As you consider your options for gaining real-world experience, we have highlighted various types of opportunities for you to consider.

These alternatives can help you to develop skills, build your network, explore careers, and expand your resume. Read on to explore how one or a combination of these opportunities may help you achieve your career planning goals.

Eight Ways You Can Gain Experience

1) On and Off-CaMPUS Internships & Work EXPERIENCES

Internships and work experiences offer great opportunities to explore different industries and work environments as well as to develop relevant skills. 

2) Micro-Internships

If you’re looking for a short-term, project-based opportunity, a micro-internship may be right for you. Micro-internships are available for students and recent grads from all majors and are usually paid experiences.

Several organizations specialize in micro-internships. One example is Parker Dewey, where any student can sign up to access their database of opportunities.


Getting research experience during your time as an undergraduate can be helpful as you pursue graduate school or certain career opportunities. There are many opportunities available to conduct research alongside faculty at Columbia or other universities and research institutes. 

Check out our centralized resource for undergraduate research opportunities: Finding an Undergraduate Research Position for ideas and links to opportunities.

4) Independent Projects

Whether you’re interested in growing your technical, artistic, writing, or other skills, you can offer to help your friends, family, or local businesses with projects. It’s a win-win, since you have the opportunity to design real-world projects that will give you valuable experience.

5) Volunteer AND SOCIAL IMPACT Opportunities

Through volunteering, you can contribute to your community, build valuable skills, and explore areas or causes of interest.

Check out Community Impact at Columbia University for a variety of programs through which you can serve your local community. Also, you can volunteer at the Double Discovery Center as a Tutor or College Success Mentor for low-income and first generation college-bound youth. 

You can find volunteer opportunities aligned with your schedule and the issues you care about via New York Cares. On Help Now NYC, learn how you can help people impacted by disasters. 

Other examples of resources for volunteer opportunities include Idealist, Catchafire, and Taproot Plus.


Be getting involved with student clubs and organizations, you can explore your interests, build your peer network, and gain leadership skills. 

Join one of Columbia’s 500+ student groups, many of which offer ways to explore career paths, offer employer connections and events.

Examples of student organizations include: Engineers Without Borders, Student Council, Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs, Women’s Business Society, Columbia Spectator, and many more!

7) Virtual Experiences

If you want to test-drive a career, consider trying a program like Forage. This organization offers free virtual work experience programs, and participants complete simulated work assignments in various fields.

Connect with one of our career counselors on how to add these programs to your resume and LinkedIn profile.

8) Online Classes

Building industry skills that complement your academic skills is easier than ever before. There are many online sites that offer free and/or fee-based classes in a wide range of subjects.

Check out our tip sheet, Building Your Skills Outside of the Classroom for a list of sites and overviews of what they offer.

Summer Funding Opportunities to Gain Experience

There are numerous programs on campus that provide funding to selected students to participate in summer experiences related to their career or academic studies. 

CCE Administered Internship Funding Programs

Congressional Internship Stipend Program

Build Your Network of Support

Connect with a career counselor for a career counseling session, reach out to alumni,  or utilize your network through mentoring programs like Odyssey or the CCE Alumni Mentoring Program (CAMP).