MBA Internships: Opportunities and Benefits for Students

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Tables of Contents

  1. What Are MBA Internships?
  2. The Benefits of MBA Internships
  3. Tips for Finding MBA Internships
  4. Resources for Finding MBA Internships
  5. Strategies for Securing MBA Internships
  6. Land the MBA Internship That’s Right for You

An MBA student might choose to seek out an internship in a large technology company to build a network and learn positioning strategies to help launch their own tech startup in the future. Another might use their internship to build key work experience that can help them maneuver a career switch. Still another might secure an MBA internship at their dream company to make a strong impression that leads to a job offer.

Whatever the specific goal, MBA internships can give people a competitive edge in the job market. This means MBA students should get acquainted with what internships entail and how they can benefit from them. With the right approach, MBA students can find and land an internship that propels them toward their professional goals.

What Are MBA Internships?

MBA students typically work as interns between the first and second years of their programs. Some MBA programs require internships as part of their curriculum. However, many MBA students seek out internships even when their programs do not have such requirements. Schools that require students to participate in MBA internships typically provide course credits for their work, as well as support in finding suitable positions.

MBA internships usually last 10 to 12 weeks and involve a work assignment in an organization related to one’s field of study. Settings for MBA internships can range from investment brokerage firms to healthcare organizations to retail companies. Students typically seek internships in settings that align with their area of specialization. However, some specializations, such as human resources management, lend themselves to internships in almost any field.

While MBA students find internships in many industries, Fortune 500 companies hire the most MBA interns, followed by the manufacturing and technology industries, according to Zippia. Additionally, though not all organizations pay their interns, the median hourly wage for paid positions is about $32 an hour, according to ZipRecruiter. That amounts to $12,800 for a 10-week period and $15,400 for a 12-week period.

An MBA intern works with a mentor at a desk.

What Can MBA Interns Expect?

Job descriptions for MBA internships can vary widely. However, MBA interns can expect to work on relevant projects and assignments that give them an opportunity to apply their classroom learning to real business situations.

For example, finance interns may work on developing business investment recommendations. Business data analytics interns may design interactive dashboards that deliver self-service business intelligence tools to users. Marketing interns may conduct market research and market segment analysis.

Regardless of the specific assignments MBA interns work on, they will likely network with individuals across the organization, giving them ample opportunities to hone their:

  • Problem-solving and analytical abilities
  • Business expertise
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Understanding of key business concepts

MBA internships also help cultivate leadership and communication skills. While leading a product assessment or assisting with employee onboarding, MBA interns may set goals and timelines, facilitate group conversations, and build collaborative relationships. Additionally, MBA interns typically engage in work duties that exercise their hard skills in areas such as project management, search engine optimization, and risk management.

Top hirers of MBA interns include household names such as PepsiCo, Johnson & Johnson, Amazon, and Google, according to Glassdoor. Nonetheless, many medium-sized, small, and startup companies also recruit MBA interns. Why? MBA interns provide companies with a rich pool of talent. Through internships, organizations not only find skilled help for short-term projects but also have a chance to try out these candidates and measure whether they may be a good fit as permanent hires.

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The Benefits of MBA Internships

MBA internships offer many benefits, such as providing students with hands-on experience in their areas of interest before even earning their degree. Landing coveted positions later in one’s career requires having built a history of work experience, while even some entry-level positions ask for prior work experience. MBA internships can satisfy such requirements.

Additionally, MBA internships provide individuals with opportunities to:

Apply Classroom Learning in the Real World

MBA programs offer a foundation in everything from brand management to interpersonal management. However, students need practice applying these concepts and techniques to actual business problems to get the most out of them. Through practice, individuals discover their strengths and weaknesses. They can also identify their gaps in understanding. This information can play a critical role in their growth and development.

For instance, MBA students may study the process of brand management in the classroom, exploring how companies develop pricing strategies and examining the steps taken to design effective packaging. During a branding management internship, however, when interns apply that classroom learning to actual products and services, they learn firsthand about the challenges that can arise throughout the process. They also discover nuances and details about concepts such as brand positioning and value that expand their ability to tackle brand-building projects in the future.

Offset the Cost of an MBA Degree

In addition to tuition and fees, MBA students have other expenses to consider, including for textbooks and housing. On average, MBA students graduate $89,900 in debt, according to fintech lending firm Earnest. Paid MBA internships, however, can generate substantial sums to help offset these expenses.

