- Why pursue internship?
- Types of internships
- Preparing to apply for an internship
- Internship related to cybersec
- Related resources
- Frequently asked questions
This guide helps students and new graduates explore cybersecurity internships. It covers the types of internships available, where to find them, and what benefits they offer.
As a new college graduate looking for the perfect position, it can be discouraging when every job listing requires, at the very least, some experience.
But if all the existing jobs require experience, how are professionals supposed to gain the needed experience?
Internships can be an excellent way for individuals to gain experience without being required to have already held a similar position or a related job.
An internship is a temporary position, which may be paid or unpaid, that allows candidates to gain experience in their field.
Colleges and universities will often offer career counselors and internship placement programs to assist students in finding the perfect internship in their field.
For individuals looking for hands-on training in a real-life scenario, internships are a great way to accomplish this.
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Why pursue an internship?
Hiring managers get many resumes for each job post. While professionals may impress in an interview, the challenge is getting that opportunity. It’s hard to stand out among numerous resumes.
Most organizations will look at potential employees who have at least some experience over those that have no experience.
An internship can help your resume stand apart from the others on the hiring manager’s desk.
According to a study done by NACE Center for Career Development and Talent Acquisition, graduates with more internships and graduates with higher GPAs had higher odds of being employed relative to seeking employment six months after graduation.
NACE’s 2012 Student Survey also showed that approximately 60 percent of college graduates in 2012 who completed a paid internship received at least one job offer.
Internships also provide individuals with a sense of confidence and comfort in a real-life working environment.
It can be intimidating entering the workforce for the first time, but professionals who have completed an internship will have a better understanding of workplace etiquette and be more comfortable in the environment.
It’s no secret that networking is a huge part of being successful within any industry. Who you know can often be the difference between finding employment quickly or being stuck applying to job after job.
Internships allow candidates to meet professionals in their field who will often have their own connections. These connections will be invaluable during the job hunt.
Finally, it’s not uncommon for a paid internship (or occasionally an unpaid internship) to result in a full-time offer from that organization. Companies will often look at their pool of interns when looking to fill open positions.
This is because the companies have already invested resources into their interns. It makes the most sense to hire those who have already shown that they can fit into the organization’s culture and workforce.
Types of internships
When looking at internships, it’s important to remember that not all internships are created equally.
When a professional is looking to obtain an internship, they should research and make a decision about which internship is best for them.
For those in college or universities, career counselors and internship placement programs can assist with this decision.
- Paid internships: Paid internships are more attractive but harder to find than unpaid ones. They often lead to full-time jobs, especially in private companies and big organizations. While they pay less than regular jobs, they’re valuable as they can become permanent positions.
- Unpaid internship: An unpaid internship offers hands-on training without pay, mainly to prepare individuals for future jobs. They’re more common and often short-term, like during the summer. Though they don’t pay, the skills and experience gained are priceless.
- Externship: An externship is like job shadowing where students observe a professional in their field. Unlike internships, which last a season, externships can range from a day to several month
- Internship for credits: Receiving monetary compensation is not the only way that students can be compensated for their internship. Colleges and universities will often allow students the opportunity to earn college credits from completing an internship. Schools will have varying requirements for internships in order to gain credits.
Preparing to apply for an internship
Much like an actual job, organizations don’t just give our internships to every person who asks. Students will need to ensure they stand out from the pool of candidates.
It’s vital that students maintain excellent grades and partake in as many extracurricular activities associated with their desired profession, as much as possible.
Students should take advantage of any in-school opportunities that will allow them to bolster their resume and cover letter.
Individuals looking to obtain an internship should also prepare a cover letter and resume.
It’s unlikely that students looking for an internship will have a lot of previous work experience, so rather than focusing on that, the resume should focus on items that they have achieved during their time in school.
For example, projects, skills, volunteering, and extracurricular activities are all great items to include on an internship resume.
The cover letter should highlight a student’s unique skills and fit for the desired industry. Before writing, students should research the industry and company to tailor their letter effectively.
Before an organization will agree to offer a student an internship, the student will often be required to have an interview with the organization.
