One of the defining features of an MBA program is the internship: a structured, supervised work experience that provides hands-on experience in a professional business environment. Most MBA programs require students to complete an internship.
An internship offers many benefits, including specialized knowledge through work with experienced professionals, general skills and practices for success in the business world, and expert mentorship from supervisors and faculty. Whether it's a year spent at an investment firm or a summer abroad with an international marketing agency, an internship serves as a right of passage, introducing you to the unique challenges of the business world.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers cites multiple studies connecting internships and future career success. Paid internships yield an even higher likelihood of future career success.
This guide introduces the ins and outs of internships for MBA students, giving you an idea of what to expect and what actually goes into arranging and completing an internship. You'll also find strategies to help you locate the best MBA internship possible.
What to Expect From Your MBA Internship
What Will I to Do for My MBA Internship?
An MBA summer internship serves as a crash course in the realities of the business world. Given the variety of businesses and potential internship sites, duties vary widely. However, performing research, preparing reports, and assisting senior employees are all common tasks. The structure of different internships also varies greatly, working alone or as part of a team at different times. An internship offers you a chance to test the waters of the business world and determine your strengths.
In Which Type of Setting Will I Work?
Settings for MBA internships vary as greatly as businesses themselves, but typically the internship environment matches your area of study. For example, if you're interested in finance, then you might intern at an investment firm.
Widely applicable specializations such as marketing or management can lead to internships at an assortment of organizations in media, manufacturing, and healthcare. Distance learners can also participate in internships, often working at companies within their own community.
How Long Will My Internship Last?
Most internships last at least a full semester or academic term. Some schools offer concentrated internships that feature a heavier weekly workload and last 6-12 weeks, while others are spread out throughout the course of an entire school year, with fewer weekly hours required. The sheer variety of available internships makes it difficult to generalize about length.
Some MBA summer internships may not count for academic credit, instead offering practical experience and networking opportunities. When looking into an MBA program, always research the internship component to determine what's required and what options you have in terms of length and timing.
Will I Get Paid for My MBA Internship?
Depending on where you intern, you may or may not receive a paycheck. Internships with more prestigious companies may be paid, but this is hardly a rule. Lower-level internships that skew closer to training programs, rather than regular work, are often unpaid.
Will I Get Academic Credit for My Internship?
In general, internships do count for academic credit, though precise credit equivalencies vary between schools and programs. Often, one semester of an internship equates to the credit amount of a single academic course.
Most MBA programs require students to perform reflective work outside of their internship, drawing connections between course materials and their own on-the-job experience. Some internships also include an additional classroom component that brings students together to analyze their work experiences in a group setting.
How Will My MBA Internship Help Me?
An MBA internship helps students develop an assortment of valuable skills, encompassing both practical workplace experience and specialized business knowledge. Depending on your area of study and internship workplace, hands-on knowledge of any number of business principles, such as marketing, finance, human resources, and management, is available.
Internships provide an opportunity for students to observe real business functions first-hand. An internship also serves as a connection between the academic world and the workforce, preparing you for life after graduation. It's common for an internship to transform into full-time employment, and even if not, professional connections made during the internship benefits future job searches.
When Should I Start Looking for My Internship?
While there are no hard and fast rules about when you should secure an MBA summer internship, it's always better to start sooner rather than later. A 2017 survey from Relish Careers reports that 54% of MBA candidates start attempting to locate an internship by September of their first school year.
Respondents to the survey also reported that arranging an internship requires on average six months of planning. The survey also reveals a compelling correlation between early internship preparation and overall satisfaction: 73% of MBA candidates who began their internship search in August report being satisfied with the experience, while only 44% of candidates who began their search in September report locating a satisfying internship. The study supports the conclusion that earlier application and acquisition of an internship increases the chances of success and satisfaction with the MBA internship component.
How to Find MBA Internships
It's always smart to explore your options and identify the most desirable internship opportunities. Consider the following resources:
- Your School's Career Center: Often serving as the first stop for students seeking internships, career centers offer a variety of resources and company connections.
- Job Fairs: Visiting a job fair creates many opportunities to interact directly with company representatives, which can lead to internship offers.
- Recruiting Events: Companies are always on the lookout for young talent, and recruiting events offer another opportunity for you to connect with an organization in person.
- Alumni Network: Consult with your school's alumni network, which likely features many successful business professionals who may be able to offer connections to internships.
- Job Boards and Internship Databases: Many colleges provide access to job and internship databases online, which may include exclusive opportunities for enrolled students.
MBA Internship Databases
- Internships.com: Operated through the education company Chegg, Internships.com offers a comprehensive, searchable database of internship opportunities, including an assortment of MBA internships.
- Indeed: Job database site Indeed also offers many listings for MBA internships. Users can refine their search by location, company, industry, experience level, and whether the internship is paid or unpaid.
- Glassdoor: Another popular job database, Glassdoor hosts thousands of listings for MBA internships. The site also allows users to set up email alerts to notify them of new internships.
- LinkedIn: Though best known as a social hub, LinkedIn also offers MBA internship listings through its Jobs section. Users can filter results by industry, job type, function, distance, and experience level.
- IvyExec: This exclusive, invite-only job site offers users the most elite internships and job opportunities, typically only available to graduates of the most prestigious MBA programs.
- WayUp: One of the top online job and internship databases, WayUp seeks to connect employers and current or recent students. The site includes substantial listings for MBA internship opportunities.
- MBA-Exchange: Offering job listings, education resources, development opportunities, networking events, and international services, MBA-Exchange ranks among the most useful sites for business students and professionals.
- YouTern: This unique site connects students to internship and mentorship opportunities using social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook.
- Poets & Quants: Focused primarily on international business programs, this site also offers a variety of information and educational resources for MBA candidates of all types.