The Basics of Software Engineering Internships

Are you interested in a software engineering internship? Let’s dive into some key facts about internships in software and how you can land one!

Will Ballenger
Published: (Updated: ) - 3 min read
Student at UNC Chapel Hill

Photo by Marvin Meyer / Unsplash

Studying computer science in college can teach you a lot about the theoretical and conceptual knowledge about the field, but an internship in CS can be extremely useful to gain an understanding of the implementation of code and the real-world situations you must apply your skills to. Keep reading to learn about what software engineering internships are like!

Key terms for software engineering internships

Front-end engineering

The “front-end” of coding refers to what the user sees, or user interface. As a front-end intern, you will gain an understanding of the coding that goes behind applications or websites. You should look at this type of computer science internship if you have a preference for languages such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

Back-end engineering

The “back-end” of coding refers to the part of a computer system that is not directly accessed by the user, typically responsible for storing and manipulating data. You should look at this type of computer science internship if you like using data to power your code and have a preference for languages such as Ruby, Python, and Java.

Mobile engineering

This type of computer science internship entails using code to develop user-interactive applications for mobile use, such as on iOS or Android phones.

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Responsibilities in a computer science internship

Other than showing up on time and willing to learn, some responsibilities in a computer science internship may include:

  1. Onsite support and coordination. This entails duties like working with developers to resolve and troubleshoot customer support escalations, supporting the utilization of information technologies like Microsoft applications, clerical tasks like filing, labeling, and developing spreadsheets, etc.
  2. Developing and deploying computer software systems. This involves the actual coding, whether it be front-end or back-end, or both (full-stack).
  3. Testing and debugging software and systems.

The internship recruiting cycle

You should note the internship recruiting cycle, which is usually organized in two cycles:

  • Late August to early December
  • January to April

If you are past your first-year of college, it is advisable to apply to these internships as early and as much as possible in August. If you are in your first-year of college, it may be worth waiting until the second cycle to allow for you to add any coursework or experience related to computer science.

You can use websites like Linkedin, Handshake, Indeed, and others to find opportunities, and Simplify can help you apply to these internships easily and efficiently, as applying to a large number is critical to the process.

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Tips for standing out

There are some special things you should consider about computer science internships compared to other fields. While clubs and extracurriculars are important, you should also create a portfolio of your coding projects whether they be personal or school-based using a platform like GitHub.

Another tip is that with your .edu email address, you are likely to have free access to private repositories on GitHub.

Companies obviously want to see you do well in your classes, but unlike internships in other fields, side projects can trump a high GPA. In other words, it is hard to stand out if you have no side projects and a lacking portfolio, even if you have a 4.0.

The computer science internship interview process

You should prepare for the computer science-specific interview process. Simplify has other blog posts about preparing for an interview, and while it is similar across different fields, there are some important facets of computer science in particular that you should note.

Aside from brushing up on your talking skills and being prepared, many report that their first part of hearing back from a computer science company was being sent a coding challenge from a third party coding platform.

Additionally, some companies may call you on the phone to give you a technical coding challenge and test your ability to solve problems and write code. One way to prepare for the possibility of a technical interview is to use sites like LeetCode.

When applying to internships of any kind, remember to research and reach out to companies that catch your eye, utilize your network, practice interviewing, and continuously build your skills and accomplishments. Simplify wishes you luck in your process of finding a computer science internship!