Internship or Continue Study?

I’m after some advice for my educational and professional development.

I’m a part-time Industrial Design student working full-time in a non-design role.

I’m up for long-service leave this September (I’m not sure how it is in other countries but here in Australia after ten years continual service you get three months paid leave) and I am trying to decide if I should spend this leave doing an internship or to enrol in full-time study .

I view an internship (hopefully overseas) as a fantastic opportunity, especially since I would be financially able to afford it (using my long-service leave), and it would be great to spend some time in another country so my wife and kids could also enjoy the experience.

A family member who has just finished her degree the hard way (studying part-time while working full-time) has suggested using my long-service leave to ‘overload’ my studies and get as much of my course finished as possible.

I can see the benefits in doing both. I think an internship would be better in terms of real-world experience and it would also be a good break for me and my family, but would finishing my degree first (then looking at an internship later on) be better overall?
I’m about half-way into my degree. It would be another 3-4 years before I am finished if I continue working full-time.

Nice, a three-month paid vacation. We have nothing comparable to that in the US. Is your job guaranteed when you return from leave?

Plan A
Finish your education in the shortest time possible. If you intern now your experience will be several years old by the time you complete your education. And while a three-month internship probably sounds attractive after ten straight years of work, it is not a long time on-the-job; your personal “experience” may not actually turn out to be as pertinent, or extensive, as you may have hoped it would be.

Plan B
Consider taking a sabbatical from studies altogether, and recreate with your family. This will probably be the last time that you can take off three months from life for a very long time (at least another ten years). Interns typically end up working lots of overtime so how much fun would it be, really, for the wife and kids to be abroad if dad wasn’t there with them? Besides, travel, in and of itself, is educational, and opens our heads up immensely.

The last thing you want to do is burn-out on “school”.

I’m going to go the opposite way and say intern. You will begin to understand what working in a professional design environment is about and that experience will flavor the rest of your schooling. Internships are so important.

I would agree with Yo. Go intern!!! I would have focused on completely different things at school if i interned earlier than i did…

There are a lot of internship out there that are not necessarily paid, but you get to work with big companies. If you are getting paid anyway, you can go anywhere and still be able to support yourself.

Thankyou everyone.

I still intend to do an internship, but it is a question of when. I’m still debating what to do but I am leaning towards Lmo’s advice and finishing a big chunk of my course then doing the internship. If I intern next year (providing I am successful in getting one that is) I will still have a few more years of study. If I overload, with more study completed under my belt I’ll hopefully be better prepared for (and successful in obtaining) an internship in 2012 or 2013.

What I’m concerned about is my portfolio. I get excellent grades but my sketching isn’t as good as I’d like. I look at some of the stunning portfolios on coroflot and I get a bit scared that this is the calibre that I’m up against, especially since I’m older (39) with kids and a mortgage and other responsibilities, which might not be the type of intern a firm is looking for.

I’m trying to do my own projects in my own time to flesh out my portfolio. I’ve got a chair that was shown at a trade show, which got some good press, and it’s nearly at the stage of public sale. I figure being able to show a prospective employer that I can go from idea to manufacture to retail is worth much more than showing the same work as the rest of my class-mates. One of the things I note at the end-of-year graduating shows is that you see 40 toasters, 40 wheelbarrows etc. because that was the 3rd year project.

for those interested here is some press on my “Dinosaur Chair”: