How to Get an Internship in Cybersecurity


Updated October 11, 2023

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Learn how a cybersecurity internship can help you get the professional skills you need to get your first job. Explore different types of cybersecurity internships and where to find them. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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A cybersecurity internship can provide hands-on experience, develop tangible skills, and strengthen your professional network while you're still in school.

Interns get to take classroom knowledge and practically apply it in the real world. You can use the connections you make at an internship to get letters of recommendation, mentorship and advice, and — in some cases — job offers after graduation.

Adrianna O’Dell, a computer science major, found the cybersecurity internship she completed during her junior year to be a valuable experience. She explained why she chose a cybersecurity internship: "Cybersecurity has always piqued my interest, and being able to apply the various techniques I would learn in an internship would help me achieve my future career goals."

We'll learn from O'Dell's experience throughout this guide. We'll also describe the different types of cybersecurity internships available, suggest places to look for opportunities, and explain how to land a position.

Keep reading to learn more about what interns usually do and the benefits of completing a cybersecurity internship.

Types of Cybersecurity Internships

Students can choose from various types of cybersecurity internships. We describe some common options below.

Cybersecurity Internships vs. Externships

Cybersecurity internships and externships can both provide exposure to the field, opportunities to learn from industry professionals, and networking and mentorship possibilities. However, the two experiences differ.

The table below compares cybersecurity internships and externships. Consider some of the pros and cons of each to decide if you prefer one. Also, keep in mind that you might be able to do both.

Comparing Cybersecurity Internships and Externships
Cybersecurity Internship Cybersecurity Externship
Compensation Can be paid or unpaid Unpaid
Focus Taking on a specific role at an organization and completing assigned tasks Observation
Potential Activities Performing work, creating a product, contributing to a project, observation Job shadowing, observing meetings, taking tours, reviewing an organization's documents/literature
Ideal for Students, recent graduates Students, recent graduates, someone considering entering the field or starting an academic program
Hands-on Experience Yes No
Networking and Mentorship Opportunities? Yes Yes

Paid vs. Unpaid Cybersecurity Internships

Internships in cybersecurity include both paid and unpaid options.

In recent years, there is an increased awareness that internships should include compensation to avoid intern exploitation and level the playing field. Unpaid internships can reproduce economic privilege, since wealthier students can take a prestigious unpaid internship without financial worries.

Most students obviously prefer paid opportunities, but financially comfortable students don't immediately discount an unpaid one. Sometimes, an unpaid internship can help get your foot in the door at your dream workplace or introduce you to a mentor with important connections.

Another benefit of an unpaid internship is that you can usually get school credit for them; this is not the case for most paid internships.

In the table below, we compare paid and unpaid cybersecurity internships.

Comparing Unpaid and Paid Internships
Unpaid Cybersecurity Internship Paid Cybersecurity Internship
Academic credit available? No, not usually Yes, usually
Level of competitiveness Less More
Networking and mentorship opportunities potentially available? Yes Yes
Hands-on experience Yes Yes

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Where to Find an Internship in Cybersecurity

In this section, we explain places to look for cybersecurity internships. These are just some examples to get you started in your internship search.

Steps to Getting a Cybersecurity Internship

O'Dell found landing a cybersecurity internship surprisingly accessible. She explains her process: "I would go on Indeed and Handshake and spend at least an hour a week looking for internship opportunities that seemed promising. If I found a company interesting, I would look into their policies and employee reviews.

I would update my resume as needed. For me, the interview was always the easiest part of securing an internship. As long as I showed genuine interest in the company and came prepared with questions, the interview would go smoothly."

Below, we explain typical steps students take to get internships in cybersecurity.

  1. 1

    Search for internship opportunities

    Look for opportunities on popular job websites, but also use your network to find openings. Ask professors, classmates, coworkers, family, and friends about potential options. People often find out about job openings through word of mouth, so the more people you ask and let know that you're looking, the better your chances are of landing an internship.

