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What's a Finance Internship All About?

Internships can be a serious hook into the finance industry in the area of your choice. They are a fantastic opportunity to learn new relevant skills, work on real projects and get a feel for the type of work involved in a particular career. Internships are also a key way to make contacts in the run up to your final year when you’ll be applying for graduate positions.

The majority of internships in the finance industry are geared towards students in the penultimate year of their degree. Most internships will be open to students from any degree discipline, though there could be certain programmes that require students with specific expertise, such as some technology roles which demand quantitative skills and/or specific technical knowledge.

Summer internships

Summer placements or internships generally last between six and ten weeks, taking place during the summer holiday period. They are available across different areas of the industry, particularly within the various divisions of professional services firms, banks, insurance and pensions companies and information services providers. Industry regulators and government bodies also run internship schemes.

The importance of internships

Many employers will source a large percentage of their graduate intake from those that complete their internship. So by bagging a place on an internship, you could almost consider yourself part of a ‘talent pool’. It’s a platform to impress, and if you perform well enough there is a strong possibility that you could be invited to interview for a graduate job with the firm. With hot competition from other students for graduate places and a solid internship culture within the finance industry, you could find it much more difficult to secure a graduate position if you haven’t completed one. Plus, they really are the best way to find out what will be the right kind of role for you!

What if I can’t find a suitable internship for my career aims?

Not all areas of the finance industry currently offer internships. If your ultimate aim is to work for a hedge fund, for example, then there really aren’t many of these that offer work experience opportunities for students.

This doesn’t mean to say you should give up the ghost on internships if there isn’t one in the exact area you’re hoping to enter! Look into related fields for your top choice area and the opportunities that could provide the best links. It’s all about working to establish a connection between your experience, constantly widening your knowledge of the financial markets and developing transferable skills from other areas of the industry that could prove useful for your career goals.

If a hedge fund is your desired career destination, for instance, then experience as an analyst/associate in investment banking, business banking or asset management could help you to develop essential market knowledge and key skills to switch over into that area at a later point. Good things come to those who wait…and are proactive with their professional development and networking!

Employers offer a limited number of internships each year. Again, if you aren’t offered a place for your ideal internship then don’t give up! Look at related industries and try out there. Transferable skills are great to have, and you may even discover you really enjoy an area of finance you’d never really thought about before.

Long-term internships

Some banks, professional services firms and other financial services providers also offer paid long-term internship positions (mostly lasting up to a year) for students whose degrees incorporate a placement year. From technology and banking to research and HR, there are a number of options here for placement students to gain extended experience of working as part of a team with real responsibilities. Again, some positions may require specific skills from certain degree disciplines, but many will be open to graduates from any subject background.

Some firms may offer long-term internships on a rolling basis too, so this could be a possibility for graduates who start consider a career in the finance industry later on.

Applications

The application process for an internship usually involves an online application form, followed by online tests and then an invitation to an assessment day/interview if you pass those initial screening stages.

Key dates

Start researching internships at the beginning of your penultimate year. Most deadlines occur between October and March of the academic year, and fill up on a first-come-first-served basis. So apply early to bag a summer spot!

By Jos Weale, Editor, AllAboutFinanceCareers.com