College Internship Study

The college internship study is a mixed-method longitudinal research study conducted by the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT).

This dashboard aims to visualize our online survey results. The surveys were administered between Fall 2018 and Spring 2020 to all students nearing graduation from our four partnering institutions. The survey investigates internship participation by student characteristics, barriers to internship participation, structure and format of internship programs, and students’ perceived internship satisfaction and value to their development.

The complete dataset used in the dashboard includes 13 institutions from Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas, and several other states. These institutions include Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCU), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI), Technical Colleges, and 4-year Public Institutions without additional designations.

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Technical Notes

Sampling Strategy

The sampling frame for the study included students in their second half of their degree programs in order to increase the prospects that a student had completed an internship. To focus on students’ experiences in internships and not on related experiential learning programs, we excluded from the sampling frame students from programs with a required clinical practicum (e.g., teacher education, nursing and related allied health fields) or an apprenticeship program (e.g., skilled trades). Stratified random sampling method was applied based on two strata—race and gender.

Definition of Internship

All respondents were asked whether or not they had participated in an internship in the last 12 months, with the following definition of internships provided. This definition was derived from examples of existing definitions and field-tested with a group of career advisors and experiential learning professionals.

An internship is a position held within an established company or organization while completing a college degree, certificate, or diploma program. It involves working at the company or organization and performing tasks similar in nature and skill-level to tasks done by entry-level employees in the organization.

Student Characteristics

Race/ethnicity, gender, parental income, and first-generation are self-reported by the individual in one or more of the categories listed in the dashboard filters. Individuals who did not identify themselves fit in the defined categories were able to choose “Prefer not to report” or type in their self-identifications, which are categorized in as Unknown or Not Listed or No Response. Individuals’ program majors were provided by our partnering institutions. We adopted the major field categories defined by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE, 2018) to recode and group various majors into 11 academic disciplines.

Barriers to Internship Participation

Among the 3,799 students who completed the survey, 1,149 (30.2%) reported that they had participated in an internship during the past 12 months, and 2,650 (69.8%) reported not having had an internship. The 2,650 respondents were then asked if they had been interested in pursuing one, 67.4% (n = 1,786) of them stated that they had hoped to obtain an internship but could not for a variety of reasons. A follow-up item posed six potential obstacles to their applying for or accepting an internship: (a) course load at school was too heavy; (b) insufficient pay offered; (c) needed to work at current job; (d) lack of transportation; (e) lack of child care; and (f) lack of internship opportunities in their field. We asked students to select and rank the six reasons from most important to least important for not pursuing an internship. Please refer to the full reports for the ranked results.

Features of Internship Programs

This visualization dashboard presents students’ self-reported experiences with some internship features, which are potentially associated with positive student outcomes, including the link between internship and academic program, supervisor support and mentorship, Goal clarity, similarity to entry-level positions, and autonomy. Additional program features include organization type, industry or field, and internship duration. Please refer the full reports for the information of additional features.

Internship Outcomes

With the wave one data, we focus on two potential short-term outcomes of internships—satisfaction and perceived developmental value. Satisfaction with the internship was assessed by a single question asking how satisfied respondents were with their internship experiences on a five-point Likert scale ranging from one (not at all satisfied) to five (extremely satisfied). Perceived developmental value captures the degree to which respondents consider their internship experiences have enhanced their academic and career development. Please refer to our full technical reports for findings on the relationship between internship features and student outcomes. Longitudinal outcomes such as employment status and wages will be studied over the next 12 months.

Institutional Type

We include institutional type as a filter category based on Carnegie Classifications. Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCU) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) are designated as Minority Serving Institutions under Carnegie Classification; therefore, if an institution in our dataset has this designation, we include that in their institution type. Technical colleges are also a distinct Carnegie Classification and are therefore included as such in our dashboard. Those institutions in our dataset not designated as an HBCU, an HSI, or a Technical college, are also all 4-year Public Institutions, and have been listed as such.

For more information of institutional context, methodologies, results, and recommendations, please refer to our full technical reports and other working papers.

Suggested Reference: Colston, J., Chen, Z., Rodriguez, J., Hora, M. (2020). Data Explorer: College internship study. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.