The interview should be taken as seriously as an interview for a full-time job.
Acing the interview not only helps students land the internship but also provides them with valuable interview experience for future full-time roles.
Students should research the company and prepare a few company and industry questions to ask their interviewer. This shows interest and can help students stand out from the pool of candidates.
Internships and cybersecurity
Internships are beneficial in just about any industry, and cybersecurity is no different. There is an extreme shortage of qualified and experienced cybersecurity professionals.
Internships are one way to get new cybersecurity graduates the experience they need to move right into the workforce.
When it comes to cybersecurity, there are many different things to consider, including whether a government internship or a private company makes the most sense.
As mentioned earlier in this guide, it’s much more likely that a private company will provide compensation for an internship.
However, for students interested in pursuing a full-time career within the government sector, obtaining a government internship would be the most beneficial.
Government internships can be a fantastic way to gain the necessary experience and skills needed to land the perfect cybersecurity career.
Unlike some private companies which only offer internships from time to time, government internships usually run every year.
One example of a government cybersecurity internship program is through the Department of Homeland Security.
The DHS offers a ten-week program which, unlike some other government internships does offer compensation. Students can expect an approximate salary of $5,800 for a ten-week, full-time, internship.
Salary will vary depending on prior work experience, education, and other various considerations. This internship will allow students to work alongside some of the leaders in cybersecurity within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
This internship, in particular, focuses on areas such as malicious code identification, forensic analysis, incident handling, and intrusion detection and prevention.
As a paid internship that allows students to gain highly sought-after hands-on training, individuals will need to really stand out to obtain this type of internship.
For this internship, students must:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be able to obtain and hold a security clearance
- Be enrolled in a bachelor’s or master’s degree program in an accredited university with a major in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Electronics Engineering, Computer Engineering, Network Engineering, Software Engineering, Supply Chain, Information Assurance, Information Technology, Systems Research, Systems Applications, Information Systems, Information Security, Software Assurance, or Business with a specific concentration in one of the above
- Demonstrate oral and written communications skills
- Demonstrate project leadership ability
The Department of Homeland Security is not the only government organization that offers cybersecurity internships. In fact, many of the government organizations offer comparable internships.
Examples of government organizations which offer internships include:
To find internships within the federal government, the best way is to either navigate directly to the government agency’s website that you are interested in or use the website USAJOBS.gov.
While those interested in pursuing a full-time career within the government, those interested in working for a private organization or those who are simply unsure could benefit from an internship outside of the government sector.
Non-government organizations will vary depending on whether they offer paid or unpaid internships.
There are plenty of websites available to students that can assist them in finding the perfect internship.
- LinkedIn.com: Always a great resource for professionals throughout their careers. It provides students with a way to create connections that will be helpful down the road. Students can search for internships by simply navigating to the jobs page and typing “internship” into the search box. You could refine the search by adding words such as “cybersecurity internship” or “risk management internship”.
- Internships.com: Another fantastic option to locate cybersecurity internships is the website Internships.com. This website allows students to type in keywords and locations. For example, students who are interested in a computer forensics career in New York City could do a search using the keywords “computer forensics” and the location of New York City.
- WayUp.com: Previously known as InternMatch.com, is another website built specifically to match students with their perfect internship. Students will need to create a personalized profile and fill in their information before WayUp will try to match them with an employer.
- Glassdoor.com: Provides many benefits to students including the ability to instantly check salaries and find employee reviews of potential employers. Glassdoor can also help students locate internships and can also help them locate full-time jobs when the time is right.
One example of a non-government cybersecurity internship is the Cybersecurity Internship Program offered by AT&T. Interns will gain exposure to various aspects of a cybersecurity career and help maintain the security of millions of customers globally.
Some of the requirements for this internship include:
- Current student pursuing a four-year undergraduate or graduate degree in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math).
- Preferred qualifications include pursuing a cybersecurity major/minor/specialization or equivalent.
- Excellent interpersonal, oral, and written communication skills.
- Ability to interface with internal and external leadership.
