The Class of 2023: Inequity Continues to Underpin Internship Participation and Pay Status

August 8, 2023 | By Mary Gatta

Internships
A group of students work on computers.

TAGS: graduate outcomes, Internships, nace insights, student attitudes, surveys,

Each year, NACE surveys students to identify trends, attitudes, and behaviors, and to examine how those behaviors correlate to outcomes. Internships and their role in career preparation and outcomes has been and continues to be a key area of inquiry.

Here we examine some important findings from NACE’s 2023 Student Survey that relate specifically to internships and bachelor’s degree-level graduating seniors.

Class of 2023 graduating seniors were actively engaged in experiential learning, with 79% reporting they participated in some form of experience during their time at college. Internships accounted for a significant portion of those experiences: Overall, more than half of Class of 2023 graduating seniors (62%) reported taking part in an internship at some point in their college career. Of graduating seniors who participated in internships, most were paid (59%).

Internships and Systemic Inequality

Unfortunately, the data also point to systemic inequality in who takes part in internships and who is most likely to get a paid internship—ongoing issues that NACE began tracking with the Class of 2019.

Similar to previous classes, among Class of 2023 graduates, male students, white students, students who are not first generation, and students who are not Pell Grant recipients were more likely to participate in internships than other groups of students. (See Table 1.)

In terms of who gets paid internships, the same inequities persist. (See Table 2.)

  • Among men who took part in an internship, 76.4% were paid; among women taking part in internships, 51.5% were paid.
  • Of Pell Grant recipients, 53.5% were paid, compared to 61.0% of non-Pell Grant recipients.
  • Graduating seniors who identified as LGBTQ+ and took part in internships were less likely to be paid than their counterparts: 53% versus 59%.
  • The inequity repeats among first-generation interns, with 54% reporting paid internships compared to 60% of continuing generation interns.

Table 1: Class of 2023 Internship Participation

 
All Students
Percent Who Had an Internship61.5%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship38.5%
N2,124
Gender
Men
Percent Who Had an Internship64.8%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship44.2%
N514
Women
Percent Who Had an Internship61.8%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship38.2%
N1,309
Race
Asian
Percent Who Had an Internship54.9%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship45.1%
N164
Black
Percent Who Had an Internship62.7%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship37.3%
N134
Hispanic
Percent Who Had an Internship55.4%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship44.6%
N148
White
Percent Who Had an Internship64.1%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship35.9%
N1,259
LGBTQ+ Status
Identify as LGTBQ+
Percent Who Had an Internship56.5%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship43.5%
N306
Do not Identify as LGBTQ+
Percent Who Had an Internship64.0%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship36.0%
N1,483
Pell Grant Status
Have a Pell Grant
Percent Who Had an Internship56.6%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship43.4%
N769
Do Not Have a Pell Grant
Percent Who Had an Internship66.6%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship33.4%
N976
First Generation Status
First Generation
Percent Who Had an Internship65.8%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship34.2%
N455
Not First Generation
Percent Who Had an Internship52.3%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship47.7%
N1,394
 Percent Who Had an InternshipPercent Who Did Not Have an InternshipN
All Students61.5%38.5%2,124
Gender
Men64.8%44.2%514
Women61.8%38.2%1,309
Race
Asian54.9%45.1%164
Black62.7%37.3%134
Hispanic55.4%44.6%148
White64.1%35.9%1,259
LGBTQ+ Status
Identify as LGTBQ+56.5%43.5%306
Do not Identify as LGBTQ+64.0%36.0%1,483
Pell Grant Status
Have a Pell Grant56.6%43.4%769
Do Not Have a Pell Grant66.6%33.4%976
First Generation Status
First Generation65.8%34.2%455
Not First Generation52.3%47.7%1,394
Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers. 2023 Student Survey. Data are for bachelor’s degree-level graduating seniors.

