How to Get an Internship in Canada

The Prepped Team

October 28, 2021

5 minutes

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What does it mean to be an intern? Do you get paid? Do you not get paid? How many hours are you allowed to work? There are lots of questions that we’re sure go through your mind when you’re thinking of taking on an internship. 

One thing that’s been proven is that a solid internship can provide the experience, skills and connections you need to land your first full-time job. So, don’t underestimate the significance of an internship. And like any job, you want to approach it the right way. 

Here’s what you need to know about finding an internship in Canada. 

What is an internship in Canada? 

Generally speaking, an internship is an opportunity to gain knowledge and experience by working for a company. 

While gaining knowledge and experience may be the primary purpose, as an intern you’re still expected to do the job. If you’re a marketing intern, you may be expected to conduct digital marketing research or create content for social media platforms, Interning as a front-end developer, you’d have the opportunity to write code, while a newsroom intern may have the opportunity to conduct research for an investigative story. 

Regardless of your duties as an intern, there are layers to consider. One of those is understanding the difference between a student intern and internships that are not specifically  for students. 

Student internships 

Student interns must be enrolled in a secondary or post-secondary institution. The internship you take on must fill the requirements of a given program at your institution and these requirements must be stated clearly by your institution. 

Do student interns get paid?

The most important distinction is that student interns can be paid or unpaid. As long as the main reason for the internship is to “gain knowledge and experience,” then that satisfies the legal requirements here in Canada. 

Non-student internships 

In Canada, non-student interns must be paid at least the minimum wage for the province. Under this definition of internship, you cannot be enrolled in any educational institution, even if the internship is outside of your program. You can be a recent graduate or looking for relevant experience as you change careers. While students have a length of time they can stay at an internship, which is guided by their program, non-student interns don’t have any restrictions on how long they can work at a particular company. 

Another important distinction between student and non-student interns is that students cannot legally be paid overtime. There are no such payment or hourly restrictions on non-student interns, as long as they comply with general labour laws. 

When should you get an internship?

Many students get an internship throughout their junior and senior years to help them increase their chances of getting a job offer after they graduate. Internships are a great way to earn experience, try industries you might be curious about, and begin your career path.

Best way to get an internship

Now that you understand what an internship opportunity looks like, let’s talk about the steps you need to take to find an internship. 

1. Consider your qualifications 

You’ve taken time to build skills in a specific area of study. When looking for an internship, think about places where those skills will be most applicable. Here’s how you can identify and adapt your skills: 

  • Think about what you’re studying or have studied. 
  • Consider some of the experiences you’ve gathered throughout your time in college or university and any projects outside of your institution. 
  • Apply the skills you’ve learned or are still learning to a position that matches your capabilities. 
  • Identify career fields that are of interest to you or you’d like to explore.

When you approach an internship this way, you can show employers that you’re already taking the necessary steps to prepare for your career and have likely done projects you can present that capture your skills and experience.  

Learn more about what types of skills employers are looking for.

The step-by-step approach to job search success.

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2. Start your research early 

When searching for summer internships, the deadlines are usually months before. That means you’ll need to start doing your research at least six months in advance. Some tips to consider when beginning your research: 

  • Connect with peers, professors, and alumni. They may be valuable resources in helping you land an internship. 
  • Check your college/university job boards. It’s easy to overlook what’s right in front of you. Your institution is there to present you with opportunities, so make sure you’re aware of what’s available and take advantage. 
  • It’s also a good idea to visit online job sites outside of your institution. Both large corporations and small businesses are typically looking for help in some area of their operations. 
  • Work your way up to your dream internship. You may have to start out with some smaller opportunities, but that’s okay. Your job is to learn and as long as the internship serves that purpose, it won’t be a waste of your time. 
  • Don’t forget to also look into small local organizations, NGOs (non-governmental organizations), or local volunteer positions in order to bolster your resume.

3. Prepare your application materials 

You want all of your application materials to be up-to-date and customized for the specific opportunity you’re applying for. Make sure you prepare all of the following: 

  • Resume: Make sure to tailor your resume to any job description or internship posting. Our Resume Optimizer and free resume templates are a great tools you can use to test and improve the strength of your resume. 
  • Cover letter: Your cover letter is your introduction to your employer. Make sure you grab their attention and stand out from other applicants. Use one of our free cover letter templates to get started. 
  • LinkedIn and other social media: LinkedIn is basically your public resume. It needs to be updated regularly with your experience and you should also be utilizing LinkedIn as a networking tool.

4. Prepare for interviews 

Even if you don’t have one lined up, it’s important that you stay prepared for an interview. You never know when you’ll get that call or email asking to be interviewed for your dream internship. When getting ready for your interview, consider these steps: 

  • Use the STAR Method to prepare for the most common interview questions.
  • Prepare your elevator pitch, which is a thirty second “tell me about yourself” breakdown of who you are and what you can bring to the table. 
  • Be specific in your preparation. Choose a company you’d like to interview with and pretend you’re speaking directly to them. 
  • Let Prepped help you prepare for your interview. Our AI-based interview practice tool gives you the feedback you need to master your interview skills.

Key takeaways 

The information in this article will be useful in helping you identify and secure an internship. Here are some key points to keep in mind: 

  • Internships can be paid or unpaid depending on if it’s a requirement of a post-secondary program or not. 
  • Use the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired with your degree to leverage better internship opportunities.
  • Start your search early and make sure you’re prepared. 

Get Prepped for your internship

As you start thinking about which internships make the most sense, Prepped is here to guide you through the process. Premium job-search tools like our ATS Resume Scanner and AI interview practice tool engine gives you an edge when applying for your internship. Sign up for Prepped today and jump start your career.