Why are MBA Internships Valuable


Updated February 3, 2023

If you're getting an MBA, you may want to consider one with an internship. Explore why the internship experience can set you up for long-term success.

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  • 34% of students who completed an MBA internship were hired by the company where they did the internship.
  • 84% of students who completed MBA internships would do so again.
  • 24% of graduates who completed an internship said the most important skills they gained from their internships were soft skills, like leadership, communication, and problem-solving.
  • 11% of graduates say internships/practicums/capstones should be the most important consideration when choosing an MBA program.

The master of business administration (MBA), a graduate degree, develops business knowledge and skills to help students successfully lead and manage organizations. One of the most popular professional degrees globally, an MBA can advance a management career in nearly any field. 

Choosing where to attend grad school for an MBA is a big decision. Learners must consider a variety of factors, including internship requirements. MBA internships allow students to apply classroom knowledge in real-world situations before graduation and develop important professional networks. According to a July 2020 survey of MBA graduates, 87% of respondents who completed an internship agreed that their internship was a valuable part of their MBA experience.

In this guide, we explain why MBA internships are important, the value they offer students, and what to expect from a typical MBA internship.

Are Internships Still Happening During COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed educational and career landscapes, with many colleges and workplaces transitioning to the online environment. Although earning an MBA may look different right now, OnlineMBA's 2020 survey of MBA graduates found that 54% of respondents see their MBA as an advantage when applying for jobs during COVID-19.

As organizations work to limit the spread of COVID-19 through social distancing and other policies, students may find it more difficult to land internships than in the past. Some internship programs are on hold, and schools may suspend their internship requirements.

Students can still complete MBA internship experiences, though they look different than they used to. Many colleges and companies offer remote or online MBA internship opportunities. These experiences provide good preparation for what to expect in the workplace after graduation as we continue to deal with the repercussions of COVID-19.

Why MBA Programs Have Internships 

You may wonder about the importance of MBA internship opportunities when choosing a school. Colleges offer MBA internships because they increase students' employability after graduation. MBA internships give learners the chance to put their classroom knowledge into action, undergo real-world training in the field, develop business skills, and add relevant experience to their resumes. 

MBA internships can also help students develop professional networks, and they may even lead to potential job offers. A 2020 survey of MBA graduates found that 34% of students who completed an MBA internship were hired by the company for which they interned.

Many programs require students to complete MBA internships to graduate. Learners may receive academic credit in lieu of payment after completing a certain number of internship hours. This usually amounts to 1-6 internship credits, but the amount varies by school. MBA programs typically require interns to keep internship journals, write final reports, and submit forms from their internship supervisors, as well. 

Even if your program does not require an MBA internship, consider the benefits of participating in a professional learning experience. Many programs that do not require internships still recommend them as a valuable resource to prepare students for the workforce.

How can you find an MBA internship? It varies by school, but many programs and university career centers help learners find internships through their partnerships with local employers and organizations. In some cases, programs even assign internships.

What To Expect From Your MBA Internship

MBA internships are supervised learning experiences through which students can develop their business skills and apply their knowledge in professional settings. Because of the broad applicability of an MBA, internships may take place in a variety of settings, such as finance and insurance agencies, tech companies, and advertising and public relations firms. 

Internship sites may vary depending on students' MBA degree specialization. Learners may select from several types of internships in marketing, product management, leadership, and strategic finance. MBA interns' roles and responsibilities vary considerably between positions and companies. Some internships emphasize observation and learning through close interactions with supervisors, while others give students considerable responsibility on specific projects or day-to-day organizational activities.

Many MBA internships take place during the summer term between students' first and second years (for two-year MBA programs). Some programs offer MBA internships during the beginning of students' second year of study. Learners usually complete internships in exchange for college credit. Most schools award three credits for each semester-long internship, limiting the number of internships for which students can receive credit. 

MBA internships can be paid or unpaid, depending on the internship site and the college. The business world tends to offer paid internships more often than other fields. Students who land paid internships benefit from receiving credits toward their degrees while also earning money.

The Value of MBA Internships

Why are internships valuable? Earning an MBA is an investment in your future career and salary potential. Future business professionals also gain opportunities for professional networking and potential job offers by completing MBA internships. We describe the potential benefits of MBA internships in detail below.

Gaining Experience in Your Field

Students can learn a lot in the classroom, but nothing compares to seeing how an actual business functions in the real world. OnlineMBA's survey of recent MBA graduates found that 23% of those who completed internships found the most valuable part of the experience to be the personal development and life experience they gained.

