Interns Wanted: Top 12 Sectors to Streamline Your Search

Updated: September 9, 2020

Applying to internships can be completely overwhelming at times. There are so many opportunities at so many companies, and it’s easy to spread yourself thin as you apply to dozens of places. To avoid wasting your time, it helps to target sectors and employers where your applications are most likely to get results. To that end, the 2017–18 Recruiting Trends report by the Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI) at Michigan State University can really help move things along.

The CERI report draws from a pool of 3,370 employers actively seeking college talent. All told, these employers were planning to recruit 40,200 interns and co-ops in 2018, with a few companies recruiting as many as 2,000 interns each.

Let’s take a look at the top 12 sectors where employers are actively hiring interns:

employers hiring interns by sector

Chegg graph, based on CERI data

What’s the basic message?

If you want to up your odds of an internship offer, focus on internships in wholesale trade, arts and entertainment, information services, government, nonprofits, and retail. If you’re ready to go full click ahead and start applying, check out internship opportunities for the top sectors below:

And while they didn’t make our top 12 list, the CERI report also shows that there’s a small-but-growing contingent of employers in education, healthcare, and administrative services that are seeking interns. To offset the fact that there are fewer opportunities in these fields, consider applying in allied fields that are actively hiring first. Think laterally: Maybe education employers aren’t hiring interns, but can your degree in education be parlayed into a role at a nonprofit (where 89% of employers are actively hiring interns)?

With CERI’s help, you know where to focus your applications. Now’s the time to get applying—especially if you’re reading this during peak internship season. Reach out to employers and get moving on those applications!

What else does the report say?

Because everyone loves a paid internship, it’s important to note that 65% of responding employers said they’ll pay interns. In general, the larger the organization, the better your chances of seeing a paycheck (or five!) during your internship.

That being said, agriculture and natural resources; construction; manufacturing; mining and oil; business, professional, and scientific services; retail; transportation; utilities; and wholesale trade are all safe bets for people who like their remuneration in dollars. CERI’s report notes that, unpaid internships are “rarely seen” in these sectors, where 75–95% of employers paid their interns. The flip side is that paid internships are pretty rare for arts and entertainment; educational services; government, healthcare, and social assistance; information services, or nonprofits.

Still, internships offer you more than just money. Approximately 53% of surveyed employers are willing to hire interns who want to earn academic credit. Another 27% might consider accepting an intern who requires credit, though in most of these cases, the internship will be unpaid. For more on paid internships, check out our guide. Then, get clicking, searching, and applying.

Source credit:

“Recruiting Trends 2017-18 47th Edition.” Collegiate Employment Research Institute, Michigan State University,