Table 2: Class of 2023 Internship Status by Pay

 
All Students
Paid59.2%
Unpaid40.8%
N1,300
Gender
Men
Paid76.4%
Unpaid23.6%
N330
Women
Paid51.5%
Unpaid48.5%
N808
Race
Asian
Paid74.2%
Unpaid25.8%
N89
Black
Paid50.6%
Unpaid49.4%
N83
Hispanic
Paid54.9%
Unpaid45.1%
N82
White
Paid58.1%
Unpaid41.9%
N806
LGBTQ+ Status
Identify as LGTBQ+
Paid53.2%
Unpaid46.8%
N171
Do not Identify as LGBTQ+
Paid59.8%
Unpaid40.2%
N948
Pell Grant Status
Pell Grant Recipient
Paid53.5%
Unpaid46.5%
N434
Not a Pell Grant Recipient
Paid61.0%
Unpaid39.0%
N649
First Generation Status
First Generation
Paid53.8%
Unpaid46.2%
N236
Not First Generation
Paid59.9%
Unpaid40.1%
N915
 PaidUnpaidN
All Students59.2%40.8%1,300
Gender
Men76.4%23.6%330
Women51.5%48.5%808
Race
Asian74.2%25.8%89
Black50.6%49.4%83
Hispanic54.9%45.1%82
White58.1%41.9%806
LGBTQ+ Status
Identify as LGTBQ+53.2%46.8%171
Do not Identify as LGBTQ+59.8%40.2%948
Pell Grant Status
Pell Grant Recipient 53.5%46.5%434
Not a Pell Grant Recipient 61.0%39.0%649
First Generation Status
First Generation53.8%46.2%236
Not First Generation59.9%40.1%915
Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers. 2023 Student Survey. Data are for bachelor’s degree-level graduating seniors.

Paid Internships Correlate to More Job Offers, Higher Salaries

NACE research has consistently found that students who take part in paid internships receive more job offers and garner higher starting salaries than those who participate in unpaid internships. These trends hold true for the Class of 2023, with paid interns averaging 1.4 job offers and unpaid interns averaging 0.9.

Not only do paid interns enjoy more job offers on average, but they are also offered higher starting pay. Among the survey’s graduating seniors who were paid interns, the median starting salary is $67,500 compared to unpaid interns, who reported earning a median starting salary of $45,000.

These patterns continue to underscore NACE’s position that all internships must be paid as a matter of fairness and equity.

Addressing Inequity: Steps for Career Services and Employers

There is no quick fix to addressing the current inequities around internships, but career services professionals and employers can work toward eliminating the disparities.

Career services professionals can:

  • Foster understanding of the importance of internships—particularly paid internships—among students, faculty, and administrators. NACE data can be used to show the correlation between paid internships and entry to the world of work.
  • Track use of services related to internships by students and employers to get a baseline on who is using those services and who is not to determine outreach needs.
  • Help employers using their internship programs to feed their full-time hiring needs understand the connection between their internship cohort and their organization’s goals for a diverse workforce.

Employers can:

  • Audit the historical makeup of their internship cohorts to get a baseline.
  • Track internship applicants by various demographic parameters to identify where there is underrepresentation.
  • Review recruiting and hiring practices and processes to identify barriers that hinder diverse talent in engaging with the organization.

NACE’s 2023 Student Survey was conducted from March 15, 2023, to May 19, 2023. Overall, 18,966 bachelor’s degree-level students took part; among these were 2,307 students who identified as graduating seniors. A report based on results from the survey will be available in the fall.

Mary Gatta, Ph.D., is the director of research and public policy for NACE. Dr. Gatta has more than 20 years of teaching, research, and advocacy experience at colleges and in nonprofit organizations where she worked on issues of career education and workforce development.

Dr. Gatta’s work is centered on evidence-based research analysis to develop new solutions to current problems—particularly around economic security, education, and workforce policies. In all her research projects, she uses an equity and intersectionality lens.

Prior to joining NACE, Dr. Gatta served as an associate professor of sociology at City University of New York-Guttman and faculty director of the Ethnographies of Work program. In addition, she was the research director at the Rutgers University Center for Women and Work and a senior scholar at Wider Opportunities for Women in Washington D.C. Dr. Gatta also served on New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's Labor and Workforce Development Transition Team.

