Reasons to undertake an internship whilst doing a PhD

by | Mar 23, 2020 | Blogposts | 0 comments

In this blog, our research communicator and PhD student Gemma Bridge shares three reasons to undertake an internship whilst doing a PhD. This is the last of three posts on Gemma’s experience of doing an internship alongside her PhD.

The three posts cover:


Part 3: Three reasons to undertake an internship whilst doing a PhD 

I was just about to start the second year of my PhD at Leeds Beckett University when I started an internship at the WFPHA. I remember struggling with the direction of my PhD and juggling two part-time jobs alongside my research.

Although I was already under a lot of pressure, I was keen to do an internship. I saw it as a way to broaden my academic skill base and find new ways of approaching research problems.

Moreover, having suffered a chronic injury, I couldn’t keep up with my athletic training. So the internship would also help to fill this gap.

The reasons why you may choose to undertake an internship will vary. This is due to the diversity of skills and experiences you can gain and the opportunities available in your area.

In this post, I discuss three key reasons that nudged me towards doing an internship. I’m hoping this may help you decide whether an internship is the right move for you, too.

Reasons to undertake an internship whilst doing a PhD Gemma Bridge


1. Gain real-world experience

Joining an organisation, whether it’s a private company, an NGO or a research lab, as an intern gives you the opportunity to work hands-on in a professional environment, away from the comfort of your university.

This allows you to ‘test drive’ a possible post-PhD job option and get hands-on experience in a new role. It also allows you to work with new people and hone job-specific skills. Overall, these aspects can help you make more informed decisions about what to do in the future.

Unusually, my internship has predominantly been online since the organisation I worked with is based overseas. Despite this, I was fully engaged with the organisation, getting involved in teleconferences, webinars, research output development and conference planning. I have also been given the opportunity to go to the WFPHA headquarters in Geneva, an opportunity I hope to take up in 2020.

Moreover, the internship has allowed me to hone my ability to condense important information from long reports and academic articles (this is a key quality for a successful research communicator). As a result, I feel more confident in my ability to speak clearly and concisely when interacting with others at conferences and networking events.


2. Develop skills needed for the workplace and strengthen your CV

Having a PhD increases an individual’s chance of getting a job in addition to boosting the salary and improving long term job satisfaction.

Doing an internship can further add to this since the skills developed throughout can make you a more attractive candidate, thus providing an extra boost for getting a job post-PhD.

For me, doing an internship has given me essential research skills. For example, writing for publication, submitting articles to journals and engaging in webinars. These will give me a real step up when it comes to looking for jobs after my viva.

The internship has also given me the opportunity to network with international researchers. As a result, I gained new connections and developed the skills to communicate in a professional environment.

Working internationally has also given me an appreciation for compromise and the skill of listening in order to collaborate with people from different backgrounds and research experiences.

Lastly, the internship at the WFPHA has provided me with a story to tell beyond the three years spent at university.


3. For enjoyment and escape

This may not be the first reason you think of when trying to decide whether or not to do an internship alongside your PhD. Yet for me, the enjoyment was enough to undertake the internship as a doctoral student.

Although it has not been without its challenges, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at WFPHA. I made new connections, opened doors and became aware of new opportunities.

Moreover, at times during my PhD, I have struggled with motivation and needed ideas for how to approach research problems. The internship gave me a much-needed place to escape to, a different focus and renewed energy ready to work on my thesis.

In conclusion, these are the three reasons I felt were most important for me to undertake an internship alongside my PhD.

If you’re unsure whether or not to do an internship, it may be a good idea to write up a list of pros and cons, and discuss this with your supervisor.

If you have any other questions, you can also tweet me at Gemma Bridge @glbridge1.

We hope you enjoyed Gemma’s blogpost series about doing an internship alongside a PhD. 

Share your experiences with us if you’re currently in this situation.

If you’d like to contribute to our blog with an article, please get in touch at

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