In the past, college internships generally involved gaining real-world experience in person. Now that 45% of employees work from home at least part of the time, it only makes sense that some internships would be virtual as well. But what are the benefits of online internships for college students?

1. It provides a true view of what working virtually involves.

If you’ve never worked in an online position, it can be hard to get a realistic picture of what this type of work entails. Working virtually can feel lonely for some, while others feel more productive when performing their duties outside of a dedicated workplace. Some like virtual work environments because it helps them avoid “office politics,” while others look forward to seeing their co-workers in person and chatting throughout the day.

An online internship helps you decide whether you would like a virtual role or if you would be happier working in a position where you have to report to an outside location. It helps you see the pros and cons of remote work so you know what to expect and can base your decision on the realities of online work versus a skewed image of what working virtually is all about.

2. It helps you identify any challenges you may face when working remotely.

Providing your work duties from home (or some other location) can present some challenges. If you live with others who are also home, their activities can be a distraction. Other potential distractions that you wouldn’t have in a typical workplace include having the television on, neighbors stopping by, or friends and family calling you throughout the day because they think you’re available since you’re “at home.”

One of the benefits of online internships for college students is that they help you identify your specific challenges when working remotely. This allows you to come up with ways to correct and overcome these challenges in the early stages of your career before you’re in your position as an employee and they become a major issue.

3. It helps you develop the skills necessary to thrive in an online position.

Just as an in-person college internship helps you develop the skills needed to thrive in an in-person role, online internships for college students help develop the skills needed to thrive in a virtual position. This includes the hard skills needed for your desired role, but also the soft skills that can help increase your success.

For instance, you can develop the skills needed to successfully navigate video meetings, such as learning to mute yourself when others are speaking, removing distracting items from the background, and testing your microphone and camera beforehand. You also learn how to develop professional relationships with your co-workers without ever being in the same room.

Perhaps most importantly, you learn the time management and organizational skills that are required when working in a remote position. When no one is there to watch over your shoulder, you have to hold yourself accountable for your time. Online internships provide college students the ability to build this skill.

4. It provides opportunities outside your local area.

If you live in a small town, online internships give you the opportunity to get real-world training in a job that may not be available to you if you were required to do it in person. Since you can work from anywhere, you can do an internship for a company outside your geographical area.

Instead of being limited to internships for companies within a certain mile radius, you can intern for a business across the state, across the nation, or even across the world. As long as your college or university accepts that company as a valid internship site, you are good to go.

5. In some cases, online internships provide maximum flexibility.

Depending on how your online internship is set up, it may allow you a flexible work schedule, enabling you to gain experience at a time that is best for you. If you aren’t required to work specific hours of the day—such as 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., for instance—you can start your workday early in the morning if that’s when you’re most productive. Or you might decide that working later at night is the best for you, after everyone in the house is fast asleep.

A flexible schedule also allows you to work around your other obligations without having to take time off. If you have a doctor’s appointment one day, you just work around it. If your kids have an in-school activity and they want you to attend, you can. You just start your workday earlier or work a little later, no problem.

Summing Up the Benefits of Online Internships for College Students

There are many benefits of online internships for college students. These are just five to consider. If you’re still looking for the right internship for you, or you want to hear from others who’ve successfully gained this type of real-world job experience, check out Saint Leo University’s internships and student success stories page.