A Hot Summer Intern Market For Business Undergrads

Undergraduate internship recruiting on business school campuses used to follow a tried and true timeline, with companies first coming on campus in the winter months to start recruiting students for summer internships.

Today that’s no longer the case, with many recruiters flocking to campus in the fall to snag top talent, and in some instances even before the student sets foot on campus, said Pamela Brown, senior director of the BBA Career Management Center at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

For example, accounting firm Ernst & Young made an internship offer last summer to a rising junior for the summer of 2015, taking the student out of the running for other internships before traditional fall campus internship recruiting even began, she said. Another large accounting firm targeted several top Goizueta students last summer, promising them prime internship interview slots when they came back to school in the fall.

This summer her jaw nearly dropped when Nestle announced just a few weeks after graduation that students could start applying now for 2016 summer internships. “I was like, it is freaking June,” Brown said. “There is no industry standard anymore. It is a little crazy. It always starts with finance and consulting doing things earlier and everyone else follows suit.”


Internship season is in full swing for undergraduate business schools, with business majors flocking to cities such as New York, Boston and Atlanta to get experience at banks, consulting firms and other companies in the hopes of landing a full-time job offer. Many of the students currently interning landed these jobs earlier than they expected, taking them and career services officers by surprise.

Pamela Brown of Emory's Goizueta School of Business

Pamela Brown of Emory’s Goizueta School of Business

It’s one indication that 2015 is shaping up to be yet another banner year for business undergraduates, with career services officers at half-a-dozen top undergraduate business programs reporting average hourly median salaries that, in most cases, are up slightly or on par from last year. Companies are also sweetening the deal for top students, enticing them to come work for them with housing stipends and, in some cases, even signing bonuses, an almost unheard of perk for summer internships, career services officers said.

Undergraduate business majors tend to fare better than their peers at colleges and universities when it comes to internship pay. The average hourly intern wage for a bachelor’s degree-level intern was $17.20 in 2015, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ 2015 Internship & Co-op Survey, with significantly higher levels of pay at the top schools.


The average salary for business interns at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business this year was $21, up an average of five percent from the year before, said Susie Clark, the director of undergraduate career services at the Kelley School. More students have taken internships in accounting, consulting and technology, she said.

“Everything has bumped up with salaries this year, even for full-time offers,” Clark said. “The markets are more competitive, which is great for students because it puts them in a much better position.”

At Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., the median salary last year for rising seniors and rising juniors was $18 an hour, a figure that Len Morrison, director of undergraduate career services, said he expects will be “almost identical” this year. Most of those offers for these internships were made to students in the fall, and companies are being more and more aggressive about reaching students earlier. For example, one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms visited the Bentley campus 19 times from mid-September to mid-November in order to hit their internship numbers, he said.


“It does put pressure on career services. We can’t even wait till the fall to get students jazzed up about what they should expect in terms of recruiting when they hit campus. We need to reach out in August,” he said. “It is clearly a buyer’s market.”

Preliminary pay data at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business — with about 60 percent of students reporting – shows they are getting paid an average salary of $22 an hour, or about $880 a week. Last year, interns were paid $776 a week, but that was after all the students interning had reported their salary information, said Meg Handley, Smeal’s director of career and corporate connections. “I think it will probably be better than last year, and the average salary is certainly heading in a positive direction, but I can’t say for sure yet.”

At Emory’s Goizueta School, Brown said the average median pay has ticked up to about $25 an hour this summer, up from $20 last year. That’s partly because about 30 percent more students headed to New York this summer, where they’ve taken jobs at the big investment banks that are pro-rating internship pay to match the salary increases they’ve given full-time hires. Banks have hired more students as well, another reason for the increase, she said. For example, there are seven students currently interning at Morgan Stanley and 12 at JP Morgan, more than double the number than in the summer of 2014, she noted.

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