Employers offering jobs for MBA graduates often prefer candidates who can demonstrate experience relevant to the job at hand. Even with excellent academic records, students and recent MBA graduates who lack experience may struggle to secure jobs.

Honing Business Skills

MBA internships can help develop a variety of career-relevant business skills that make students more employable. OnlineMBA's survey found that 44% of respondents most valued the development of soft and hard skills from their internship experiences. Each type of internship and employer emphasizes a different set of skills, but common skills gained from MBA internships may include:
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Oral and written communication and presentation skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Problem-solving and analytical abilities
  • Project and time management skills
  • Data science
  • Information analytics
  • Technical competencies
  • Strategic thinking and planning skills
  • Management
  • The ability to take initiative
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Creativity
  • General business understanding
  • Research and quantitative skills

Building Out Your Resume

A high-quality resume can help an MBA graduate land their ideal job. When hiring managers decide whom to call for an interview, they sift through resumes first. Therefore, recent MBA grads should make sure their resumes stand out against the competition; otherwise, potential employers might pass on their applications.

Adding professional experience to a resume can prove especially useful for students who lack relevant real-world experience. Learn more about creating a great MBA resume with this resume guide for MBAs.

Professional Networking

MBA internships offer opportunities for students to build their professional networks. Creating personal connections with the people you meet through your internship gives you more relationships to leverage in the business field. Networking also gives you opportunities to help others.

OnlineMBA's survey found that 11% of responding graduates who completed internships said developing their professional networks was the most important part of the experience. Professional networking leads to future interviews, job offers, and letters of recommendation. Networking also allows students to get to know future colleagues and coworkers and feel like part of a professional community.

Potential Job Offers

Some internships serve as extended job interviews for students, allowing companies to assess their skills and decide if they would be a good fit for the organization. In many cases, companies invite former interns to interview for paid positions as full-time employees. Internships also allow learners to see businesses' day-to-day operations and decide whether they would want to work in those environments long term.

More than one-third of OnlineMBA's survey respondents reported that they accepted full-time offers from the companies for which they interned. Forty-four percent were hired by different companies. These numbers indicate how completing an MBA internship might pay off after graduation.

My MBA Internship Experience

Sheri Holshouser

Sheri Holshouser earned her MBA from Gardner-Webb University in May 2018. In December 2017, Sheri began a marketing internship for a small information technology firm in Mooresville, North Carolina. Sheri is now 31 and works as a marketing manager for Behnam Rugs in Dallas, Texas. Sheri says her internship was vital to her career in marketing, as it gave her the experience to qualify for other marketing positions. Her interests include reading science fiction, being active, and managing her pug's social media account @chloethepugimal.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?

I received my undergraduate degree in Spanish from [Southern Methodist University] with the intention to teach. I found I did not enjoy that career, and all the jobs I was interested in required an MBA or marketing degree. I decided an MBA would offer more opportunities and make me a more marketable candidate.

What MBA program did you attend, and what were its internship requirements?

I attended Gardner-Webb's online MBA program. Internships were encouraged but not required.

What drew you to an online MBA program? How do you think its internship component compared to that of an in-person program?

I needed a program where I could manage my hours and work when I had the time. I secured an in-person marketing internship. I do not believe an internship is required for their in-person program, either.

Where did you intern, and how did you establish your internship?

My internship was with Biz Technology Solutions in Mooresville, North Carolina. I found my internship through Indeed.com. I went through three rounds of phone interviews and one final in-person interview before I was hired. I applied to at least 25 internships. It took almost three months to get hired. Make sure you begin searching at least 3-6 months before the internship starts.

How long was your internship, and what sorts of duties did you perform?

My internship lasted a year. I performed a wide variety of duties, thankfully all marketing-related — no coffee runs. I wrote blogs, created booklets for client meetings and presentations, designed and ordered marketing materials, marketed events, handled all social media, executed drip campaigns, tracked SEO, and [performed] many other assorted duties.

Did you find your internship to be valuable? Why?

My internship was invaluable to my success and ability to be hired in further marketing positions. I have not seen a single job listing that doesn't require prior marketing experience — an internship is really the only way to get in the field if you don't have any connections.

What was the single most impactful result of your internship?

I gained essential experience and a working knowledge of what I learned in school. Having a year of marketing experience on my resume was the biggest takeaway.

What has your career path (or job hunt) looked like after your MBA degree? Did your internship influence that?

When I began my MBA, I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to be in marketing. My internship solidified my goals. I used Indeed.com again to find my next marketing position.

Overall, do you think your MBA was a good investment? Why?

Absolutely. I was able to finish in two years, including a semester spent taking prerequisites, since my undergraduate degree was not directly relevant to my studies. I would not have been able to get a job in my chosen field without it.

