Interested in becoming a software engineer? A software engineering internship is a great place to build skills, network, and start launching your career. Yet what exactly do software engineer interns do, and how can you land a software engineer internship? In this guide, we’ll cover:
- What Is a Software Engineering Internship?
- How to Get a Software Engineer Internship
- Software Engineer Internships Open Right Now
What Is a Software Engineering Internship?
A software engineer internship is a short training program for students interested in becoming software engineers.
Software engineer interns work with professionals to build their software development skills and learn what working in a professional environment is like. Depending on the internship, interns might complete tasks like writing, reviewing, testing, and debugging code, writing documentation, and improving software performance. Interns also receive mentorship opportunities and participate in professional development events.
Software engineering internships are great ways to build the skills you need to succeed in your career path. Completing one also increases your chances of getting hired post-graduation. Furthermore, many companies use internships to find candidates they want to hire for entry-level roles.
>>MORE: Guide to the Software Engineer Career Path
How to Get a Software Engineer Internship
Landing a software engineering internship isn’t necessarily a walk in the park. Still, you can increase your chances of landing one you love by applying strategically and preparing for the interview process.
Software engineering internships can be competitive. Applying early is a smart way to reduce some of that competition. Why? Many companies review applications on a rolling basis, not after the deadline. A rolling deadline means employers look through applications as they come in and move candidates through the process even before the deadline.
Be sure to research companies you’re interested in to determine when they typically open their software engineer internship applications. Some companies even give you the option to set alerts when their applications open. You’ll want to apply as close to this date as possible.
>>MORE: Ultimate Guide to Internship Application Deadlines and Open Dates
Complete a Free Job Simulation
Need help figuring out where to apply to a software engineering internship? Looking to boost your software engineering skills? Curious about what the internship will be like? A free Forage job simulation in software engineering can help you feel more confident going into the application process.
Moreover, completing a job simulation signals to the company that you’re interested in working there and that you already have the skills to succeed in the internship. Putting a Forage job simulation on your resume and discussing what you learned in an interview is a great way to stand out in the competitive application process.
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Apply to Less Popular Locations
If you’re willing to intern somewhere other than a major city, you’ll likely be up against less competition.
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“The salaries that engineers have been commanding in San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and a few other major cities have been making life tough for employers,” Jeremy Grunfeld, director of student success at Forage, says. “Employers have responded by building out engineering hubs in up and coming regions. That means there are heaps of roles available in these locations, but not so many students aware and applying there. If you look at a job application and one of the location options is a smaller city or town, you can be confident that you’ll have the best chance of landing the role if you apply there. These locations are frequently in states like Ohio, Texas, Florida, Delaware, and a range of others.”
Reach Out to Recruiters
Connecting with recruiters at companies you’re interested in can give you a leg up in the application process.
“Attend events, introduce yourself, and send the recruiter a thoughtful message on LinkedIn or via email,” Grunfeld recommends. “Start this early, in your freshman year ideally. Frustratingly, who you know still makes a difference, so this is a great way to be ‘known’ by one of the gatekeepers for the job and to have someone advocating for you within the business.”
>>MORE: How to Find and Reach Out to Recruiters on LinkedIn
Prepare Your Resume
You don’t need much, or any, professional work experience to write a software engineering internship resume.
“Hiring teams are looking for potential as much as they are for demonstrated experience and competency,” says Archie Payne, president of CalTek Staffing, an IT and technical staffing firm. “Interns need to be open to constructive feedback and have the kind of growth mindset that will allow them to learn and improve over the course of their internship. Demonstrating this alongside those skills mentioned above will put candidates in the best position to land the internship over other applicants.”
How do you show that potential? On your resume, be sure to include:
List your key technical and hard skills like programming languages and software engineering concepts. Only list skills you know and can talk about in an interview — you don’t want to get caught in a question about a skill you claim to be proficient in, but aren’t.
Your soft skills are essential, too. Consider: When have you collaborated with others? Led a team? Problem-solved? In your resume’s “experience” section, describe how you worked with others to find solutions or get a job done. You don’t need to include professional experience if you don’t have it. You can include academic projects, or extracurricular activities, like clubs or sports teams.
The company will likely outline what majors it’s looking for in the internship job description. For software engineering internships, this is usually computer science, information technology, software development, or another related technical degree.
“This isn’t always the case and can differ from firm to firm, but as a guide, having a GPA above 3.2 out of 4 will put you in a solid position to be considered further,” Grunfeld says. (Learn more about when to include your GPA on your resume.)
Other Criteria the Company Is Looking For
If the company is looking for specific requirements, be sure to include them. For example, companies might be looking to hire students from particular class years or within specific graduation dates. You can include your expected graduation date in your education section.
Your experience section can include any professional work experience, internships, externships, volunteering, and extracurriculars.
“It is helpful if a candidate has this experience, but I can imagine what you’re thinking, ‘If I’m applying for an internship, of course I don’t have experience, that’s what I’m wanting to get,'” Grunfeld says. “That’s totally fine. If the candidate doesn’t have prior work experience, [they’ll want to know] has the candidate completed personal projects or virtual experiences on Forage? This demonstrates that you’re going beyond what you learn in class and are taking opportunities to apply your skills. The more work experience you have, the less essential projects are.”