  2. 2

    Create or update your resume

    Describe what you hope to learn from an internship and list your education and experience. You might want to include cybersecurity classes you have taken and any relevant technical skills. This gives internship hosts an idea of what they can ask you to do and what you're looking for in an internship.

  3. 3

    Prepare for interviews

    In many cases, organizations interview prospective interns to choose the best candidate, just like they would when hiring a job applicant. Practice your answers to common interview questions, choose an appropriate outfit, and make sure to research the company in advance.

What Do Cybersecurity Interns Typically Do?

Specific day-to-day tasks vary depending on the type of internship, the host organization, and the intern's prior experience and concentration area. Internships may provide exposure to new technologies and tools, networking and mentorship opportunities, and the chance to work with industry professionals on real projects.

Tasks may include penetration testing, debugging, reverse engineering, and programming. Interns also might find themselves taking notes during meetings, completing filing tasks, and doing other administrative or low-technology tasks.

O'Dell found that during her internship she worked with a department focused primarily on help desk tasks, rather than cybersecurity. She explains, "I was definitely disappointed, but this also helped me remember that fundamentals will always be important."

Even though her internship wasn't exactly what she expected, O'Dell still got something from it. She explains, "The day-to-day work wasn’t what I hoped it would be. However, this experience definitely helped me get a better understanding of what I’m looking for within a job."

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Benefits of Cybersecurity Internships

Each experience varies, but cybersecurity internships can help students in various ways. Below, we describe potential benefits of completing a cybersecurity internship.

  • Job Opportunities: Completing an internship lets you show off your skills to a potential employer. If you impress your internship host, they might offer to be a professional reference or tell you about job opportunities before they are posted publicly. In some cases, a cybersecurity internship may lead to an entry-level job offer.
  • Real-World Experience: The difference between learning something in a classroom versus actually applying that knowledge in a real-world situation is large. An internship gives students the chance to get their hands dirty and see what it's like in the field.
  • School Credit: Universities often offer computer science and cybersecurity majors academic credit for cybersecurity internships. Students should contact their academic program to find out what kinds of internships qualify for credit. Usually, unpaid internships qualify for credit and paid ones do not.

O'Dell thinks that if students get the chance to complete an internship doing something they're interested in, they should do it. She explains, "Internships are a time for students to figure out what they do and don’t like before they enter the workforce, so there’s no harm in trying out different kinds."

Skills Cybersecurity Interns Can Learn

Cybersecurity internships can provide the chance to polish or acquire important skills, both hard and soft. Depending on the internship, students may get a chance to learn new programming languages, work with industry software programs, and perform data collection and analysis. Internship hosts may let interns help with vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, research, and network maintenance.

Cybersecurity interns also use soft skills related to communication, teamwork, creativity, and problem solving. These types of skills can serve cybersecurity professionals working in any position and for any organization.

O'Dell found that her internship taught her patience and to take her time. She explains, "Once there would be something to work on, it would usually involve spending the day calling multiple people and/or cross referencing certificates. I definitely had to learn that making the world a better place doesn’t happen in a day and it’s okay to take your time with your work."

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Questions About Being a Cybersecurity Intern

How can I get experience in cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity internships provide an easy way to get hands-on experience in the field before graduation. A cybersecurity internship doesn't include hands-on experience, but it does give you the chance to observe and learn from professionals in the field.

What does a cybersecurity intern do?

It depends. Cybersecurity interns do different things depending on the organization they land at, their specific role, and their area of specialization. Potential tasks include sitting in on meetings, learning from mentors, and applying technical skills to a security project.

Do cybersecurity interns get paid?

Students can find paid and unpaid cybersecurity internship opportunities. Unpaid interns usually earn academic credit in exchange for their labor.

Are there any remote cybersecurity internships?

For some students looking for cybersecurity internships, remote positions are preferable. Many organizations offer remote cybersecurity internships. When you search for internships on an online platform like Indeed, limit the results to remote opportunities.


Page last reviewed September 4, 2023.

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