The Importance of an Internship

It’s no secret that corporate recruiting on college campuses is down.  According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE),  employers indicate they will hire 6.9 percent fewer graduates in 2009-10 then they did in 2008-09.

This reduction in hiring makes internships even more important than ever before.  Recruiters are looking to get the “most bang for their buck” and college candidates with relevant experience leap frog those without it. For engineering, accounting/finance, information technology and related areas of study, previous experience gained through an internship is the expectation.  Those without it will find the job market a daunting and discouraging place.

Why Internships Are Important to Recruiters

Whether companies are hiring seasoned professionals or new employees fresh out of college, they invest both time and money to train their new hires. The faster they can get a new employee up and running, the better. College candidates with previous experience in either the industry, job or workplace are perceived to be a better value.

Additionally, companies with internship programs use them as natural feeders into their organizations.  Employers value the opportunity to have a trial run with a potential future employee through an internship. It allows them to assess whether an intern fits into their corporate culture and quality of work.  It’s easier to transition a former intern into a full-time position than a completely new candidate.

sb87Why Internships Are So Important

Students often go to college, earn a degree and then enter a career relatively unrelated to their area of study in college.

The following basic scenarios occur:

1.) They find a position in their area of study and love it!

2.) They find it difficult to find a position in the field they studied.

3.) They find a position in their area of study and it does not wind up being a good fit.

Students that fall into the first scenario are the lucky ones (and most likely had some previous exposure to their career field.)  Internship experience is even more vital to the student experience than it is for corporate recruiting.  Internships allow students to experience their field and discover if it’s the right fit for them.

It is not unusual for a student to have an internship, only to find out that the career path he or she is currently on isn’t the right one. It’s okay to make this discovery. An internship allows students to find this out sooner than later, and gives them time to make changes or switch majors.

When to Intern

Traditionally, students have sought after and completed summer internships. While summer internships are still the norm, there are frequently opportunities for students to intern during the school year. Since summer internships are typically the most sought after, students should also consider Fall or Spring semester opportunities.  In general, fewer applications are received for non-summer internships, making them potentially easier to get.

Snapshot 2009-10-11 21-22-21All levels of students should seek internships, from freshmen to graduate students. In fact, the earlier students can get quality exposure to a chosen field, the better. (Tip: Corporate recruiters get excited and are impressed when they see motivated underclassmen applying for internships.)

The most important thing to know about internships is that they allow students to explore and prepare for their future career. They learn what the workplace is like, gain an understanding of what their own work habits are and provide students with the opportunity to positively establish themselves as a premiere candidate for future employment opportunities.


Lanie James serves as Employer Development Coordinator for the Career Services office at Oklahoma State University, also known as . She holds both a B.A. in Journalism Broadcasting and a M.S. in Mass Communication from OSU. Her research emphasis focused on emerging and social media in Career Services. Connect with Lanie on LinkedIn or Twitter @JLanie.

Related posts:

  1. Preparing for an Internship
  2. The Importance of Social Media
  3. So, You’ve Got an Internship. Now What?

One Response to “The Importance of an Internship”

  1. I definitely fell under the scenario where I found an internship related to my field of study- and hated it! My BA in Language and International Trade from Clemson University included financial and accounting classes. Going into my senior year, I knew I had to complete an internship req and landed one with a financial services lobbying firm in DC. Turns out, accounting and finance and anything related to them are not my thing.
    Don’t get me wrong, the firm gave me great experience, and I learned valuable transferable skills. I knew after that summer that I needed to branch out in business, leading to my current quest to finish my MS in International Studies- focus in tourism development.
    Thankfully my internship helped guide me in a better direction. And who knows, it might do the same for my fellow classmates as well.

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