While median wages for 10- and 12-week internships come out to around $13,000 and $15,000, respectively, top earners can make as much as $53 to $65 an hour. This amounts to between $21,000 and $26,000 for 10-week internships and between $25,000 and $32,000 for 12-week internships, according to 2021 data from ZipRecruiter.

Preview and Gain Exposure to Specific Fields and Jobs

Just as hiring MBA interns gives companies a preview of potential future employees, completing an MBA internship gives interns a chance to preview and gain exposure to a job and company. MBA internships enable students to explore specific areas of business and types of jobs. This can help guide their career goals and trajectories, since it allows them to learn more about the available options and discover preferences they may not have been aware they had.

For instance, an MBA student who secures a project management internship may realize that their passion in the field lies in supply chain management. Or a student hired for a human resources management internship in a hospital may discover that they would rather not work in the healthcare industry.

The new industry knowledge developed during MBA internships provides professionals with useful information about how to shape their careers. It can also help them make decisions about where to work and in what to specialize.

Engage in Work Projects Related to One’s Area of Study

MBA internships offer exciting opportunities for individuals to engage in work projects related to their areas of study. Working on these projects can teach interns valuable lessons about problem solving, while providing them with intimate knowledge of the steps and processes of a position’s work duties.

For example, a product management internship might help aspiring product managers develop key insights about the ins and outs of the role. It might also provide interns with a chance to work on projects that involve the entire life cycle of a product’s development.

Network with Professionals and Form Valuable Relationships

MBA internships place interns in advantageous positions to make connections and build relationships with seasoned professionals. These internships can also provide opportunities to connect with other interns who are building and planning their careers in various specializations.

These connections can help create a valuable network for business professionals in the future. The people MBA students meet during their internships may become mentors, business partners, or references. They may also serve as valuable resources when it comes to learning about job opportunities or even identifying investors for business ventures in the years ahead.

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Tips for Finding MBA Internships

Finding the right MBA internship takes thoughtful planning. Starting off with a personal inventory can serve as a smart first step. Individuals should consider what sector they’d like experience in, if they can accept an unpaid position, and whether they can relocate. When looking for MBA internships, it’s best to use a multipronged approach to uncover all the available opportunities and find the one best aligned with one’s career goals.

Students should keep in mind the following tips:

Leverage Your School’s Alumni Network

Alumni associations and networks are set up to support and promote the university, its current students, and the school’s alumni. So, it makes sense to tap into these resources when searching for potential internship opportunities.

Many university alums help connect current students at their alma maters to jobs and internships. MBA students should visit the alumni section of their university’s career development website. They may also find out about internships through their university’s LinkedIn group for students and alumni.

Engage Your Second-Year MBA Peers

Many second-year MBA students have already completed internships. That means they’ve gone through the search process and will likely have useful information to share about effective ways to find an internship. They may also have knowledge about different companies likely to have internships in different specialization areas.

Attend National MBA Career Fairs

Universities and various associations and organizations host career fairs where companies recruit MBA students for internships. Some MBA career fairs are in person, while others are held virtually.

Some career fairs and organizations that sponsor them include:

Check Your University’s Career Center and Business School for Listings

Many companies contact university career centers and business schools to promote their MBA internships. University career centers and business schools then compile lists and descriptions of these opportunities for students to consider.

Additionally, university career centers frequently have career portals and counselors who provide various services to help individuals locate suitable internships. Career centers and business schools often have information about MBA internships that students may not be able to access online.

Reach Out to Companies of Interest to You

MBA students can also research companies that interest them and contact those companies directly about potential internships. It’s possible they have opportunities aligned with a person’s areas of interest. Even if these companies don’t have available internships, demonstrating interest can serve as an introduction that helps professionals secure a position in the future.   

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Resources for Finding MBA Internships

MBA students have many options when searching for potential internships. In addition to the suggestions above, individuals can explore job boards and intern/employment search engines for internships.

Students can consider the following resources:

Indeed, a comprehensive employment website, culls job and internship listings from thousands of sources across the internet, including job boards, employer websites, and newspapers. MBA students can use Indeed to search for internships as well as receive email updates about new internships as they become available.   

WayUp is a website designed for individuals just starting their careers. It allows users to create online profiles, making it possible for employers to match them with internship opportunities. It also has a search tool that enables users to find internships by location and field.

