There's a fundamental disconnect between internship theory and practice.
As recently as the 1980s, internships were uncommon and certainly not required for entry-level jobs. Nowadays, they represent a rite of passage for three-quarters of the 10 million students enrolled in America’s four-year colleges and universities. And according to a recent study by Millennial Branding, Inc., the lion's share of employers expect students to have internships on their résumés; 91 percent of the 225 employers surveyed think students should have between one and two internships before they graduate.
Yet the study found that half of those employers haven't hired any interns in the past six months, revealing a fundamental disconnect between internship theory and practice. A couple decades ago, interns may have expected to at least get hired by the same company for whom they gave up their summers. But today, some companies apparently only want interns in the abstract.
The study's methods aren't exactly air-tight; the companies who answered the survey are the only ones of the 100,000-plus companies in Millennial Branding's database that chose to respond to the survey. And not all employers—nor all internships—are created equal. It would be helpful to parse out the industries or companies most likely to hire interns, or the ones who offer a stipend rather than demand students to work for free. (There have been efforts, like this 2010 CollegeGrad.com survey, to spotlight companies who routinely offer full-time jobs to interns.) There has been very little research done on interns, save Ross Perlin's 2011 book, Intern Nation and a few sketchy surveys like this one. But college career centers, especially the ones requiring their students to complete internships for credit, should be actively tracking the companies who reward their interns for their time.
Image courtesy of Millennial Branding.