Internship Experience is Essential and Internship Opportunities Are Improving According to Spring 2010 Survey of Career Center Professionals

A new national survey of more than 300 college and university career center professionals sponsored by reveals that students with internship experience have a significant competitive advantage in their quest for employment after graduation. The survey also documents improving internship opportunities for college students. Concurrently, the new survey data suggest a mixed response to the recently updated Federal guidelines for unpaid internships announced by the Department of Labor (DOL) earlier this year.

Virtually all the survey respondents – 98 percent – agree/strongly agree that “employers favor students who have had an internship experience” over their peers who have not had an internship while in college.

Fully two-thirds (66 percent) of the campus career center professionals who participated in the May 2010 survey report that internship postings at their college or university increased this past year (2009-10). Seven of the nine internship categories tracked by the survey – overall internships, summer and academic year, unpaid, and postings by small and mid-size firms and by alumni – all showed gains this past academic year. In contrast, more campuses reported declining numbers of paid internships than reported increases.

Overall, career center professionals report that internship opportunities are improving: almost half (49 percent) of the survey participants agree that internship opportunities this past academic year (2009-10) were “better” or “much better” than last year (2008-09).

“The survey data are clear: students must include internships as part of their college experience,” says Robin D. Richards, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of, the firm that developed the national survey. “Employers prefer to hire students who have worked as interns. And the rising number of internship opportunities reflects the fact that employers recognize the value that interns bring to their organizations.” Additionally, says Richards, “students should be conscious of the opportunities for rich internship experiences at small and mid-size firms.”

Career center professionals view key components of the new Federal guidelines governing unpaid internships as unrealistic. A critical issue is the Federal mandate that employers not benefit from the work of interns. More than two-fifths (44 percent) of the survey respondents deem the mandate that “the employer derives no immediate advantage from the activities of interns” as unrealistic, compared to just 9 percent who assess it as realistic. Also viewed as unrealistic is the Federal requirement that unpaid internships comply with all six criteria in the new DOL guidelines.

Although the Federal mandates were announced in April, one-third (32 percent) of the career center professionals who participated in the survey report that the media coverage of the new guidelines has already had an impact on employers who post internship opportunities at their campuses.

“The survey data reveal that the new Federal guidelines, while well-intentioned, are also unrealistic,” says Richards. “Interns who do well always benefit the organizations that sponsor them.”


The survey of career center professionals was conducted in May 2010. The 305 survey respondents who completed the online questionnaire represent 283 public, private, and for-profit two- and four-year colleges across the United States. Fully three-fourths (74 percent) of the respondents report that they are the director, associate director, or assistant director for career center services at their institution; more than two-thirds of the survey participants (69 percent) indicate that they are the individual who has primary responsibility for internship programs at their college or university. The executive summary is available on the web:

Follow at and for tips on finding internships, hot internship listings, and internship advice.