As an aspiring mechanical engineer, an internship program is an invaluable way to gain experience and explore the many possibilities available in the field. The good news is that internships exist for every interest and level of expertise.
From civil engineering and manufacturing disciplines to aerospace engineering and robotics, many opportunities for mechanical engineering internships exist.
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent work experience in mechanical engineering or a related field) to qualify for most of them, and many also require a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Engineering students may also want to know how to use CAD software and how to code.
These internships can be full-time or part-time, on-site or remote, and may require U.S. citizenship to obtain a security clearance. A mechanical engineering intern job, or one in any mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) field, might be unpaid, paid, or count toward college credit.
Unpaid internships provide valuable experience and the opportunity to network with professionals in lieu of a paycheck. Paid internships offer to pay for the work, but you may need more experience and qualifications than an unpaid position. College students fulfilling certain curriculum requirements may instead (or also) earn college credit for the internship experience.
No matter what type of engineering internship you choose, having hands-on experience and gaining knowledge in the industry is essential. In this article, we’ll look at the various kinds of engineering internships available and help you determine which one is best for you.
1. Aerospace engineering intern
Aerospace engineers are responsible for designing, testing, and producing aircrafts, spacecrafts, and their components. Universities and private companies typically offer aerospace engineering internships.
They provide valuable practical experience and networking opportunities. Aerospace engineering interns can develop important skills applicable to their career, such as technical production planning, effective communication, and teamwork.
Graduate and undergraduate students wanting to gain hands-on field experience or upskill to obtain an aerospace engineer job title can benefit from this internship.
Requirements: You must complete two to three years of college to obtain an aerospace engineering internship. In addition to having a strong fundamental knowledge of aerospace engineering, aerodynamics, and other engineering principles, an intern should also have strong technical skills, including familiarity with computer programming and AutoCAD.
Career opportunities: Several potential career opportunities are available for someone with an aerospace engineering internship. These include aerodynamic engineers and aeronautical engineers.
2. Electrical engineering intern
An electrical engineering internship provides the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge to practical job tasks, such as branch circuiting, lighting calculations, site investigations, and design drawings. It also sets the platform for undergraduates to build on their professional aptitude, character, and confidence in the field.
Below are some requirements and career opportunities associated with electrical engineering internships.
Requirements: As an intern, you must be proficient in C++, Analog, and Revit to develop software programs for hardware automation designing and setup. You'll also need a bachelor's degree or higher in electrical engineering and proficiency in at least two programming languages.
Career opportunities: Electrical engineering interns can pursue rewarding careers in areas like computer or software engineering, which involves developing and testing hardware and software. Other careers in this field include advanced automation, robotic system engineering, and defense systems engineering.
3. Manufacturing engineering intern
A manufacturing internship is open to undergraduate students from disciplines including industrial design, mechanical, and electrical engineering. During the internship, manufacturing engineering interns will observe and learn from the production staff, review and assess manufacturing equipment and tools, examine quality control records, and complete administrative tasks to understand the plant's operations.
Requirements: As an intern, you should be familiar with Lean Manufacturing, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), AutoCAD, and other computer software. You should also have some certifications, such as the Six Sigma Green Belt or Engineer in Training (EIT) Certification.
Career opportunities: Those who complete a manufacturing engineering internship may pursue various careers in fields like quality assurance engineering, project and process engineering, and product engineering.
4. Industrial engineering intern
An industrial engineering internship program is ideal for manufacturing, mechanical, and electrical engineering students. You will observe and learn from the production staff, review and assess manufacturing tools, observe quality control protocols, work on project management, and understand job functions during the internship.
Requirements: You must possess a keen understanding of instrumentation, project management, and data analysis to qualify for this internship. You should also have a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering.
Career opportunities: Those who complete an industrial engineering internship program may go on to pursue a variety of career options, such as manufacturing technician, industrial mechanic, and supply chain analyst.
5. Mechanical design intern
A mechanical design internship is also called a drafting internship. Your role would involve contributing to the creation of designs for mechanical devices, such as machines or electronics. As an intern, you work across all stages of the process, from brainstorming ideas to device production and testing.
Requirements: Those who want to qualify for a mechanical design internship must know how to create engineering drawings, have mechanical design skills, and have experience with CAD, Java, Autodesk, Matlab, and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software.
Career opportunities: Those who complete a mechanical design internship can pursue various career options, including product design engineering, project engineering, engineering management, and mechanical engineering.
How to get the best mechanical engineering internship
In this section, we will discuss strategies to help you land your dream internship.
Finding an internship
Landing an internship is not as hard as you might think. If you're in school, your college or university may offer access to an internship program designed for engineering students. You can also attend job fairs to get an industry overview and network with potential employers.
You can also use job boards to search for internship opportunities. Try searching for an internship in your chosen field or narrowing your search based on your demographics.
For example, some employers may prefer to hire women, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ applicants (including those with nontraditional gender identities), people of color, or those with national origins outside the U.S. for this entry-level opportunity. Look for job postings mentioning “reasonable accommodations” and “equal opportunity.”
Applicants using job boards typically have great success in finding internships. They can also help you connect with employers quickly. Social media is another valuable networking source, so make sure your LinkedIn profile is current.
Use Handshake to search for mechanical engineering internships within your line of study. You can also set up job alerts for these and other options, like industrial engineering internships, that might fit the bill.
Getting an interview
Landing your first internship interview can be tough. But with the right prep and strategy, you can nail the perfect opportunity. Highlight your skills from past internships or projects, and put any awards or honors front and center on your resume and cover letter.
Personalizing your cover letter is also important. Copied-and-pasted cover letters are easy to spot, and hiring managers are more likely to notice yours if you address them and the company personally.
Landing the job
Preparation is key to succeeding in an interview! One helpful way to prepare is by using the STAR technique. This approach helps you express your professional experiences by organizing them in the following way:
- Situation: Describe a professional situation you’ve handled.
- Task: What was asked of you in this situation, or what did you need to accomplish?
- Action: What did you do in response to the task?
- Result: What were the positive results of your action?
It’s also important to research some common interview questions and practice your answers beforehand. This will help you focus during the interview and provide meaningful and articulate responses.
Lastly, don't forget to showcase your enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. You can emphasize that during the interview process by preparing thoughtful questions to ask your interviewer about the company and what the internship will involve.
Who’s hiring mechanical engineering interns on Handshake?
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Finding the right mechanical engineering internship can seem daunting, but Handshake is here to help.
Join Handshake today and start your search for mechanical engineering internships. You’ll find a diverse range, from small startups to large corporations, designed to provide the necessary skills and experience to excel in your chosen career and job type.