So, what kinds of projects should you include?
“Sharing links to personal GitHub accounts, demonstrating prior participation in hackathons/specialized competitions, and highlighting personal pet projects all help to catch my eye and make an application really shine,” says Denis Litvinov, CIO and Co-founder of FunCorp, a mobile entertainment app development company.
Crush the Coding Test
The first part of the software engineering internship interview process will likely be a coding test, where the employer aims to assess your programming skills.
For an independent coding test, the employer will share a link to a common code editor. You can choose what language you want to program in. The company should give you instructions on how long you’ll have to complete the coding problems and whether you can leave the coding editor during the test.
You might also have to do a whiteboard coding test. A whiteboard test is when you complete coding problems live in front of an interviewer. When completing this coding test, it’s crucial to explain your problem-solving process so the interviewer understands how you approach challenges.
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“My understanding though is that the interviewer is more focused on the way you approach problems than the answer itself,” Grunfeld says. “So don’t rush to start coding, start by explaining your thinking and rationale first.”
How to Prepare for a Coding Test
How do you prepare to crush a coding test?
“I’ll keep it simple, the advice for technical assessments (e.g., HackerRank and HireVue) is practice,” Grunfeld says. “You can be an amazing coder and terrible at technical assessments and the other way around, technical assessments are a learned skill.”
>>MORE: Learn how to ace a one-way interview on a platform like HackerRank or HireVue.
Free resources like LeetCode are a great way to practice your coding skills and familiarize yourself with the types of problems you might encounter in a coding test. Try solving a handful of problems a day about two weeks to a month before your interview.
You don’t need to be able to solve every problem on LeetCode. Companies don’t expect you to have advanced-level programming skills — more so basic competency in programming. Generally, you should be able to complete “easy” level problems and attempt the “medium” level problems.
“Practice performing fundamental software engineering tasks under a time constraint,” Payne says. “Internship applicants tend to be very early in their careers and often don’t have much (if any) experience interviewing for these kinds of roles. Because of that, they don’t know what to expect, and this can make the whole process much more intimidating. Having some practice under your belt can help you feel more confident going into the interview, and that makes it more likely you’ll perform up to your full ability.”
Ace the Interview
After the coding test, you’ll likely have an interview to review your knowledge of technical concepts and share more about your experience. (Spoiler alert: it’s OK if you don’t have professional work experience. You can talk about projects you’ve worked on, academic courses, and extracurriculars!)
“Key technical skills include knowledge of fundamental concepts like software architecture, object-oriented design, SQL and databases, and software testing/debugging,” Payne says. “They also look for transferable skills like communication, analytical and creative problem solving, and a sharp eye for details.”
>>MORE: Entry-Level Software Engineer Interview Questions (With Answers)
Open Software Engineer Internships Right Now
Ready to start applying for software engineering internships? Here are a few companies that currently have open roles.
- Open role: GAMMA Forward-Deployed Software Engineer
- Internship application open date: March 2023
- Location: Various
- Graduation date and major: Must be currently enrolled in a Master’s or Ph.D. program in computer research science, statistics, operations research, or a related field
- Programming languages: Python
- Other requirements: Must be comfortable in a client-facing role, collaborative (bonus for software development or DevOps experience), have experience applying analytics to business situations, knowledge of modern machine learning techniques, project management skills
>>MORE: Explore free job simulations at BCG.
- Open roles: Test Automation Engineer Intern Fall 2024 (Meraki), Product Software Firmware/Features Intern Fall 2024 (Meraki), Full Stack Software Engineer Intern Fall 2024 (Meraki)
- Internship application open date: March 2023
- Location: San Francisco, CA, Chicago, IL, or remote in the U.S.
- Graduation date and major: Students pursuing an undergraduate technical degree; people with equivalent experience in basic computer science; students pursuing a software or coding bootcamp; students pursuing an associate degree with a strong computer science foundation
- Programming languages: Ruby or Python
- Other requirements: Proficient in Linux, Rest API, core network protocols (TCP/IP, DHCP, DNS, VLANS, etc.), UI framework (React, Ember, Angular), IPv6 and routing protocols (OSPF, BGP), virtualization or container technology (ESXi, Xen, Docker), and development infrastructure tools (Jenkins, Git, Gerrit, Jira) or Database solutions (InfluxDB, PostgreSQL). You should have CCNA or equivalent certification and be authorized to work in the U.S. without requiring sponsorship now or in the future.
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- Open role: 2024 Summer Intern: Software Engineer II
- Internship application open date: May 8th, 2023
- Location: Bentonville, AR
- Graduation date and major: Expected graduation date between August 2024 and December 2025. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, information systems, software development, or other relevant majors
- Other requirements: 0-1 year of full-time relevant experience (excludes internship and research-based roles). Must be authorized to work in the U.S.
>>MORE: Advanced Software Engineering Virtual Experience
When Do Most Software Engineering Internships Open?
If you’re looking for a summer internship, many software engineering internships at large companies open in early August. Often, these applications are for internships not for the following summer but for the one the year after that! This is why researching and applying early is crucial. Companies are thinking far in advance about who to hire for software engineer internships, and you don’t want to miss your chance of landing one!
Build the skills you need to land a software engineer internship with Forage’s tech virtual experience programs.
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