Skipped Your College Internship? You're Far Less Likely to Get a Job in Business

Photograph by Getty Images

College students majoring in business often feel pressure to get résumé-boosting work experience while still in school. Data show that the internship angst may be justified.

Business students who said that they had “business-related internships” were much more likely to report having gotten at least one job offer, according to data collected for Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2014 Undergraduate Business School Rankings, released in April.

Overall, 75 percent of students said they had an internship. Of those, 61 percent had a job offer in hand by the winter of their senior year, compared with 28 percent of students without an internship.

The internship gap persists across industries, but the difference between interns and their peers who spent their summers another way is more marked in some fields than others. In banking and financial services, 70 percent of those with internships had received an offer, compared with 27.4 percent of those without internships. Slightly smaller but still sizable gaps come in consulting, technology, and retail.

Industries where recruiters might look more kindly on your internship-less résumé include health care; advertising and public relations; and nonprofits. In the nonprofit field, 41 percent of students with internships had an offer, and 33 percent of students without internships did.

Is consulting really that much less forgiving than nonprofits toward students who scooped ice cream instead of gaining office experience? Not necessarily. Students were surveyed several months before most of them graduated, so many were still awaiting offers. In fact, only around half of the students surveyed had jobs promised to them. Traditional business fields, such as consulting and banking, may recruit, and therefore make formal offers, earlier than other fields. It may be that students entering nonprofits and advertising rely on internships just as much as junior bankers, but they simply get hired closer to graduation.

Bottom line: Internships matter a lot, but they matter more in certain industries. If you’re entering your senior year and haven’t had an internship yet, consider getting one—especially if your dream job is on Wall Street.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.