Ways to find an internship
EPFL provides all students who must complete a compulsory internship access to a list of internships proposed by companies. These opportunities have all been validated by the relevant departments before being published. Using the internship platform of the School is an effective way to find an internship, assuming you apply in a timely fashion once an offer is published, and that you send a well-prepared application file (updated CV, motivation letter, any previous work certificates you may have). The School contacts companies at the beginning of each semester to invite them to publish their internship offers at EPFL.
Students can also find an internship by consulting the career pages of companies, especially the larger, well-established ones, or by contacting companies which interest them directly. Once s/he has found one, however, the student must ask for the validation of the internship by the departmental internship coordinator before making a commitment to the company.
Attending the Forum EPFL (in October), allows you to meet more than 150 companies across a wide range of sectors every year. It can be also useful to contact staff in laboratories active in your area of interest to ask if they know companies in this sector, and finally to consult specialized media and the sites of professional organizations in your field.
Dates of the internship
The internship can begin immediately following the end of the examination period (consult Academic Calendar for the appropriate term) but must end before the beginning of the next semester, meaning up to October first for the autumn semester and March first at the latest for the spring semester.
How to use the internships portal on ISA
The internship platform on ISA is simultaneously a dedicated job board which includes a list of offers, and which also allows students to apply directly to the registered companies.
List of internship offers
The list is updated all year round according to the posting of offers by companies and their validation by the appropriate departments. The company states the ideal period for which it would like to have a trainee. If the interested student is not available for the period indicated, however, it is still worth applying. Indeed, this period is usually not inflexible, and companies often agree to postpone their internship periods to wait for students who interest them.
Also, the company indicates whether it is interested in an internship or in a Master’s degree project. As a reminder, a subject can be the focus of a Master’s degree project only if a professor agrees to supervise it, and if the academic content is sufficient and likely to be reinforced by working inside the company. In other words, the fact that a company states its preference for a Master’s degree project does not guarantee that a professor will agree to validate the subject. The student must approach a professor (or Senior Scientist) who specializes in the area concerned, requesting a priori validation of the project before making any commitment to the company. Often, the subject will be reshaped to correspond to the academic criteria of the Master’s degree project, but it can also be refused by the professor.
Candidates for the internships on ISA can apply simply by downloading their application file (CV and motivation letter required). Optionally, other documents (e.g. certificates) can also be added. It is recommended to send documents saved as .pdf’s with your name in the title (e.g. Dupuis_R_CV.pdf). ISA sends all applications from the School to the employers in a grouped and organized fashion each Monday at 2:00 pm.
If the company’s contact person provided an email address, it is possible to write directly to him or her, but it is still recommended to load your application on ISA, to facilitate the complete registration in ISA, in case you are hired. For all students applying via the portal, the company finds their application documents in a centralized manner on its profile page.
Once an application has been forwarded automatically by the system (on Monday, 14:00), its status on ISA changes to “Sent to the company.” Once the company has consulted the file, the status changes again to, “Selection in process.” At the end of the interview process, or when the company wishes to close its internship offer for another reason, it handles all applications received by changing their status to “Hired,” or to “Not retained.”
Workshops to help in the application process and for preparing to work in a company
Courses are given by the Career Center’s internships coordinator for students in all departments. The program comprises five separate courses concerning the following themes:
Course 1 – Understand and convince the recruiter (Oct.-Nov. )
Course 2 -Effective CV’s (Nov.-Dec.)
Course 3 – The motivation letter (Dec.)
Course 4 – The job interview (Mar.)
Course 5 – Communication and organization within a company (in April)
Each course lasts approximately 1.75 hours (105 minutes) and will be scheduled during midday breaks or in the evening, separately in French and in English. Advance registration on the site bookwhen.com/stages is required.
For information, the normative salary scale established by the competent cantonal authority (Department of Labor) recommends a minimum of CHF 2,000 per month in Switzerland. It is on this basis that the Department of Labor in the canton of Vaud, will decide whether to deliver the obligatory work authorization for non-European students. Nonetheless, salaries vary widely depending upon the employer, the size of the company and the sector. Salaries abroad vary according to each country and their policies concerning internships. In all cases, the position of the School is that this work should be remunerated.
Work authorization linked to student permits for foreign students
All students, as a benefit of having a valid student residence permit, have the possibility of doing an internship, regardless of nationality, provided that it is an obligatory internship within the framework of their program at EPFL. For European students, the company will simply have to inform the competent authorities, and the internship can begin as soon as the announcement has been made.
For non-European students, however, the company will have to ask for a work authorization, which will be granted in connection with the student residence permit assuming that the working conditions are in accordance with the cantonal criteria (see above, “Salary Conditions.”). Strictly speaking, there is no work permit as the student keeps his student residence permit.
Upon request, the internship coordinators in each department can provide attestations to non-European students certifying the fact that the internship is integral to their course of study at EPFL, and therefore compulsory for graduation. The company (not the student) will undertake the process of obtaining the work authorization from the cantonal authorities. The internship cannot begin before the company has received the authorization, however.
It is important that all non-European students who must complete a compulsory internship inform their future employer that the work authorization will be granted (assuming the correct conditions, as explained above), but that the company must still formally request it, and they should allow adequate lead time (approximately two to four weeks, normally) prior to the dates of the internship.
Master’s degree projects in a company
The case of Master’s degree projects is different in the sense that these are academic tasks overseen by a professor or a Senior Scientist at the School. The student can therefore work in the company without signing a contract and without the employer having to request work authorization, regardless of the nationality of the student.