Chemistry Internship Guidelines

Chemistry internships come in a variety of shapes, types and sizes, from entry level summer internships to full paid graduate level internships which are career builders. This article will discuss the graduate level internships, but the entry level internships are strongly recommended for orientation and training purposes.

Finding an internship

Finding a chemistry internship can be tougher than it looks, and it doesn't look easy to start with when searching online. It's a safer and much quicker option to approach finding the internship laterally, starting with a definition of what you want. Narrow down the choices and look for the best internships you can find in your field.

It's also useful to check out the major chemical industry leaders like Dow and Merck, to get a clear picture of top level industry standards. Both Dow and Merck provide excellent, broad based internships for chemistry majors. They're a virtual CV of skills and experience in one place.  If you live in the US, you may want to check their internships out in detail. These top level internships are highly competitive, but if you can get one, you'll be doing your future career a lot of good by proving your credentials to employers. 

Local or regional employers in the industry are a good source of information. They can tell you in seconds what could take days to discover online. Local colleges are also reliable sources of general information, and there'll be at least a few people who will have some leads you can follow.

Before application

You will need to identify clearly the value of the internship in terms of your professional needs. Contact the internship provider, and get clarification of any points or aspects of the internship which you need. If there are specializations involved, you'll want more information on the role of the position and the internship structure. Some internship providers offer tours of their facilities, and you're advised to take advantage of these opportunities if possible.

Internship interviews

The internship interview is a true professional level interview. The internship provider needs to see a range of professional attributes:

  • Knowledge base: Chemistry internships are active roles in a job function. Research the "job" aspects of the position in depth. Also research the internship provider's core business related to the position. You should be able to show the interviewers you're well grounded in these areas.
  • Specialist technical areas: If you're involved in a specialist area like organic or analytical chemistry, your level of expertise is a major factor in the interview assessment. Dealing with specialist subjects requires a high standard of response in order to be competitive. Give yourself a thorough refresher in all elements of the specialty related to the internship.
  • Communications: In the sciences, communication is a professional skill, and in chemistry it's particularly important because of the complexity of some subjects. Make sure your interview answers are technically sound, well structured, and clearly stated. The STAR technique is a reliable interview method for any form of technical information.

If you're unsure of any questions, ask for clarification and any detail you need. It's easy to blow a few semi-understood technical questions through nerves or confusion.