1.2 Students: Pursuing an Internship

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand that internships are extremely helpful in your career because they support what you think you want to do, give you ideas of what you might like to do, or identify exactly what you do not want to do.
  2. Understand the timing of the on-campus internship season and maximize your efforts to find a job.

Reasons to Pursue an Internship

Internships are some of the most important experiences you can have while you are in college because they either confirm the career you want or confirm the careers you know you do not want! Students can pursue internships at every stage of their college career. However, the majority of firms focus on juniors or graduate students because they are the feeder pool to a firm’s full-time hires. In some large firms in specific industries such as banking and management consulting, 80–90 percent of the summer class receive a full-time offer. The most important internship is the one you secure for the summer of your junior year or between years of graduate school because that internship will most likely result in the extension of a full-time offer. Internships are available for freshmen and sophomores but may require a bit more work to secure because companies are more prone to hiring juniors. Smaller firms or organizations still focus on juniors, but sophomores and freshman have a chance to impress as well.

Timing Considerations

The most common internship is a summer internship, which lasts approximately ten weeks and begins in mid- to late May or very early June and ends in early to mid-August. The ten-week period usually begins with an orientation, and then you will be hard at work pursuing your deliverables. You may or may not have some training sprinkled throughout the ten weeks, but at the very least you should have several opportunities to network throughout the summer.

It is worth noting that some internship opportunities extend past the summer, and others are exclusively labeled fall, winter, or spring internships. Whatever the season, the experience you will garner from such opportunities can be extremely helpful to your full-time job search and will go a long way toward strengthening your résumé and value proposition to your future employer.

Table 1.5 "On-Campus Recruiting Calendar: Juniors, Sophomores, and Freshmen as well as First-Year MBA Students" outlines the recruiting calendar for internships. It may be helpful to use this and sync the dates and months with your school calendar and potential employers so you know exactly what to do at every turn.

Table 1.5 On-Campus Recruiting Calendar: Juniors, Sophomores, and Freshmen as well as First-Year MBA Students

School Calendar On-Campus Recruiting Schedule
Aug. School begins Companies begin screening résumés for summer internships.
Sept. Semester in full swing Companies begin marketing opportunities on campus and continue to screen résumés.
Oct. Midterms Companies begin on-campus interviewing and some summer offers are extended.
Nov. Preparation for end of semester; finals next month Some summer offers must be accepted or declined. Summer intern candidates send résumés and apply for positions.
Dec. Semester ends; winter break begins Summer candidates continue to apply for summer opportunities; some are contacted for interviews.
Jan. Winter break, classes begin mid- to late Jan. Summer candidates are contacted for on-campus interviews. Interviews begin. Some offers are extended.
Feb. Semester in full swing Some offer deadlines are extended. Interviews continue. Some have deadline acceptance dates.
Mar. Midterms Interviews trail off. Most summer opportunities have been accepted or declined.
Apr. Semester winding down; finals next month Summer new hire paper work sent to future interns.
May Classes end; some internships begin Some summer internships begin.
June Summer internships begin and are soon in full swing Remaining summer internships begin and are soon in full swing.
July Summer internships in full swing, ending early Aug. Summer internships in full swing, ending in early Aug.
Note: Certain industries have more aggressive recruiting timelines than others. For example, investment banking, sales and trading, and consulting are typically the first industries to conduct on-campus interviewing in both the fall (September and October) and the spring (January and February). All other industries typically recruit later in the academic year: technology, marketing, communications, teaching, and so forth. It’s best to check with career services, and with your classmates one or two years ahead of you, regarding this schedule, so you are best prepared. Note also that this chart represents only those companies that come to your campus to recruit. A vast number of opportunities are available, but not every opportunity will be listed with your career services office. Searches in the field of health care, teaching, and communications, to name a few, have to be managed off campus, where you are responsible for networking with decision makers, sending your marketing materials (your résumé, cover letter, and so forth), and obtaining interviews. This is challenging, but using the six-step job search process outlined in this book will help keep you on track.

Internship Performance

It’s wise to understand your performance measuresSkills on which you are evaluated, like teamwork, communication, specific knowledge, and so on. during your internship. You might be evaluated on certain skills such as teamwork, communication, specific knowledge, and so on. Larger companies are more likely to have a formal performance review process. They sometimes share the performance metrics with you at the beginning of the summer, so there are no surprises. Some larger corporations also have other interns rate your performance because teamwork is so important. The more you know about your performance measurement, the more likely you are to succeed.

Internship Compensation

The best-case scenario would be to have a paid internship in your chosen field, so you can build upon the skills necessary to position yourself for a full-time job offer. However, in some industries, such as the arts, advertising, media and entertainment, public relations (PR), nonprofit, and government, unpaid internships or those that pay only a stipend are standard. In down economies, even industries that formerly offered predominately paid internships offer unpaid internships. Unpaid internships require that you receive credit for the internship. Research the credit aspect in advance. Each school produces a form or letter on school letterhead that confirms the school’s approval in advance of you receiving credit for an internship. Some organizations do not check for proper credit authorization, but many do, so it’s best to sort out credit requirements before you start your search.

Paid internships can vary from minimum wage up to a summer salary commensurateEqual to. with a full-time salary. Some companies pay according to your year in school, for example, some pay $10 per hour for a freshman, $12 per hour for a sophomore, $15 for a junior. The range is wide and varies by industry, size of company, role or functional area of intern, and geography, as illustrated in Table 1.6 "Internship Salary Differentiators".

Table 1.6 Internship Salary Differentiators

Differentiating Factor How Salaries Differ

Private sector often pays more than public sector or nonprofit

Banking, consulting, and technology often pay more than advertising, retail, or entertainment

Size of company Big companies are more likely to have structured programs with higher pay (That said, sometimes small companies offer higher pay to stay competitive.)
Role or functional area of intern Technical jobs (e.g., IT, engineering, graphic design) often pay more than other roles
Geography Major metros often pay more than smaller geographies

Key Takeaways

  • The larger the company, the more structured the internship program may be.
  • Summer Internships last approximately ten weeks, roughly from late May or early June until early August.
  • Other seasonal internships exist, but by far, the summer internship is the most popular. All should be explored, however.


  1. Look up three or four summer internship job descriptions in your area of interest that recruit on campus at your school and determine if you would like to apply. Learn what you need to do to apply via on-campus recruiting. Be especially mindful of deadlines.
  2. Identify two or three summer internship job descriptions, in your area of interest, from companies that do not recruit at your school. Learn what you need to do to apply. Be especially mindful of deadlines.