How to Gain Work Experience in College

One of the greatest obstacles for job-seeking recent college graduates is their lack of work experience. This is extremely frustrating, because you can’t get work experience without getting a job . . . and it’s really tough to get a job without work experience. So what do you do?

You can rely on an impressive academic record (which helps a great deal), or you can try to get some work experience in college.

On-Campus Jobs

Most college students work-study program, and many also offer on-campus jobs for students. Whether or not you can get a position that is related to your ideal career, you should look into these options—working in an academic or research setting can be very valuable experience.


Another common way for college students to gain work experience before they graduate is through internships.

Internships are different than jobs in that they emphasize learning and preparation for entering into the field in which you intern. This experience is very valuable, and can often lead to job offers with the company for which you intern, sometimes even before you graduate. Seems like a good way to go, right? Well, there is a down-side to interning:

  • The competition for internships is very intense; a great number of students will be applying for every internship, so you’ll have to work very hard to make yourself stand out.
  • Many internships are unpaid, meaning that you’ll be volunteering your time at your host company. It’s definitely worth it to gain the valuable work experience, but it can be financially taxing.


No matter how you gain work experience in college, it will benefit you. Whether or not you work or intern in your intended field or hold a stereotypical, menial, “college student” job, you’ll be much better off when you graduate.

Attending school should definitely be your highest priority, but the work experience you gain in college (even if it is just mopping floors) can be almost as valuable as your degree.

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