- Results-driven self-starter with strong analytical thinking and decision-making skills.
- Naturally curious lifelong learner interested in cybersecurity innovations.
Types of internships related to cybersecurity
While it’s possible to find generic internships by searching for keywords such as “cybersecurity intern” or “information security intern” it could be far more beneficial to find an internship in the exact area of cybersecurity an individual hopes to build their career in.
For example, an individual hoping to land a full-time position within risk management would be better off finding an internship focusing on risk management.
Below are several examples of these specialized internships:
- National Security Cyber Section (“NatSec Cyber”) Internship – U.S. Department of Justice:
- Job Description (pulled from the DOJ website): “You will be conducting legal research and analysis; assisting with the drafting of motions and other pleadings; assisting with presentations and supporting materials; and otherwise supporting NatSec Cyber’s efforts to disrupt cyber-enabled threats to national security. Academic year internship positions are either part time (16 hours/week minimum) or full time (32 hours/week minimum). Summer internships are full time (40 hours/week). NatSec Cyber does not offer remote externships.”
- The requirements to land this internship include:
- Open to all law students, joint degree, or LL.M. students.
- Applicants must be U.S. citizens and able to obtain and maintain a security clearance.
- Applicants must be enrolled in an accredited U.S. law school at the time of application and throughout their internship.
- Strong analytic, research and writing skills are required. Prior interest or experience in national security, criminal litigation, and internet, digital asset, or blockchain technology is highly preferred.
- Courses such as Criminal Procedure, Evidence and Trial Practice are also helpful.
- X-Force Threat Intelligence Reverse Engineer Internship – IBM
- Job description (pulled from IBM’s website): “This role requires the candidate to provide basic malware triage and run-time malware analysis support. The candidate will review dynamic analysis artifacts and execute malware in a virtual environment to assist incident responders, cyber threat analysts, and reverse engineers in extracting indicators of compromise. The role requires the candidate to understand how malicious software interacts with its environment to determine and explain propagation and potential malicious capabilities. The candidate will write signatures to detect and identify malware and learn to develop targeted parsing and decoding scripts to support automation efforts.”
- The requirements to land this internship:
- Experience with virtual environments.
- Experience developing simple tools or scripts using Python.
- Experience using disassemblers or debuggers.
- Familiarization with operating system internals (Windows or Linux).
- Demonstrated ability to present technical findings through written reports or oral briefings for dissemination to various technical audiences.
- Thorough and analytical, with capability to apply logic to solve problems.
- Initiative to actively seek new knowledge and improve skills and a willingness to learn.
Last thoughts on cybersecurity internships
While the prospect of moving from an academic lifestyle into the workforce can be daunting, an internship can make for a much easier transition.
Cybersecurity professionals can learn hands-on training of items such as malware analytics, risk management and penetration testing in a real-world environment.
Internships will provide an opportunity to network with experienced cybersecurity professionals and build connections that will last a lifetime.
While there are multiple types of internships including paid, unpaid, and externships, all of them will offer unique benefits to prepare students for the real world.
As cybersecurity is a broad term used to cover many different specialties, students who are interested in a specific area (such as computer forensics or penetration testing) should seek an internship focused on those areas.
No matter which kind of internship a student ends up landing, they will all prove to be beneficial on their resume.
Frequently asked questions
A cybersecurity internship provides students or recent graduates with hands-on experience in the field of cybersecurity. It allows them to work alongside professionals, learn about the latest technologies and cyber threats, and gain practical skills.
Cybersecurity internships can be found on job boards, company websites, and platforms. Additionally, universities and colleges often have partnerships with companies offering internships to their students.
Yes, many companies offer paid internships. However, the compensation may vary based on the company, location, and the intern’s qualifications.
To succeed, interns should be proactive, eager to learn, and stay updated with the latest cybersecurity news and trends. Networking with professionals and actively participating in team projects can also be beneficial.
Yes, many companies offer full-time positions to interns who perform well during their internship period.
The duration can vary, but most internships last for a few months. Some companies offer summer internships, while others may have opportunities throughout the year.