affairs in order until you've graduated in the form of grants, loans, and so on. If you're just unemployed, there is far less of a guarantee that you have the resources to stick it out for 3-6 months. These folks don't want to begin to train you for 6 weeks only to lose you to a paying job.

Not true.

I've been an intern without attending a school. In most cases, you should be prepared for the minimal wage and tasks which are far away from fun.

You do need to have some pre-requisites though. Contributing to open source projects, successful freelance contract or two.

Be aggressively communicative. Send code samples along with your cover letter. Write that you don't think you need to be a student to be a valuable asset.

  • 1
    I realize that you can be an intern without being a student, but many jobs require it, such as this one: glassdoor.ca/job-listing/… and I just don't get why that is. I appreciate the insight though - I will definitely include that advice in cover letters, thanks Mar 30, 2014 at 4:22
  • 1
    @Cole Ignore the fact that requires you to be a student. Apply anyway. You'd be surprised with the result. Mar 30, 2014 at 19:44
  • I have never done this. But don't they kick us out (esp. big companies) and maybe blacklist us after realizing we are not a student
    – user10125
    Sep 8, 2014 at 20:52

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