Internship Outlook for 2012: How You Can Benefit


Great news, students: Internship and co-op recruiting for the year 2011-2012 projections indicate that hiring is up.

In fact, according to the Collegiate Employment Research Institute’s latest report, 70% of organizations plan to seek interns and co-ops for spring and summer roles in 2012, and one-third of these organizations plan to increase the number of interns and co-ops they hire this year. On average, employers will hire about 20 interns and co-ops.

How can you be among the 20 at a company of your choice? Below are four key factors to keep in mind:

1. Size Matters

Data indicates that fast growing, mid-sized or large organizations are the ones recruiting at a higher rate. In fact, 72% of large companies say they currently offer internship programs, and 82% said they would be seeking interns during the year.

While many small companies do offer fantastic internships (in fact, almost half are increasing their programs), make sure to look at mid-sized and large organizations for an abundance of internship or co-op opportunities. Many organizations list their internship programs online, but if it’s not listed, reach out and make a connection.

2. Industry Matters

Industries with the highest percentage of organizations offering internships are oil and mining (83%); non-profits (79%); arts and entertainment (80%); and agriculture (77%). Interestingly, the education sector offers the lowest percentage at 40%. Also on the low end are retail (54%) and administration services (55%).

Yes, industry matters when it comes to internship offerings; but, even if your desired industry is on the low end, you can still find an internship or co-op to launch your career. The best approach is to reach out to companies you’re interested in and ask for an informational meeting to discuss their internship program—even if they don’t have one yet.

3. Location Matters

Though few differences were found across geographic regions in terms of these hiring trends, there were some notable findings. Organizations recruiting near the Great Lakes and mid-Atlantic regions had more unpaid internships than other regions (a high of 18%). The regions with the highest percentages of organizations seeking interns are: the Northeast (74%), the Great Lakes (72%) and the Northwest (72%).

Job searching in another city is difficult, but not impossible. Try to make a trip to your desired location and meet face to face with companies to build your networks. When applying to jobs in other locations, make it clear that you’re willing and able to relocate for the position.

4. Money (Sometimes) Matters

The majority (66%) of organizations said they offered paid internships, while 18% offered unpaid positions and 16% offered a mix of the two. Interestingly, the amount of paid internships is lower and the amount of unpaid internships is higher than five years ago. Again, in terms of company size, very small organizations have more unpaid internships (38%) than large companies (5%).

Any full-time internship should ideally be paid; however, this is not always the reality. Unpaid internships can offer beneficial learning experiences and invaluable hands-on practice. If you have to take an unpaid internship but need an income, try negotiating the hours into a part-time unpaid gig, and work elsewhere on the side.