Posted August 26, 2019 by

How Important are Internships and Co-Ops?

Employers ranked identifying talent early through internships and co-ops as the most important recruiting factor.

It can be a bit confusing trying to determine what employers want from you as a student or recent grad. While teachers often focus on education and technical skills, surveys show that employers are looking for soft skills, such as being a good communicator and having the ability to work well in teams. The truth is that candidates need to be well-rounded, with a balance of necessary skill sets. However, among all the factors that employers consider, it appears that gaining experience and demonstrating your talents through internships and co-ops ranks at the top of the list.

Specifically, a recent survey of employer members of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) indicated that those mostly large employers are most concerned with “identifying talent early through internships and co-ops,” with 94.9% indicating it as “very” or “extremely” important.

This makes sense when you consider the value of experience from both the students’ and the employers’ standpoints. As a student or recent grad, working in an industry, company or job function, allows you to determine whether you’re really interested in pursuing this career. A job description is one thing, but actually doing the work is another. From the employer’s view, your experience means you have successfully demonstrated your skills and may require less training to get up to speed. In other words, you start with an advantage.

While grades are important, the ability to apply your skills in a real-world situation is critical. Internships and co-ops give you a chance to put what you learned in the classroom to use. Again, not only do you learn what tasks you excel at and what areas you may need to improve upon, employers find it “less risky” to hire someone who has proven themselves.

Finally, internships and co-ops help you build a reputation and form relationships. While you may or may not receive a job offer from your internship company, your supervisor can be a great reference or write a recommendation that helps you land your dream job. Or, a co-worker could introduce you to someone who is hiring at another company. Networking can be powerful!

If you’re still trying to decide if you should apply for an internship or co-op, or just spend next summer chillin’ on the beach, here are a few stats to consider:

  • Your competition has experience: In 2018, over 84% of U.S. college grads had at least one internship or co-op on their resume.
  • Potential job offers: Approximately 50% of students who intern/co-op accept positions with their intern/co-op employer after graduation. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), participation in multiple internships in college helps students to secure employment or enter grade school within six months of graduation.
  • Higher starting salary: Studies by NACE show that graduates with internships and/or co-op experience reported a 9-12% higher salary, on average, than those without similar experience.

Not only do internships and co-ops help you grow personally and professionally, they give you a significant advantage during your job search.

Sources:

2018 Recruiting Benchmarks Survey Report, National Association of Colleges and Employers

“Just how important are internships and co-ops?” by Katy Arenschield, June 2017.

“Study Shows Impact of Internships on Career Outcomes,” by NACE Staff, October 11, 2017.

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