Coursework is Not Enough: Internships are a Must

Careers
Posted By Marisa Sanfilippo on August 10, 2017 at 5:35 pm
Coursework is Not Enough: Internships are a Must

All too often, college students think attending class is enough, and it’s not. Internships are a must, giving students valuable real-world experience that will help more fully prepare them to transition into their career. Even an unpaid internship can help.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers compiles an annual survey of employers with cooperative education programs or internships to discover the most current benchmarks relevant to recruiting and hiring, recruiting methodology, hiring projections, and retention and conversion rates. Surveys represent more than 20 industries and include nearly 300 individual organizations.

According to the 2016 survey, internships are a powerful tool for students who want to open doors to specific fields. Some of the findings:

  • Average job offer rate to interns is nearly 73 percent.
  • Average acceptance rate for job offers is about 85 percent.
  • Overall conversion rate is about 62 percent.
  • Hires who interned at their present job outpace other new hires at the one-year mark.
  • The average hourly wage for interns is $17.69 and for co-ops it is $16.97.
  • Medical and dental insurance are widely offered for interns and co-ops.

Eric Chen, an associate professor of business administration at the University of Saint Joseph, teaches undergraduate and graduate students organizational behavior, law, and strategy classes. His primary research interest is in analyzing employment dynamics, and he actively participates in placing students into internships and jobs.

When discussing the benefits of internships, he offered, “At the very minimum, a job well-done results in good references and recommendation letters, not to mention the acquisition of valuable real-world job skills.”

One of the most common qualities sought by companies looking to fill a position is experience. Working in an internship gives students greater critical thinking and communication skills as well experience working in their chosen field.

Personal benefits of internships

One of the most overlooked benefits of interning is in the personal growth a student can achieve during the process. In many cases, a career that seems appealing is nothing like one has imagined. This can be a devastating realization if one has spent an entire academic career preparing for a job only to find he or she hates it. Internships allow students to learn whether a career is a good fit or whether they should focus their attention elsewhere.

Laura Arndt, co-founder of Matriarc, is an entrepreneur and owner of two health and fitness companies in the D.C. area. She began her first company 10 years ago just out of college, and she attributes much of her success to her internships.

She explained her university required 40 hours at three internships related to her major – exercise science. She chose to work at a gym, in the physical therapy unit at a local hospital, and for a corporate wellness company. She said, “That 40 hours taught me more about my career path and goals than any of my classes, and I thank Elon University for making this a requirement.”

Prior to her internships, she had believed she wanted to be a physical therapist. Shortly after beginning her internship at the hospital she quickly realized this was not what she truly wanted. Her time at the gym helped her realize the sales aspect was not something she could live with. It was the corporate wellness internship that opened her eyes to a new possibility in her discipline and how she received her first job offer.

While Arndt’s internships were a critical factor in her ability to get a job offer quickly after graduation, it was the discovery of a life path that she is most distinctly grateful for.

Maximize an internship

Dr. Luz Claudio, author of How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, has been the director of a short-term internship program for more than 20 years as well as the director of an international internship program for 13 years. She’s mentored hundreds of students in their internships and she has determined one of the most important things a student can do before embarking on an internship is to create a detailed plan.

She says, “Students can get the most out of their time as an intern by creating a plan with their internship mentor to achieve something tangible by the end of their time as interns.” She stressed the importance of creating concrete results that can be leveraged in future job applications and on your resume.

She explained one possibility, “For example, if you are doing a research internship, make a plan with your internship director to complete a research report by the end of your stay.” Those who will only have the time to complete a rough draft can still include the title of the research paper in their resume. Alternatively, interns could offer to keep in touch with their mentor and continue working on the paper, which may result in a byline if it is published. It will also keep communication open with a significant person in your chosen field, which can facilitate letters of recommendation later.

Ticking off check marks next to college classes to move closer to a degree is largely the focus of college students, but it is not the most powerful way to move through one’s academic career. Students need to engage with internships to learn more about their field of study, earn valuable real world experience, and begin to develop their professional network.

Marisa Sanfilippo
Marisa is an award-winning marketing professional who loves to write. During the day, she wears her marketing hat in her marketing director role and at night she works as a freelance writer, ghost writing for clients and contributing to publications such as Huffington Post and Social Media Today.

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