Finding an internship in Australia

young intern
Updated 2023-05-13 19:58

Internships are popular in Australia, particularly in larger cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Doing an internship is an interesting way to gain vital work experience, build networking connections, and learn more about how Australian businesses and organizations work. If you are considering an internship in Australia, some things to look out for, as well as visa info, conditions to be met, and procedures to expect, are explained in this article.

Why pursue an internship in Australia?

Internships can get a bad rap as they do have the potential to be exploitative. However, they are also an excellent tool for students and recent graduates to gain practical experience in their field of study and build their skills and knowledge. In Australia, a range of organizations across industries offer internships, including business, education, healthcare, and technology. An excellent way to find internships in Australia is to use online tools such as Australian Internships, although many companies allow you to apply directly without using an intermediary.

Internships in Australia can vary in terms of length, structure, and remuneration. Some internships may be unpaid and completed as part of a university course or program, while others may be paid and offered as a way for an organization to evaluate a potential longer-term employee.

Conditions for doing an internship in Australia

With both businesses and employees recognising the value of internships, there are many opportunities available out there for the potential intern in Australia. It is important to note that internships can be paid or unpaid, so make sure you have the funds to sustain yourself if you accept an unpaid internship. Be aware that even the paid internships are unlikely to pay handsomely, it's more about experience that will benefit you down the line. Make sure to weigh up the wages vs the experience it will provide you with and not assess it as you might a normal offer of employment.

It will be much easier to find an internship if you are already in the country, as most visas for Australia apply to paid employment only, not internships or work placements. The previous visa type which allowed for work experience in Australia, the Occupational Trainee Visa, was canceled several years ago and was not replaced. However, if you are on a Working Holiday visa, for example, you would be well-placed to find an internship. As internships can sometimes lead to job offers, this can be very beneficial for those who wish to stay in Australia after their Working Holiday visa is completed.

Finding an internship in Australia

Internships in Australia are often advertised online through job and career websites such as Australian Internships and GradAustralia. By searching in your preferred city for an 'internship' or 'placement', you should be able to find opportunities within your area of expertise. Internships, even unpaid, can be competitive, so make sure your CV or resume is up-to-date and professional before submitting your application. The Australian style of CV may be slightly different than the style in your home country, so it is worth doing research online or asking a local friend to help you make edits. Career websites now have a section dedicated to tips and tricks for CV and cover letter editing and interviewing.

In addition to your CV, internships may also require a cover letter or application form and a telephone, Zoom, or in-person interview. Internship interviews can be a good way to practice your interview skills in preparation for the Australian job market. Being prepared will ensure the best outcome, which includes doing a thorough read of the company's background and website. Also, ask yourself why you are interested in the position and how your skills and qualifications would benefit the company, as these questions may be asked of you during an interview.

Good to know:

If a company or business is not advertising any internship vacancies, but you are really interested in working with them, it is always worth contacting them to ask if they would be willing to take on an intern or if you can express an interest in consideration for future opportunities. Being proactive and touching base with a potential employer may lead to all kinds of opportunities, and the worst that can happen is that they don't reply.

Potential visas for interns in Australia

Working Holiday visa

If you are considering coming to Australia to undertake an internship, you may wish to apply for a Working Holiday Visa. This visa allows those under the age of 31 to come to Australia for a period of one year with the purpose of travel and work. You can work as an intern under this visa type, although only for six months at one job. It is straightforward to apply for passport holders of most eligible countries. For more information on this visa type, please visit the Department of Immigration's website.

Student visa

If you are studying in Australia, you might be able to undertake an internship as part of your course (or perhaps it is a requirement). In this case, you can apply for a student visa that allows you to work for up to 40 hours per fortnight while studying and unlimited hours during scheduled course breaks. Some internships will be set up as part of a course, but always check with your education provider about the potential for internships down the line, as this may alter which kind of student visa you apply for.

Other visas that may accommodate interns in Australia

The Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa may be suitable for internships that are part of a longer-term employment opportunity. The Temporary Work (International Relations) visa is for those who have been nominated by an approved sponsor to work in a specific occupation under a bilateral agreement, such as the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement. This visa might be suitable for internships in specific industries covered by such agreements.

Things to know before doing an internship in Australia

Although internships can provide amazing opportunities and furnish you with experience and skills, they are also positions that can be exploitative – especially if unpaid. There are a few things you should be aware of when applying for an internship in Australia to ensure you are getting a fair deal.

  • Make sure you understand the terms of the internship, including the duration, hours, compensation (if any), and responsibilities.
  • Research the company or organization to ensure that they have a good reputation and that they treat their interns fairly (this is why entering an internship through a respected university is a good idea).
  • Be wary of unpaid internships or internships that require you to pay a fee to participate. In most cases, it is illegal for an employer to require interns to work without pay, and internships should not cost you money to participate in.
  • Don't be afraid to negotiate the terms of the internship, including the duration, hours, and compensation, if they are not clearly defined or if you feel that they are not fair.
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