Happy March! As we get closer to the May 1st decision date, a question that comes up a lot from students concerns engineering, free time, and whether or not it’s possible to intern or do research during the academic year. While it’s true that the schedule of an engineering student is demanding, from personal experience, I can confirm that it is indeed possible to work an internship during the academic year, and have a meaningful experience while doing so!
Since August of 2020, I have been virtually interning with Brown and Caldwell, an environmental engineering consulting firm. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all my work has been done at my own home, but I was lucky enough to work an in person internship with the company in the summer of 2019, and got to meet some of my coworkers in person. The offices of Brown and Caldwell are only a metro stop away from USC, so even if I were in person, the convenient location of USC in downtown LA would make it so I would be able to go from classes to work without taking too much time.
In the fall semester of my senior year, I had Mondays and Fridays off of classes. Because of this, I would work Mondays 9 am-3 pm, Wednesdays 9 am-12 pm and 2 pm-5 pm, and Fridays 11 am -3 pm for a total of 16 hours a week spent interning. With this schedule, I was able to work in real time with coworkers on projects, attending meetings, asking questions, and submitting work during the daytime hours. This semester, as a second semester senior, I have Tuesdays and Fridays off of classes, and have fit 26 hours of work into my schedule. I’ve been able to contribute to a lot of cool projects, and learn a lot from coworkers that has helped supplement my studies.
Basically, it IS possible to intern as an engineering student at USC. However, it’s important to consider that, as a freshman and sophomore, you’re likely to have science or math classes every single day–as opposed to a junior or senior’s schedule of engineering classes, which meet every other day or once a week. With less time outside of class, you’ll need to dedicate more time to studying, and would have less time to work. It’s also important to consider what you would want to give up to intern–whether you’d want to spend less time with student organizations, or take a lighter courseload, etc. It’s all about giving and taking, so be sure to think ahead if you’re interested in working an internship during your time at USC!
If you’re able, I would definitely recommend getting some work experience while you’re in college! The projects I’ve been able to work on have made my appreciation for environmental engineering grow tenfold, and has made me feel more prepared for my transition to full-time after graduation. Whether it’s during the summer or academic year, there are so many professional opportunities available through USC, be sure to explore them during your four years! Fight on!