Updated: May 9, 2016 at 3:36 p.m.
When the Class of 2016 graduates on the National Mall next week, those graduates with jobs already lined up have internship experiences to thank.
GW has been ranked the top university in the country for student internships. Experts said while those connections could give graduates an extra boost in job searches, internships are not necessarily guarantees for post-graduation employment.
For the past two years, GW’s full and part-time employment rate at six months after graduation has hovered around 55 percent, a drop from past years, after officials conducted more interviews with graduates to get more accurate data. About 19 percent enrolled in graduate school in that same time frame, while 14 percent were still actively seeking employment.
Nationally, 62 percent of the 2014 graduating class – the most recent class for which statistics are available – were hired for either full or part-time positions, and 13.9 percent were seeking employment, according to a national study from more than 200 colleges and universities.
In a study of graduating seniors from around the country last year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 72.2 percent of students who completed paid internships at a private corporations were offered jobs after graduation. The offer rate decreased to 43.9 for unpaid internships and 36.5 for seniors who hadn’t completed any internships.
Andrew Hansen, a senior analyst at the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, said he was surprised that GW is slightly behind the national average of post-graduation employment rate, because the job market for recent college graduates in D.C. is better than other major cities across the U.S.
“There are a lot of bad markets around the country, and D.C. is not one of them. Across the board there are more opportunities for higher paying jobs for people who have recently graduated college,” he said.
Still, Hansen said a graduate’s particular major and program is far more important to employers than the name of the school, which is mainly relevant when it comes to creating alumni networks and paying back student loans.
“The way you think about it is not schools competing against each other,” he said. “You get an education degree from Harvard you’re not going to make as much money as a STEM major from any state school.”
Top of the rankings
The Princeton Review ranked GW No. 1 in internship opportunities for the second year running, a statistic that is prominently displayed on the University’s admissions website to recruit incoming freshman classes.
Rachel Brown, the director of the Center for Career Services said more than 15,000 internships as well as part-time and full-time job opportunities are posted each year to its employment database, GWork – more than one for each of GW’s about 10,000 undergraduate students.
“GW is consistently recognized for the success our students have securing internships, which are an important part of a well-rounded undergraduate experience,” she said. “Our smart, ambitious students make the most of their experiences, translating their internships into professional development opportunities and even jobs.”
In the past few years, officials have put a renewed effort into making internships more accessible and affordable for students. Officials recently completed a three-year overhaul of the Center for Career Services and committed to raising its budget by $20 million over the next decade.
The Center for Career for Services launched a fund in 2013 to provide students with up to $3,000 for unpaid internships, typically in nonprofits or government positions. Last year, after the University slashed the cost of an online summer internship elective course from $1,300 to $50.
“The main gateway”
Experts said employers’ increased focus on internships has changed expectations for how students prepare for the workforce.
Allison Cheston, an independent career consultant who helps college graduates find jobs, said internships show employers that a recent graduate has “the maturity and perspective to thrive in a full-time job.”
“For most careers, having an internship during college is the main gateway to a full-time job post-graduation,” she said. “Those students who don’t have summer internships on their resumes will likely be viewed with suspicion.”
She added that unless graduates can show that they have these skills in other ways, they will have difficulty landing a job without an internship listed on their resumes.
Hansen, the Georgetown analyst, said students’ GPAs matter “very little” on the job market compared to their majors or work experiences, and that even an unpaid internship often is much less helpful on a resume, because employers that offer paid internships tend to be private companies in science, mathematics, technology, engineering or finance that offer more lucrative entry-level positions.
Hansen said universities have tried to meet the growing demand for internship experiences by building their own programs to connect students to employers. In addition to advancing a school’s reputation, these programs are often cheaper for universities because they still collect tuition without having to pay the administrative costs of holding classes, he said.
Some institutions, notably Northeastern and Drexel universities, offer cooperative education programs in which students alternate semesters taking classes and working full time in a position related to their majors.
“Although colleges recognize that work experience is really important, they are still trying to figure out ways to connect college experience to a more career-minded focus,” Hansen said.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that last year officials reduced the cost of a for-credit internship from $1,300 to $50. This reduction is only applicable to an online internship elective course in the summer. The Hatchet also reported that 15,000 internship opportunities are posted GWork. That number includes internships as well as part-time and full-time jobs. We regret these errors.