Internships are an important experience for aspiring pharmacists.
Not only does a pharmacy internship make you aware of available opportunities in varying fields, they also give you hands-on experience and help narrow your interests. However, not every opportunity is equal.
While there are many internship programs that do a wonderful job preparing students, others leave something to be desired. Yes, the world of pharmacy internships is becoming more competitive. No, you shouldn’t take the first opportunity you’re handed. Instead, use the following factors to evaluate your internship opportunities before accepting an offer:
- Relevance to your career path
First and foremost, the internship program you choose should be relevant to your future career! That’s not to say you can’t change your mind down the road (there are many diverse and exciting career paths within pharmacy), but you should get an up-close-and-personal look at your potential career as soon as possible.
Is it more practical for you to be on campus or at home while you intern? Your financial situation may dictate this decision for you.
- Fair hours
Internship programs can and should be flexible. Most interns are still attending school and have coursework or volunteer commitments in addition to the internship. If an employer doesn’t offer any type of flexible hours to accommodate your schedule, it might not be the best choice for an already busy student. Instead, you could consider interning during the summer, when class and school commitments are much lighter.
- Networking opportunities
Your internship should expose you to different people, allowing you to get to know them personally and hopefully build a relationship with each person. Even if you don’t end up working there after the internship, these people can be your ticket to other opportunities in the field.
While your internship doesn’t have to provide a salary or compensation, it’s certainly nice if it does. Some internship programs, instead of providing money, give interns valuable experiences or professional development opportunities (such as paying for you to attend conferences or membership dues for The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy), books, etc. This should be something listed in the position description, but if it’s not, don’t be shy about asking during the interview process.
- Letter(s) of recommendation
If you do a great job, you should walk away from an internship experience with references or recommendations from your superiors. How else will a future employer know how you’ve performed at previous workplaces in your field? If a prospective internship program does not offer this, it might be worth looking around for a different opportunity.
- Meaningful work
During the course of the internship, you should have access to meaningful projects and assignments that can ultimately become pieces of your professional portfolio. If the internship opportunity consists of mostly mundane tasks and menial assignments, you may want to reevaluate your interest in the program.
Who will guide you through your pharmacy internship period? Will this individual be dedicated to teaching you skills necessary for success? The supervisor for an internship should have enough available time to answer your questions and train you properly. Don’t accept anything less.
What is the atmosphere like? Would your personality and traits fit in well with others? It’s important to evaluate this factor honestly. Most internship programs last an entire semester, and accepting an internship where you’re uncomfortable isn’t the right move for you or them.
Looking for more ways to evaluate pharmacy internships before accepting a position? Visit Glassdoor or InternshipRatings.com to read candid reviews of former employees. Look at any pros and cons of working there to determine if it’s right fit for you.