Deciding to go into the field of research is not a choice that should be jumped into quickly. The career of a researcher is not just about working in a lab and conducting experiments. It involves a myriad of facets that keep the scholar busy juggling many responsibilities, from classroom and institution duties to ‘publish or perish’ expectations of research.
When a person spends years preparing for this career by taking extensive and costly courses, only to find out that the requirements of the job are too demanding, it is a frustrating and expensive mistake. But part of the education curriculum is an internship when you’re in the research landscape, and this helps each person prepare for their new role as a researcher in the academic field.
The Many Duties of a Scholar
For the majority of new graduates, the path to becoming a researcher starts with instructional positions. Part of this scholarship that comes with teaching includes:
● Involvement in scholarly communities to continue to grow and engage with others
● Regular curriculum enrichment to learn new material and teaching methodology
● Publishing writing in professional forums
● Participating in professional presentations
● Exchanging ideas with students and immersing them in knowledge-building opportunities
● Working with students who can be assistants in the lab or classroom
● Encouraging creativity and questioning from other faculty and students
● Regularly seeking out opportunities to learn and stay up-to-date with information in one’s field and connecting subjects
● Traveling for workshops, research, and seminars
● Collaborating with colleagues
This extensive workload requires commitment and time-management strategies to juggle well and avoid overwhelm.
How Internships Can Help Prepare the Academic
Internships, also called work-based learning, is a common practice in higher education. Many degrees from bachelor’s level up have internship requirements as part of their graduation criteria. The hands-on experience for interns gives them a chance to participate in authentic experiences in real-world situations under controlled atmospheres before they head off into their careers and are expected to make decisions themselves. This idea is approved and appreciated by instructors and students alike as a significant complement to the classroom knowledge they give and receive and has been a part of many programs for decades.
With work-study programs, everyone wins. Students are able to take what they learned in theory and apply it to practical situations while at the same time building networks of professional contacts. Instructors are able to see what their students have retained and are able to apply while giving them immediate feedback to help them continue to grow. Employers have free, but skilled, workers who can help them ease the responsibilities of their current staff and who may even end up being their future employees.
The opportunity to participate in internships aids students as they transition into their new positions since they are able to close the gap in skills that wouldn’t be possible otherwise going straight from the classroom into their new jobs. Studies have shown that these requirements of hands-on work help to improve the desirability of newly graduated students when they apply for work, boosts the academic outcomes in every field that provides internships, and increases the students’ ability to receive mentorship, demonstrate autonomy, and choose careers that they will be satisfied in.
When a student is immersed in an internship, they have the opportunity to see what is really involved in the career they chose. Even if they decide that, during or after the internship, the field isn’t for them, they have the ability to adjust their path before graduating and feeling stuck with an unsatisfactory job role. Those who choose to continue are more aware of the role they are getting into, which, particularly with research, is crucial since so many hats are worn and tasks must be juggled.