Importance of Internships Highlighted Again



By Stuart Esrock, Ph.D.

Universities around the nation are increasingly touting internships as a key experience for students to apply what they have learned in the classroom in “real world” settings.  And now there’s additional evidence that students need internships to stand out against the competition as they enter the job market.  

New research by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) indicates that internship experience is the most influential factor employers consider when deciding between two otherwise equally qualified job candidates. NACE based the finding on a survey of organizations across the country; 207 companies completed the survey.  Respondents said a job candidate having internship experience in that specific industry has an edge on other applicants. The advantage is even greater if the student’s internship experience is with the specific company doing the hiring. 

Other important attributes employers consider include the student’s major, leadership experience, general work experience, and involvement in extracurricular activities.  While a GPA above 3.0 remains somewhat influential according to NACE, the average influence rating has dropped compared to last year. Further reflecting the trend of less emphasis on grades, NACE said that only 56.6% of responding employers are now using GPA to screen college graduates from the Class of 2021, a steep drop from the nearly 75% that used this method two years ago.

The director of the UofL University Career Center, Bill Fletcher, said the NACE survey reinforces the need for even more emphasis on internships.  “UofL’s new strategic plan calls attention to the importance of all forms of experiential learning including internships and co-ops.  We have known for a long time that internships provide students with a competitive edge in the job market.  Now we also know how these experiences help to round out the academic knowledge base of graduating students. The NACE study once again provides more direct evidence of how students benefit from internships.”

The table below shows the complete results of the NACE study.  

NACE Attributes