How Demanding Are Computer Science Internships?

Computer Science internships are a great experience and they look good on your resume. They can even come in handy when applying for full-time positions after graduation. However, Computer Science internships can be quite demanding.

In this blog post, I’ll discuss exactly how demanding Computer Science internships can be. I’ll discuss the factors that contribute to those demands and touch on the difference between working at a large tech company and working at a start-up. Let’s dive in!

How Many Hours Do Computer Science Interns Work?

Computer Science interns are expected to work 40 hours per week or more unless the position specifically states otherwise. If you hope to earn University credit for your internship, you are required to work at least 180 hours for the duration of your internship (60 hours per credit).

It's also common for interns to work flexible hours or part-time schedules, especially if the internship takes place during school. In fact, my first internship was full-time during the summer but it was extended beyond the summer so that I could work flexible hours into my Fall semester. 

Additionally, Computer Science internships will usually last 12-15 weeks and most of them take place over the summer. Keep in mind that you should clarify the expected work schedule with your mentor or manager before starting an internship to avoid confusion and set appropriate expectations.

Factors That Contribute To The Work Load Of C.S. Internships

As you can imagine, not all internships are the same. In fact, I would argue that each is pretty unique. As such, the demands of one internship will be pretty different than the demands of another. Here are some of the factors that will contribute to your workload as a C.S. intern:

  • Which company you work for: The company you work for can make a huge difference in their expectations.
  • Full-time vs. part-time: If the intern is expected to work 20 hours per week, the workload will obviously be much less than a full-time internship.
  • The complexity of tasks assigned: When assigned something complex, you may be expected to do research even after hours in order to find a solution.
  • The technology stack used: Some tech stacks are easier to use and faster to find solutions than others.
  • Deadline pressure: If you’re given an assignment with a particular deadline, that might result in you working more hours than expected.
  • Learning curve: There is sure to be some learning curve. However, some will be steeper than others.
  • Mentorship and support provided: Support from a team lead or lack thereof can be another factor in the demands of your role.
  • Availability of resources and documentation: Similar to mentorship support, if proper documentation isn’t available, completing assignments may be more difficult.
  • Interpersonal dynamics in the workplace: Office politics can be another contributing factor to your internship workload.
  • Collaboration with others on projects: Depending on the level of collaboration, you may find yourself picking up the slack of your teammates.
  • Time management skills: If you can manage your time well, then you will be much better prepared for the demands of your position.
  • Communication skills with mentor and team: If there is poor top-down communication, you will likely feel the effects.
  • Although the workload can be heavy depending on these circumstances, it will push you to grow professionally. This means that your technical skills will improve, along with your communication abilities. I highly recommend you put yourself in a position that pushes you beyond what you think you’re capable of.

    Working At A Big Tech Company VS. Start-Ups

    The demands of a Computer Science internship can vary greatly depending on whether the internship is at a start-up company or a large tech company. Here are some differences to consider when choosing which size company to intern for.

    Start-up companies:

  • Smaller team size
  • A faster pace of work
  • Hands-on experience across multiple areas
  • Potential for more autonomy and ownership of projects
  • Opportunity to wear many hats and work on diverse projects
  • High energy and fast-paced environment
  • Focus on innovation and quick problem-solving
  • Large tech companies:

  • Larger team size
  • More structured work environment
  • Specialization in specific areas or projects
  • More resources and support are available
  • Collaboration with experienced professionals
  • More opportunities for networking and career development
  • Potentially more bureaucracy and slower decision-making processes
  • Both types of companies offer unique learning opportunities and challenges, and the best fit for an intern will depend on their interests, skill set, and career goals. It's important to research and understands the culture and expectations of both start-up and large tech companies before deciding on an internship.

    Final Thoughts

    The demands of Computer Science internships can vary greatly depending on several factors such as the complexity of tasks assigned, the technology stack used, the deadline pressure, the level of support provided, the intern's own learning curve, and more.

    In general, Computer Science internships can be demanding, especially for those who are just starting out in the field. The work may involve long hours, challenging projects, and a steep learning curve, as interns are often expected to quickly ramp up on new technologies and apply what they've learned to real-world projects.

    That being said, the demands of a Computer Science internship can also be highly rewarding, providing interns with valuable hands-on experience, a chance to build their portfolios, and the opportunity to network and make industry connections.

    Ultimately, the level of demand in a Computer Science internship will depend on the specific internship and the expectations of the employer, so it's important for interns to have clear communication and understand the demands before accepting an internship offer.