How To Land a Software Engineering Internship in 5 Steps

Engineering interns are in high demand, especially in the software industry. In this guide, learn the top 3 essentials software engineering skills the hiring managers expect you to have along with tips on how to get a software engineer internship.

How To Get a Software Engineering Internship

For many of your favorite products, websites, or devices, there’s a software engineering team working to make your experience as flawless as possible. And while aspirations of joining such a team are noble, landing a job can be difficult. 

That's where an internship can be immensely helpful. You’ll gain the skills necessary to launch a successful career in the software engineering world. Internships create a deeper understanding of what it takes to push technology forward. Here's what you need to know to find the perfect starting point.

What Is a Software Engineering Internship? 

A software engineer intern works under the guidance of an experienced engineer. As an intern, you’ll gain experience developing, testing, and deploying software, in addition to learning how to navigate the dynamics of a corporate or startup setting. 

Typical responsibilities include coding, debugging, and experimenting with design elements. Most software engineers also participate in code reviews, quality assurance testing, and some troubleshooting. 

‌According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, software engineering jobs are estimated to increase by 22% from 2019 to 2029. This significant growth is largely the result of the digital age we live in. Virtually everyone carries a high-powered computer in their purse or pocket, so the need for savvy software engineers has never been greater.

Because this is such a rapidly growing role, chances are you won't have to move from your hometown to find a position. However, the concentration of available jobs for software engineers is quite high in tech-heavy regions such as Silicon Valley, Washington, New England, and the North Carolina research triangle.

3 Essential Software Engineering Skills All Employers Want 

Software Engineering Skills

Most employers require applicants to have either a computer science or information technology degree, though relevant experience can often be substituted for a degree. Skills that tech companies look for include:

1. Computer Programming and Coding

There are many computer programming languages, and the requirements can vary depending on the position you’re applying for. According to Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developer Survey, the most widely used programming languages are: 

  • JavaScript
  • HTML/CSS
  • SQL
  • Python
  • Java
  • Bash/Shell/Powershell
  • C#
  • TypeScript
  • PHP
  • C++

While this might seem like a long list, the good news is many of these languages can be learned through online courses.

2. Software Development

Software development entails analyzing user needs and then designing, testing, and developing software to meet those needs. College students can gain experience by taking relevant coursework. Those seeking internships can also gain experience through online tutorials and courses.

Additionally, online communities such as GitHub offer learning labs, training sessions, and open forums, providing many opportunities to grow your skillset. ‌‌

3. Software Testing and Debugging

Software testing and debugging require analytical thinking about how a system is put together. Imagine the potential for disaster if the software you created was never tested before being released to the public. Testing and debugging account for a significant portion of a software project’s time and expense, making this a valuable skill.

Similar to coding and software development skills, testing and debugging can be learned in the classroom and online, though it’s generally learned on the job.

What Is the Average Salary for a Software Engineer Intern?

software engineering salary

Potential earnings for software engineer interns are quite promising. ZipRecruiter lists $43,585 as the national average, Glassdoor estimates the average salary at $59,348 per year, and Salary.com reports a whopping average of $86,458. Combine this with the estimated outlook for growth, and you're looking at a very secure career choice.

Of course, starting salaries will vary widely based on location, experience, and company, but the sheer number of internship opportunities available make this an exciting career to pursue.

5 Steps To Land a Software Engineering Internship

Software engineering internship

1. Update Your Resume

This can take work, but updating your resume for every application you fill out will give you a higher chance of standing out among the crowd. When putting together the perfect software engineering resume, make sure to lay out all your skills, courses, and accomplishments for employers to view. 

Including a "vision statement" is also a great idea, as it helps potential employers see how you'd like to grow before they've even had a chance to ask the question, "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

For software engineering interns, some must-have skills to include are programming, time management, logical analysis, and the ability to contribute and collaborate in a team setting. Communication skills are always in high demand as well, and your resume is the perfect place to make your communication capabilities known.

Make sure to get an early start on the intern application process. Companies often hire in waves during the fall season, making August, September, and October prime months for applying. Don't get discouraged if you apply in spring, though. Lots of positions are available, and with persistence, you'll almost certainly find an employment opportunity.‌

3. Use Networking and Social Media to Your Advantage 

Creating a professional network on LinkedIn is a great way to kick-start growing your network. Use your LinkedIn profile to build relationships with other software engineers, search for open internship positions, or join industry discussion groups. Even more casual sites such as Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube can be used for researching, connecting with alumni groups, and growing your understanding of the software engineer landscape. 

4. Prepare for Your Interview

While a technical interview might sound intimidating, it's nothing to worry about when you have the right preparation. A good hiring manager will look for applicants with qualifications that match the job description, so make sure you're familiar with the role they're looking to fill. This includes bringing the appropriate resources (such as relevant side projects), anticipating the questions they'll ask, and bringing questions of your own that show you understand the position.

One of the best job interview tips for software engineer interns is to be ready for a coding challenge (also known as a coding interview), where you'll be given a real-world test of your programming abilities.‌

Ultimately, a company's time is incredibly valuable. Coming highly prepared for your interview makes a great first impression. It shows you value the employer’s time and are excited for the chance to interview—big wins when seeking a new job.

5. Continue Growing Your Skill Set

Building a portfolio of side projects that you've completed on your own is one of the best ways to show that you’re serious about finding work as a software engineer. Self-initiated projects teach you hands-on skills and also add credibility to your resume.

Coding bootcamps are another way to further hone your skills upon graduation. These typically last between 8 and 12 weeks and are fantastic crash courses for expanding your coding abilities.

Ready to switch careers to software engineering?

Springboard offers a comprehensive software engineering bootcamp. You’ll work with a one-on-one mentor to learn key aspects of front-end web development, back-end web development, databases, and data structures and algorithms. Modules include learning resources, practice exercises, projects, and career-related coursework. 

Check out Springboard's Software Engineering Career Track to see if you qualify.

Not quite ready to dive into a software engineering bootcamp?

Springboard also offers a Software Engineering Prep Course, where you can learn the foundational web development skills (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) needed to pass the technical skills survey for the Software Engineering Career Track.

Download our software engineering salary guide

This 21-page guide breaks down the software engineering career path and how to optimize salary figures.

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