Transitioning from study to work

The dividing line between unpaid work experience and salaried employment has become increasingly fuzzy in recent years

Employers are increasingly expecting those who want to work for them to complete internships, cadetships or graduate programs. But what should you expect and how should you apply?


An internship is what used to be called work experience – providing free labour in order to get some real-world experience. Volunteering to work for free, often for prolonged periods of time, has now become the most common way of getting a foot in the door for those seeking to enter ‘glamour' industries.

Internships most commonly involve working part-time while completing your studies or working full-time once you've graduated. You can apply for an internship at any time, but many do so at the beginning of the year when they have either finished their studies or know their study timetable for the upcoming year.


Cadetships are the white-collar equivalent of apprenticeships. Cadets receive a wage, but it's generally small, reflecting their limited skill set. Corporations and government departments typically advertise cadetships around February and March and, in some cases, again around July. Always check the website of the organisation you're interested in working for to establish exactly what its cadetship application opening and closing dates are.

Graduate positions

Gradate positions usually involve a reasonable salary (though less than what you'll hopefully earn later on). They are typically offered by larger corporations or government departments to TAFE NSW or university graduates and involve working in a variety of different areas to gain a broad understanding of how an organisation functions.

Federal government agencies advertise graduate employment opportunities between February and June. As with cadetships, corporations typically accept applications around the early part and middle of the year but, once again, you'll need to check with the organisation in question to find out their cut-off dates.

The dividing line between unpaid work experience and salaried employment has become increasingly fuzzy in recent years. Whether it's an internship, cadetship or graduate position, it's wise to do some research and determine both what an organisation can offer and what it will expect before committing to anything.