The Rise of Virtual Internships: Universities, Students and Companies Can Benefit From This New Form of Engagement


Teleconferencing, chat messaging and emails transformed the way we do business a long time ago, in recent years, technology has also changed the way we learn with massive open online courses or MOOCs. It's only natural for internships to be done virtually and remotely since most of our current working and learning environments are already online.

Also, most companies are outsourcing some of their work to contact centers in China, India or Southeast Asia because it is most economical. Overlooking a great talent market in here that just need to be tapped to find the next best intern - junior and senior college students, those in the graduate programs and non-traditional learners, invested in learning and willing to undergo an internship, for free. It doesn't get any cheaper than that.

This year Tulane University launched the Tulane Remote Internship Program (TRIP) that allow students to work with companies across the country and complete their internship without having to leave the campus.

This semester there are 35 students who are participating in the program and over 30 companies are looking for their virtual interns, including Time Inc., MWW Public Relations, Hertz, Titan Grove and Broadway Video.

The U.S. Department of State is a pioneer in hiring virtual interns and it has been running its Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) project since 2009. It is the biggest virtua internship in the world established by the Office of eDiplomacy under the State Department, a branch in charge of making sure the government's diplomacy efforts remain productive using technology.

In the program, students apply to be VSFS officers and once accepted, they become "eInterns" to be assigned in any of 27 government offices including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The program is open to college level students or those enrolled to degree programs up to PhD levels. Participants work for 10 hours a week up to a full 9 months on various projects in and out of the country.

Students may find virtual or eInternships more advantageous than traditional internships because of the flexibility in their schedule which they can work to accommodate their classes and since work can be done remotely, it favors those who cannot afford to pay the upfront costs of relocating to be close to the company they chose to have an internship on.

Several universities have had their students join the VSFS and participants in the program agree that it has helped them tremendously in their planned careers.

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