Internships outside major can be helpful in the long run

This summer, I found an internship that was a great fit for me. It suited my skill set, my previous experiences and even the location that I was looking for. The one thing that was out of place was the field — I’m an urban planning major, and this was a reporting internship at a magazine.

So what did I do? I took it, of course. I wasn’t going to turn it down just because it was outside of my major. In fact, I didn’t even give it much thought until other people brought it up.

Then it made me think, does it matter if I stray outside my major? Will it have an effect on my future career path? 

I asked Keri Carter Pipkins, associate director of career and pre-professional development at the Career Center, for her advice.

Skills gained at internships unrelated to majors are still valuable and transferable

Pipkins said that she believes any professional experience is beneficial. Even if the internship is not directly related to one’s career, student’s can still gain valuable, transferable skills out of the experience. While the internship’s content may be different than the student’s major, they’ll still using and sharpening their critical thinking skills.

“Students should think about how they can contribute at the internship as well as what they might get out of it — what types of skills they might be able to build and expand on,” she said.

At my internship, I was able to hone in on some of my existing skills. I actually got to do much of what I’ve done for The Daily Illini: research topics, interview local professionals and write a variety of articles. Many of these skills are transferable across different fields, like communication, researching and writing.

And given that many majors do not have a specific field, Pipkin believes it’s very common for students to branch outside of their major.

“An English major, communications major, they cross so many different industries that there isn’t really an English-oriented internship,” she said.

Students can figure out what they need to improve upon at internships outside of their major

Any kind of internship can be helpful because it allows students to consider “what skills they want to develop and environments they want to be in,” which will enhance their career development overall, Pipkins said.

My internship definitely caused me to consider where geographically I’d like work in the future, whether it’s a job in my major or not. My internship was especially convenient because it was in my hometown, so housing was not an issue. My familiarity with the city also gave me a competitive edge over other applicants for the job. Since I already knew so much about the town, I could use that to my advantage. My internship allowed me to consider the benefits of working in an area more familiar to me.

Internships outside of major allow students to explore their other interests and different career paths

When I was younger, I would constantly change my dream career. I had a change of heart every few months based on whatever interested me at that point. While I’m not quite as impulsive today, I still feel like I can’t choose one particular area. All I know is that I like what I’m doing now, so we’ll see where that takes me.

For those who are interested in a variety of careers, some outside of their major, internships in a different field than what they are studying can be a great opportunity for them to try a different career path.

“(At the Career Center,) we say all the time, ‘Major doesn’t equal career,’ so what you major in doesn’t have to be the field that you ultimately end up in,” Pipkins said. “Even the career counselors here, we have a variety of backgrounds represented, from computer science to biology to K-12 education.”

Reema is a junior in Fine and Applied Arts. She can be reached at [email protected]