Best Places to Intern

Bloomberg BusinessWeek's 2009 list shows employers are hiring more interns to fill entry-level positions than ever before
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How valuable is a summer internship in a recession? Consider GS, the leading choice for students interested in a career on Wall Street. This year, the investment bank hired 600 fewer entry-level employees. That's not surprising given the stunted economy and the government bailout of banks. What is noteworthy is nearly 90% of Goldman's new hires were former interns. The previous year, Goldman wasn't as concerned about hiring a high percentage of students it had already invested time and money to trainonly 58% of entry-level hires had spent a summer at the company.

The same is true for other employers. KPMG, a Big Four accounting firm that finds itself in tight competition with Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, hired nearly 900 fewer entry-level employees this year. But 91% of those full-time hires were former interns, whereas only 71% of new hires in 2008 were interns.

Internships have long been seen as a primary recruiting tool at many top employers—a 10-week job tryout to see who would be the best fit for full-time employment. But with full-time hiring down, even the largest employers are trying to maximize the investment they've made in interns by hiring a larger percentage to fill entry-level position than ever before. "It's true for all years, but I think it's even more so in years like this," says Sandra Hurse, a senior executive at Goldman who handles campus recruiting.

Evaluating Employers

With this ranking, Bloomberg BusinessWeek has put together its third annual guide to the best internships, providing information on the number of interns each company recruits, how many are offered full-time jobs, the number of interns expected to be hired next year, even the salaries students receive.To compile our list, we judged employers based on survey data from 60 career services directors around the country and a separate survey completed by each employer.We also consider how each employer fared in the annual Best Places to Launch a Career, our ranking of top U.S. entry-level employers released in September of each year.

Our ranking of the best U.S.companies for undergraduate internships highlights employers who have put together an outstanding experience for students.Accounting firm Deloitte tops our list, followed by rivals KPMG (No.2) and Ernst & Young (No.3).The last of the Big Four accounting companies, PricewaterhouseCoopers, comes in at No.5, right behind consumer goods giant PG) (No.4.

The employers on our list understand that an outstanding internship experience is their most effective recruiting tool to snap up the top entry-level job candidates. That's why some companies have invested a considerable amount of money in their programs. MSFT:US, for example, estimates it spends on average $30,000 per intern, when you factor in pay and benefits. Considering the company hired 542 undergraduate interns in 2009, that's roughly a $16 million investment.

Experience Abroad

Two years ago KPMG realized it had to make a substantial investment in its internship program if it hoped to woo top students from larger consulting and accounting firms. So the company decided to offer interns an opportunity to gain valuable overseas experience. KPMG lets student interns spend four weeks in the U.S. and four weeks abroad. "It's extremely competitive [to recruit top students], and this is a differentiator," says Blane Ruschak, executive director of campus recruiting at KPMG.

A chance to work overseas is precisely what appealed to Andrew Fedele, 21, an accounting and economics double major at Pennsylvania State University. "I was sold pretty much when I first read about [KPMG's] global internship program." He spent four weeks in Chicago and four weeks in Johannesburg, South Africa. "South Africa has just such an interesting history. To go there and live with the locals and work with them was really exciting."

What did KPMG get in return? Exactly what it hoped: Fedele accepted a full-time job almost immediately after KPMG made its offer at the end of the summer.

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