Dr. Gatta received her bachelor’s degree in social science from Providence College and her master’s and Ph.D. in sociology from Rutgers University.

She can be reached at mgatta@naceweb.org.

The Class of 2023: Inequity Continues to Underpin Internship Participation and Pay Status

August 8, 2023 | By Mary Gatta

Internships
A group of students work on computers.

TAGS: graduate outcomes, Internships, nace insights, student attitudes, surveys,

Each year, NACE surveys students to identify trends, attitudes, and behaviors, and to examine how those behaviors correlate to outcomes. Internships and their role in career preparation and outcomes has been and continues to be a key area of inquiry.

Here we examine some important findings from NACE’s 2023 Student Survey that relate specifically to internships and bachelor’s degree-level graduating seniors.

Class of 2023 graduating seniors were actively engaged in experiential learning, with 79% reporting they participated in some form of experience during their time at college. Internships accounted for a significant portion of those experiences: Overall, more than half of Class of 2023 graduating seniors (62%) reported taking part in an internship at some point in their college career. Of graduating seniors who participated in internships, most were paid (59%).

Internships and Systemic Inequality

Unfortunately, the data also point to systemic inequality in who takes part in internships and who is most likely to get a paid internship—ongoing issues that NACE began tracking with the Class of 2019.

Similar to previous classes, among Class of 2023 graduates, male students, white students, students who are not first generation, and students who are not Pell Grant recipients were more likely to participate in internships than other groups of students. (See Table 1.)

In terms of who gets paid internships, the same inequities persist. (See Table 2.)

  • Among men who took part in an internship, 76.4% were paid; among women taking part in internships, 51.5% were paid.
  • Of Pell Grant recipients, 53.5% were paid, compared to 61.0% of non-Pell Grant recipients.
  • Graduating seniors who identified as LGBTQ+ and took part in internships were less likely to be paid than their counterparts: 53% versus 59%.
  • The inequity repeats among first-generation interns, with 54% reporting paid internships compared to 60% of continuing generation interns.

Table 1: Class of 2023 Internship Participation

 
All Students
Percent Who Had an Internship61.5%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship38.5%
N2,124
Gender
Men
Percent Who Had an Internship64.8%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship44.2%
N514
Women
Percent Who Had an Internship61.8%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship38.2%
N1,309
Race
Asian
Percent Who Had an Internship54.9%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship45.1%
N164
Black
Percent Who Had an Internship62.7%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship37.3%
N134
Hispanic
Percent Who Had an Internship55.4%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship44.6%
N148
White
Percent Who Had an Internship64.1%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship35.9%
N1,259
LGBTQ+ Status
Identify as LGTBQ+
Percent Who Had an Internship56.5%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship43.5%
N306
Do not Identify as LGBTQ+
Percent Who Had an Internship64.0%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship36.0%
N1,483
Pell Grant Status
Have a Pell Grant
Percent Who Had an Internship56.6%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship43.4%
N769
Do Not Have a Pell Grant
Percent Who Had an Internship66.6%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship33.4%
N976
First Generation Status
First Generation
Percent Who Had an Internship65.8%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship34.2%
N455
Not First Generation
Percent Who Had an Internship52.3%
Percent Who Did Not Have an Internship47.7%
N1,394
 Percent Who Had an InternshipPercent Who Did Not Have an InternshipN
All Students61.5%38.5%2,124
Gender
Men64.8%44.2%514
Women61.8%38.2%1,309
Race
Asian54.9%45.1%164
Black62.7%37.3%134
Hispanic55.4%44.6%148
White64.1%35.9%1,259
LGBTQ+ Status
Identify as LGTBQ+56.5%43.5%306
Do not Identify as LGBTQ+64.0%36.0%1,483
Pell Grant Status
Have a Pell Grant56.6%43.4%769
Do Not Have a Pell Grant66.6%33.4%976
First Generation Status
First Generation65.8%34.2%455
Not First Generation52.3%47.7%1,394
Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers. 2023 Student Survey. Data are for bachelor’s degree-level graduating seniors.