What advice would you give to students considering pursuing an MBA?

Do a job search for positions that sound worthwhile to you. If you consistently see "MBA or other relevant degree" as a requirement, that means it's the right path for you. It's worth the investment. Stay focused, and make sure to get an internship, even if it is not required by your program.

What would you tell students trying to decide if they want a program that includes the internship experience?

Regardless of whether it is required by the program, you need an internship — it will open the right doors for you. It may be easier to find an internship if it is required by your program, so consider that before you go with one that doesn't require it.

Potential Reasons To Avoid an MBA Internship

Internships typically require a considerable investment of time and energy. Students who cannot make the time commitment due to existing professional or family responsibilities may prefer to pursue prospective programs that do not require MBA internships. 

An MBA student who already holds a job in the business field may not learn much from an MBA internship. Some students may not find internships relevant to their career goals or interests. Unpaid internships aren't an option for all students, particularly those already struggling with the cost of earning an MBA. Students with jobs may actually lose money if they must miss work to fulfill unpaid internship requirements.  

So, Should You Complete an MBA Internship?

Only you can decide if it makes sense to choose an MBA program that requires an internship. Students who already hold extensive professional experience in business may not gain much from MBA internships, and MBA students already working in full-time business positions may not have time for internships. Financial concerns may prevent some learners from completing unpaid internships.

Students who do pursue MBA internships must make the most of their experiences to find value and importance in them. Learners at all points in their careers can benefit from opportunities to create new professional connections and hone specific business skills. Plus, internships may prove especially useful to students who want to work full time at the companies for which they intern.

Selecting Your MBA Program

Aside from internship requirements, prospective MBA students must consider a variety of factors when choosing potential programs. These key issues may also impact your school selection: 

What types of business concentrations does the program offer?

How long does it take to earn an MBA at this college?
A typical full-time MBA program takes two years to complete.
Is the university regionally accredited?
Is the MBA program accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE), or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)?
How much does the MBA program cost?
What types of financial aid does the school offer to MBA students?
How do you apply?
Ask about the program's acceptance rate and any minimum admission requirements. Does the MBA program require GRE scores or a minimum GPA?
Does the school cultivate a robust alumni network?
This can prove helpful for the job search after graduation or for internships opportunities while still in school.

What About Online MBA Programs?

Increasing in success and popularity, online education offers a variety of benefits, including convenience, flexibility, and affordability -- especially given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. OnlineMBA's survey found that 35% of respondents attended MBA programs that were at least partially online. Amid the pandemic, many are reconsidering their careers, thinking about building new skills and pursuing education to change or advance their careers.

Most hiring managers have come to view distance learning favorably. Online MBA programs often include the same curricula, faculty, and student resources as their in-person counterparts. Colleges rarely distinguish between on-campus and online degree programs on graduates' diplomas and transcripts.

Students who earn MBA degrees online often find the commitment worthwhile, and they sometimes receive unique opportunities as a result. Business professionals use technology all the time and need to constantly adapt and learn to use new tools. Students who choose online MBA programs can gain technology experience while earning their degrees, leveraging those skills after graduation. 

All of these factors, including MBA internship opportunities, may affect your personal priorities for potential MBA programs. To make the best choice for yourself, make sure to research, ask questions, and visit potential schools. Consider starting the process by consulting our online MBA rankings. 

Frequently Asked Questions About MBA Internships

Is an internship important to career growth?

MBA internships can lead to career growth by providing networking and professional development opportunities. A July 2020 survey of MBA graduates found that 34% of those who completed MBA internships accepted full-time positions at the companies for which they interned.

Why do internships matter?

MBA internships matter because they allow students to apply their classroom knowledge in professional settings. Many employers place a high value on candidates who can demonstrate some practical experience.

What are the objectives of MBA internships?

MBA internships' objectives vary between programs and hosting organizations. Typically, they give students opportunities to operate in professional business workplaces, connect with mentors or professional role models, and develop career-relevant skills in teamwork and communication.

How do I prepare for an MBA summer internship?

To prepare for an MBA summer internship, you should conduct background research on the company where you plan to intern. Find out about the company's history, mission, and culture. Also look for practical information like the dress code and work hours.

What skills can be gained from an internship?

MBA internships can develop soft skills in leadership, communication, and problem-solving, along with hard skills in project management, information, and data science.


OnlineMBA fielded survey respondents through Lucid, LLC. All figures, unless otherwise stated, come from Lucid, LLC. The total sample size was 600 adults with MBA degrees. Fieldwork was undertaken June 30-July 20, 2020. The survey was carried out online and met rigorous quality standards.

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