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How long do internships last?

How do internships usually last?

How long do internships last? The short answer:

  • Less than 3 months – No firm will agree to this. It takes 1-2 months to get you up to speed

  • 3 months – Standard summer internship length

  • 6 months – Maximum internship length, more common for off-cycle internships

  • More than 6 months – You might as well get a full-time offer at this point

Summer internships last around 3 months and off-cycle internships last around 3-6 months. 6 months is the maximum for an internship to last. And 3 months is the shortest an internship can last. This is because it takes you around 1-2 months to get up to speed until you can contribute meaningfully.

Summer internships start in May/June and end in August/September. Off-cycle internships are year-round internships except during the summer months. Besides the time when the internship happens, summer and off-cycle internships are the same. Both are valid internship experiences.

Summer internships

This is your typical internship with a standard length of about 3 months – 10 to 12 weeks to be even more precise. They start in May/June and end in August/September. This matches with your semester break. Most university semesters end in May and resume around September. These internships last for around three months for these very practical reasons. You only have three months off until September, when you have to return to campus for classes.

Summer is when Investment Banking floors are flooded with eager interns fresh from college campuses. But don’t get fooled. Internships are not paid educational programs. They are serious business. The big goal for those three months is to land a return offer. These are given to interns at the end of their internship. They have proven themselves to be strong performers and the bank wants to keep them for the long term. But getting a return offer is not guaranteed. Some are left empty-handed without a return offer.

Off-cycle internships

If summer internship recruiting moves too quickly for you, you still have the option to do an off-cycle internship. These internships can happen anytime year-round and last between 3-6 months. The duration of off-cycle internships is more flexible because you are interning outside of the regular summer cycle.

Off-cycle internships are more common in Europe, where students would take a “gap year” between their bachelor’s and master’s degrees. They will use this year to slot in two to three long-term internships. Either two 6-months long internships or three 4 months-long internships.

You can choose the length of your internship. The recruiter will ask you how long you will be available. For off-cycle internships, we recommend maxing out the full six months. This gives you double the time to learn the ropes of your company. Off-cycle internships are as well regarded as summer internships. There is no difference. However, there are a couple of advantages:

  • Recruiting is easier – Fewer candidates apply because they are all on-campus studying. This alone will help you increase your odds. Off-cycle recruiting tends to be less structured compared to summer internship recruiting

  • More time to learn – This is especially true for long-term internships of 6 months. You have double the time to learn the ropes of your company. You have double the time to learn the craft and get to know your colleagues. It’s like having two back-to-back internships. A summer intern would already leave the company by the three months mark. On the other hand, you still have three more months to go. A summer intern would need to hit the ground running immediately and has a lot less time to learn how the company works

Why do you need an internship in Investment Banking?

In short: internships are critical for getting full-time offers. Most students that end up as Investment Banking Analysts have done two to four internships before landing their full-time offer. It’s almost an unwritten requirement of how to get into Investment Banking.

In other words, an Investment Banking internship dramatically increases your odds of getting invited for interviews, landing other Investment Banking internships and eventually the full-time offer. This is mainly because of competitive pressure. Your classmates start to collect relevant internships. Those experiences will get them preferred treatment for the following recruiting season. This means you have to keep up.

Yes, most of the tasks you do as an intern in Investment Banking are not glamorous and don’t require rocket sciences. The work hours are long, but there are plenty of reasons why people become Investment Bankers.

How long should an internship last?

Less than 3 months – No firm will agree to this. Firms need 1-2 months to get you up to speed. No point in hiring an intern for two months. By the time they know how the company works, they are already leaving.

3 months – Standard summer internship length. If your internship is during the standard cycle in the summer, you only have around 3-4 months off in between semesters. So, the choice is easy.

6 months – Maximum internship length, more common for off-cycle internships. If you decide to take a gap year to collect some internships, we recommend maxing out the 6 months. This gives you double the time to learn the ropes at your company, which increases your odds of landing a return offer.

More than 6 months – You might as well get a full-time offer at this point. There is no point in interning full-time for more than six months. At this point, the bank has a very good picture of your capabilities. You are either let go or you get a full-time offer.

Additional resources

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