How to Quickly get an Internship in Data Science


After studying statistics, probability, programming, algorithms, and data structures for long hours, putting all the knowledge in action is essential. An internship at a great company is a great way to practice your skills, but at the same time is one of the most difficult jobs. Especially with such vast competition.  

Nowadays, many other opportunities are branded as “internship experiences” but they’re not actually internships. A key distinction is as follows: if you’re asked to pay for an internship, then it’s not an internship. An internship is a free opportunity to work in a specific industry for a short period of time, usually shadowing an existing employee or team.

This article will provide you with five tips to help you secure your first data science internship. However, first we’ll discuss what exactly data science is and what the job entails.

What is data science?

Data science focuses on obtaining actionable insights from data, both raw and unstructured, often in large quantities. This big data is analyzed by data analysts as it’s so complex it cannot be understood by existing software or machines.

Ultimately, data science is concerned with providing solutions to problems we don’t yet know are problems or concerns. It’s essentially about looking into the future and finding fixes for things that may happen or might be implemented. On the other hand, a data analyst’s role is to investigate current data and how this impacts the now.

What is the role of a data scientist?

As a data science intern, you will be responsible for collecting, cleaning, and analyzing various datasets to gather valuable insights. Later, with the help of other data scientists, these insights will be shared with the company in an effort to contribute to business strategies or product development. Within the role of a data scientist, you will be expected to be independent in your work collecting and cleaning data, finding patterns, building algorithms, and even conducting your own experiments and sharing these with your team.

5 Tips to Finding Your First Data Science Internship

Now that you know what data science is and what a data science analyst does, you may be wondering how to get a data science internship. Here are five actionable tips to land your first data science internship, beginning with a more obvious one: acquiring the right skills.

1.   Acquire the right skills

As a data scientist, you’re expected to possess a variety of complex skills. Therefore, you should begin learning these now to set yourself aside from your competition and increase the likelihood of landing a data science internship.

In fact, regardless of your internship role, you should be actively learning new skills all of the time, preferably skills that are related to your industry (e.g. data science). There’s no set formula to acquire skills; there are numerous ways to get started, such as online data science courses (some of which are free), additional University modules, or conducting some data science work yourself, perhaps in your free time.

The more relevant data science skills you have, the more appealing you’ll be to employees looking for a data science intern. So, start learning now and distinguish yourself from your competition; you won’t regret it.

2.   Customize each data science application

A common problem many graduate students make when applying for internships online is bulk-applying and using the same CV and cover letter for each application. This is a lengthy and tedious process, and rarely pays dividends.

Instead, students should customize each data science application to each company or organization that they’re applying for. Not all data science jobs are the same — their requirements are somewhat different, both in the industry and the company’s goals and beliefs. To increase your likelihood of landing a data science internship, you need to be genuinely interested in the company you are applying for, and show this in your application. Be sure to read through their website, look at their previous work, initiatives, goals, and beliefs. And finally, make sure that the companies you are applying for are places you actually want to work at, or else the sincerity of your application may be cast in a negative light, even if you don’t realize this.

3.   Create a portfolio

To stand out in such a saturated market, it’s essential to create your very own portfolio. Ideally, your portfolio should consist of one or several of your own projects where you collect your own data. It’s good to indicate you have the experience on paper, but showing this to potential employers first-hand shows that you’re willing to go above and beyond, and that you truly do understand datasets and other data scientist tasks.

Your portfolio project(s) should be demonstrable, covering all typical steps of machine learning and general data science tasks such as collecting and cleaning data, looking for outliers, building models, evaluating models, and drawing conclusions based on your data and findings.  Furthermore, go ahead and create a short brief to explain your project(s), to include as a preface to your portfolio.

4.   Practicing for interviews is crucial

While your application may land you an interview, your interview is the penultimate deciding factor as to whether or not you get the data science internship. Therefore, it’s essential to prepare the best you can. 

There are several things you can do to prepare:

●  Research what to expect in the interview.

●  Know your project and portfolio like the back of your hand.

●  Research common interview questions and company information.

●  Practice interview questions and scenarios with a friend or family member. 

Let’s break down each of these points further.

Research what to expect in the interview.

Every interview is different, but you can research roughly what to expect. For example, you could educate yourself on the company’s latest policies and events, ongoing initiatives, or their plans for the coming months. Taking the time to research the company will come through in your interview and show the interviewer that you’re dedicated and willing to do the work.

Know your project and portfolio like the back of your hand.

To show your competence and expertise, it’s essential to have a deep and thorough understanding of your project and portfolio. You’ll need to be able to answer any questions your interviewer asks, and provide detailed and knowledgeable answers.

Prior to the interview, familiarize yourself with your project, revisiting past data, experiments, and conclusions. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be.

Research common interview questions and company information.

Most data science internship interviews follow a similar series of questions. Before your interview, research these, create a list of the most popular and difficult questions, and prepare your answers for each question. Even if these exact questions may not come up, similar ones are likely to. Preparing thoughtful answers in advance provides you with the best opportunity to express professional and knowledgeable answers that are sure to impress your interviewers.

This leads us to our next point: practicing these questions.

Practice interview questions and scenarios with a friend or family member.

Once you’ve researched a variety of different questions, try answering these with a friend or family member, ideally in a similar environment as the interview. Practicing your answers to these questions will help you be more confident and less nervous. 

Be sure to go over the more difficult questions, just in case they come up in your actual data science internship interview.

Ask whomever is interviewing you (the friend or family member, for example) to ask some of their own questions, too, catching you off guard and forcing you to think on your feet. This too helps you get ready for the interview, since this is likely to happen regardless of how well you prepare.

5.   Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback

You’re not going to get every data science internship you apply for. Even if you did, you wouldn’t be able to take them all. Therefore, we recommend asking for feedback on your interview and application in general.

If you didn’t land the internship the first time, you can use this feedback and perhaps re-apply at a future date. Most organizations and companies will be happy to offer feedback unless they have policies in place preventing them. With clear feedback, you’ll be able to work on potential weaknesses in your application and interview and identify areas of improvement for next time.

Over time, after embracing and implementing this feedback, you’ll become more confident and better suited to the interview environment — a skill that will undoubtedly help you out later in life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do data analyst interns do?

Data analyst interns are responsible for collecting and analyzing data and creating visualizations of this data, such as written reports, graphs, and presentations.

How do I get a data science job with no experience?

Getting a data science job with no experience will be very difficult. Therefore, we recommend obtaining a degree in a relevant subject (e.g. computer science) if possible and creating your own portfolio to showcase your expertise to potential employers.

What does a data science intern do?

Data science interns perform very similar roles and tasks to full-time data scientists. However, the main difference here is that interns often shadow or work with another data scientist, not alone. As an intern, you can expect to collect and clean data, create experiments, find patterns in data, build algorithms, and more.

To Conclude

Data science internships are few and far between, and landing one can be difficult. But it’s not impossible and the demand for these roles is slowly increasing as the field becomes more popular.

The role of a data scientist intern includes analyzing data, creating experiments, building algorithms, and utilizing machine learning, amongst a variety of other tasks. To successfully get a data science internship, you should begin acquiring the right skills now, customize each application, create your very own portfolio and project, practice for interviews, and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on unsuccessful applications.

Best of luck to all those applying, and remember: preparation is key.

Explore Data Workshops