Volunteering? Internship? What am I doing? Which is right for me?

We’ve all experienced the chicken-egg dilemma that is the work experience-job application. “Applicant must have 5 years experience.” So how do you get yourself out of this situation and into the work pool? How do you get job experience when all jobs require experience? Sign up for an internship or a field course!

The internship: a history

Let’s begin with a brief history of the internship. The term ‘intern’ was originally used to refer to trained medical doctors who lacked a license to practice. When it was later decided that medical school was no longer enough training for the profession, the term ‘intern’ was applied to doctors in training. From there the term found its way into other fields, referring to a concept similar to the notion of an apprenticeship. Thus the internship is born, becoming a way for students to test out potential careers, gain experience,  make money to cover tuition, and for employers to identify future employees.

Internship students attend a lecture on biodiversity

The modern intern

These days internships are often a requirement for graduation from the university system. Competition for these work experience opportunities are now so fierce that nearly all internships are unpaid. Interest is so high that companies don’t need to encourage applicants by compensating them! How do they get away with this? Fortunately countries like the United States have begun protecting interns from being exploited for free labour under laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Volunteering for a good cause

Volunteering is another popular activity for personal development.  I can recall my high school guidance councillor encouraging me to volunteer for a good cause to improve my college applications. And rightly so, giving back and helping others creates healthier communities. We’re all for volunteering, so long as it is not free labour masqueraded as charity.

A SCUBA diver surveys during a field corse research dive.

So why do we mention all of this?

Many organisations offer opportunities to volunteer or intern and it’s important to make sure that your experience in these programs meets your expectations. Our website provides as much information about our marine science field course as we can think of so that there is no question about what you can expect from your time here. Don’t think of this as an internship or a volunteer opportunity because you are getting so much more than just an ‘experience’! You will have the experience of a lifetime and meet great people, but more importantly you will leave our program with new skills that will get you ahead of your classmates and knowledge that will prepare you kick start your career.

We took our experiences in academia, got rid of everything we didn’t need, and added the things that we did. Think of it as a crash course in marine science where you will learn more in two weeks than in your entire university career! Check us out, do a little research, and decide if the Cape RADD field course is right for you!


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