Professional Development Center

Internships

Definition:

An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent. 

Adopted by the NACE Board of Directors July 2011 

A recent report from NACE (National association of Colleges & Employers) presented these findings:

Class of 2013: Paid Interns Outpace Unpaid Peers in Job Offers, Salaries
May 29, 2013
 

Paid interns have a distinct advantage in the job market, according to results of NACE’s 2012 Student Survey. Overall, approximately 60 percent of 2012 college graduates who took part in paid internships received at least one job offer, according to the results of the survey. 

The survey also found that unpaid interns fared only slightly better in getting job offers than graduates who had not taken part in an internship. Overall, 37 percent of unpaid interns received job offers; 36 percent of graduates with no internship experience received job offers.  

The advantage of the paid internship is especially true among students performing internships in the for-profit sector: Among those interning for for-profit employers, 64 percent earned job offers compared to 38.3 percent of their unpaid peers. Pay status, however, also favors students in the nonprofit and government sectors. (See Figure 1.) 

Although there are other factors that affect offer rate, the study also suggests that differences in the type of work undertaken by paid and unpaid interns contribute to the discrepancy in job offers. Paid interns spend more time than unpaid interns engaged in “real work,” and thus have the chance to gain more of the relevant work experience employers prize.

Results show that paid interns spent 42 percent of their time on professional duties (analysis and project management) and just 25 percent on clerical and non-essential functions; unpaid interns spent 31 percent of their time on clerical and non-essential work and 30 percent on professional tasks.  

NACE’s 2012 Student Survey was conducted mid-January through April 30, 2012. Nearly 48,000 college students nationwide, including 15,715 seniors at the bachelor’s degree level, took part in the survey. A report based on results from graduating seniors will be available later this summer. 

Figure 1: Offer Rates for Paid and Unpaid Interns 

Sector   

Offer Rate –  

Paid Intern 

Offer Rate –  

Unpaid Intern 

Offer Rate –  

No Internship 

For-profit

64.0%

38.3%

*

Nonprofit

42.4%

36.8%

*

Federal Govt

59.0%

39.5%

*

State/Local Govt

49.1%

31.9%

*

Overall 

59.9% 

37.1% 

35.7% 

Source: 2012 Student Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers

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