The Alignment Between Internship, College Major, & Career Plan: Differential Experiences Across Gender, Race, & Major Groups (CCWT, 2023)

Liu, R., & Glave, C. (2023). The Alignment Between Internship, College Major, & Career Plan: Differential Experiences Across Gender, Race, & Major Groups. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin–Madison, Division of Continuing Studies.

Abstract: This study proposes a novel tripartite alignment framework for internship studies to investigate alignment among student internship experiences, academic training in major programs, and career plans. Utilizing data from the College Internship Study, we examine demographic and programmatic factors associated with internship-major and internship-career alignment, and how these factors interact to affect overall internship satisfaction. While most students perceive their internships as relevant to their academic programs and career plans, a non-negligible group of students experience internship-major and internship-career misalignment, and the levels of misalignment vary across gender, race, major programs as well as their intersections. In particular, women engaged in paid internships report a lower level of internship-major alignment than women in unpaid internships, while this adverse effect is not found for men, indicating a potentially gendered trade-off between financial gains and academic training when making internship decisions. Moreover, while White students in health majors experience relatively higher internship-major alignment than business students, the same does not hold for Black and Latinx students, highlighting potential disparities in accessing quality internship programs in health sectors. Analyses further demonstrate that internship-major and internship-career alignment are positively associated with overall internship satisfaction. These findings provide preliminary insights into the tripartite internship-major-career alignment and its implications for students’ internship experiences, informing potential strategies for diversifying the workforce and enhancing school-to-work transitions. We discuss future research directions adopting this novel framework.

Keywords: Internship, horizontal match, career development, school-to-work transition