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Sometimes Life Has Shortcuts

Sometimes Life Has Shortcuts

How Internships Clarify Career Goals and Increase Job Offers 

By Annaliese Grellmann 

Do something you’re passionate about. Make sure you can pay your bills. Where do you want to live? What’s the job market like? Every college student knows the swirling confusion that comes from only having four years to make a decision that will determine what you do for the next four decades. It’s been said that there aren’t any shortcuts in life, but that might not be true. Internships help students clarify their career goals, get practical experience, and improve their chances of getting a job after graduation.  

Reading about how to give an injection in a textbook and actually giving one are two very different things. Little kids might be fun during a two-hour babysitting job, but a classroom full of them eight hours a day is a different story. Practical experience in the real world of professional life makes a difference. According to the Positive Implications of Internships on Early Career Outcomes, 81.1% of college graduates reported that their internships shifted the direction of their careers by changing the focus of their classes or major. Approximately one third said that their internships significantly impacted their career path, while a little over one third said it slightly shifted their focus. [1] 

Internships teach students the reality of professional life in a way a classroom never can. Among business majors, a 2016 study found that internships helped students focus their career path in three major ways. [2] First, internships help students refine their interests before applying for jobs. Second, it gives students a realistic view of what life in that particular workplace is like. Some students expressed concerns over work-life balance, income instability, and the lack of integrity in the industry they interned in. Third, internships help students decide if that specific job is the right fit for them. After their internships, just over half of the interns preferred to continue down a career path similar to their internships, while the other half shifted their focus. 

Paid internships are 34% more likely than unpaid internships to lead to at least one job offer after graduation. Photo by 

Finding a job is on every college senior’s mind and an internship could help ease that worry. For the past three years, employers have said that internship experience is the top deciding factor between two otherwise equivalent applicants. [3] In 2018, over 84% of graduates had an internship on their application. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines an internship as training under supervision in a professional setting, which can either be paid or unpaid. [4] Although our country has been shifting toward paid internships, many internships are still unpaid. The average cost of an internship in a major U.S. city is estimated to be around $6,000. [5] Unpaid internships have a significant cost, quite literally, but there is a return on the investment. Over half of interns get a full-time job from their internships. Their job offers also increase by 26%. 

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Paid internships are 34% more likely than unpaid internships to lead to at least one job offer after graduation. [6] Although there is a discrepancy between job offers after graduation following paid and unpaid internships, no significant difference has been found in salary level or position advancement five years down the road.  

Trying to pick a career and find a job is no small feat, but internships give students a shortcut. Students can gain insight into the reality of their future careers, help bolster confidence in decision making, and improve future job prospects after graduation. 


  1. Saltikoff, N. (2017, May 1). The positive implications of internships on early career outcomes. NACE  
  1. Rothman, M., & Sisman, R. (2016). Internship impact on career consideration among business students. Education & Training, 58(9), 1003-1013.  
  1. NACE Staff. (2020, March 9). Internship experience the deciding factor for otherwise equal candidates. NACE. 
  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (n.d.) Glossary.  
  1. Zuckerman, A. (2020, May 26). 98 Internship statistics: 2020/2021 data, trends & predictions. CompareCamp 
  1. Saltikoff, N. (2017, May 1). The positive implications of internships on early career outcomes. NACE. 
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