YouTern helps connect students to internships as well as mentors. Users of the site can find a large collection of articles offering career advice as well as an internship search engine with filters for location and keywords.

 LinkedIn, a social networking site for professionals, provides MBA students with numerous ways to locate internships, including a job search section and LinkedIn profiles and groups that allow employers to contact candidates they’re interested in.

Glassdoor gathers information from employees about company ratings and reviews, salaries, and benefits. This can give MBA students insights as to whether a company would be a good fit. Glassdoor also provides a search tool that can be used to find and filter internships according to keywords and locations.

Chegg Internships provides users with an extensive search engine catered specifically to those looking for internships. MBA students can filter internships according to pay, time commitment, location, company, and keywords. The site also offers a host of articles containing career advice.

USAJobs is an official U.S. government website designed to help individuals find federal employment opportunities. It also caters to college students interested in federal internships.

MBA-Exchange.com serves only MBA students and graduates, offering multilevel job and internship search options to make it easier to find positions tailored to MBAs. The organization also provides leadership development programs.

SimplyHired compiles information about jobs and internship opportunities from job boards, staffing agencies, and business career pages. MBA students can use the site’s free search engine to locate internships by location, skills, and company.

Net Impact focuses on helping emerging business leaders play a central role in building more just and sustainable societies. The organization’s website provides a free job board where MBA students can pinpoint internship opportunities.

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Strategies for Securing MBA Internships

MBA students need to approach the MBA application process strategically if they hope to secure an ideal position aligned with their interests and specifications. After a thorough internship search, MBA students must submit resumes and cover letters to the organizations they hope to intern for. Companies then contact the candidates who interest them to set up interviews.

To improve their chances of landing one of these coveted positions, MBA students should keep certain things in mind.

Search for Internships Early

Many organizations looking to hire MBA students for internships offer company information sessions shortly after the school year begins. Even at the very start of their programs, first-year MBA students should keep an eye out for notices about these sessions, so they don’t miss any opportunities.

Additionally, learning about an internship opportunity well before its application deadline gives MBA students the time to research the company and the nature of the position. Such information is vital when it comes to preparing a resume and cover letter tailored to the company.

Before attending an information session, it may be helpful for students to conduct research about the company and the internships it offers. That way they can show up with more context and ask more relevant questions. Most companies track who attends these sessions, so when MBA students apply for an internship, their information is already on file.

Craft Applications Thoughtfully

Each internship is unique and will require slightly different skills. To best understand an internship and the organization offering it, applicants should read up about the company’s industry and its mission, products, services, and culture. This will help them craft their cover letters and resumes strategically.

Some ways to learn about a company and its industry include:

  • Reading the organization’s website
  • Finding out about company leaders on LinkedIn
  • Checking out the organization’s other social media accounts

Highlight Prior Experiences and What Differentiates You from Other Applicants

During the application process, applicants need to develop a strategy to differentiate themselves from other candidates. This may involve highlighting prior experiences related to the position as well as focusing on accomplishments as opposed to work duties and responsibilities at a previous job. This holds true for resumes and interviews.

During interviews, applicants can also differentiate themselves by sharing specific examples and stories about prior experiences that illustrate their key strengths. Applicants can use these examples to show how their skills and passions align with the position.

Conduct Practice Interviews

Simulating a job interview can help internship applicants perform their best on the day of their actual interview. Practice interviews not only prepare candidates for hard questions, they also allow candidates to make mistakes, identify those mistakes, and fix them for when it counts. For example, during practice interviews, applicants may realize they need to cut down a long-winded response or focus on more relevant examples.

By getting feedback about their performance during a practice interview, internship applicants can improve their presentation and boost their confidence.

Choose Coursework Aligned with the Industry You Want to Intern For

Organizations hiring MBA interns want individuals who have at least a basic understanding of the company’s industry. While companies offering internships are typically prepared to invest in their interns’ growth, they also want something in return. As such, MBA students should align their coursework with the industries they want to work in, so they have sufficient background knowledge to contribute meaningfully to an organization.

If an applicant lacks relevant work experience for an internship position, they can rely on the knowledge and skills gained from the classes they’ve taken for their MBA.

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Land the MBA Internship That’s Right for You

MBA internships can play a pivotal role in helping people make the right career connections. These valuable experiences also help professionals gain industry insights that can give them the competitive edge they need to achieve their goals. Create a strategic plan and get started on your search to land the MBA internship that’s right for you.

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