Table 2: Class of 2023 Internship Status by Pay

 
All Students
Paid59.2%
Unpaid40.8%
N1,300
Gender
Men
Paid76.4%
Unpaid23.6%
N330
Women
Paid51.5%
Unpaid48.5%
N808
Race
Asian
Paid74.2%
Unpaid25.8%
N89
Black
Paid50.6%
Unpaid49.4%
N83
Hispanic
Paid54.9%
Unpaid45.1%
N82
White
Paid58.1%
Unpaid41.9%
N806
LGBTQ+ Status
Identify as LGTBQ+
Paid53.2%
Unpaid46.8%
N171
Do not Identify as LGBTQ+
Paid59.8%
Unpaid40.2%
N948
Pell Grant Status
Pell Grant Recipient
Paid53.5%
Unpaid46.5%
N434
Not a Pell Grant Recipient
Paid61.0%
Unpaid39.0%
N649
First Generation Status
First Generation
Paid53.8%
Unpaid46.2%
N236
Not First Generation
Paid59.9%
Unpaid40.1%
N915
 PaidUnpaidN
All Students59.2%40.8%1,300
Gender
Men76.4%23.6%330
Women51.5%48.5%808
Race
Asian74.2%25.8%89
Black50.6%49.4%83
Hispanic54.9%45.1%82
White58.1%41.9%806
LGBTQ+ Status
Identify as LGTBQ+53.2%46.8%171
Do not Identify as LGBTQ+59.8%40.2%948
Pell Grant Status
Pell Grant Recipient 53.5%46.5%434
Not a Pell Grant Recipient 61.0%39.0%649
First Generation Status
First Generation53.8%46.2%236
Not First Generation59.9%40.1%915
Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers. 2023 Student Survey. Data are for bachelor’s degree-level graduating seniors.

Paid Internships Correlate to More Job Offers, Higher Salaries

NACE research has consistently found that students who take part in paid internships receive more job offers and garner higher starting salaries than those who participate in unpaid internships. These trends hold true for the Class of 2023, with paid interns averaging 1.4 job offers and unpaid interns averaging 0.9.

Not only do paid interns enjoy more job offers on average, but they are also offered higher starting pay. Among the survey’s graduating seniors who were paid interns, the median starting salary is $67,500 compared to unpaid interns, who reported earning a median starting salary of $45,000.

These patterns continue to underscore NACE’s position that all internships must be paid as a matter of fairness and equity.

Addressing Inequity: Steps for Career Services and Employers

There is no quick fix to addressing the current inequities around internships, but career services professionals and employers can work toward eliminating the disparities.

Career services professionals can:

  • Foster understanding of the importance of internships—particularly paid internships—among students, faculty, and administrators. NACE data can be used to show the correlation between paid internships and entry to the world of work.
  • Track use of services related to internships by students and employers to get a baseline on who is using those services and who is not to determine outreach needs.
  • Help employers using their internship programs to feed their full-time hiring needs understand the connection between their internship cohort and their organization’s goals for a diverse workforce.

Employers can:

  • Audit the historical makeup of their internship cohorts to get a baseline.
  • Track internship applicants by various demographic parameters to identify where there is underrepresentation.
  • Review recruiting and hiring practices and processes to identify barriers that hinder diverse talent in engaging with the organization.

NACE’s 2023 Student Survey was conducted from March 15, 2023, to May 19, 2023. Overall, 18,966 bachelor’s degree-level students took part; among these were 2,307 students who identified as graduating seniors. A report based on results from the survey will be available in the fall.

Mary Gatta, Ph.D., is the director of research and public policy for NACE. Dr. Gatta has more than 20 years of teaching, research, and advocacy experience at colleges and in nonprofit organizations where she worked on issues of career education and workforce development.

Dr. Gatta’s work is centered on evidence-based research analysis to develop new solutions to current problems—particularly around economic security, education, and workforce policies. In all her research projects, she uses an equity and intersectionality lens.

Prior to joining NACE, Dr. Gatta served as an associate professor of sociology at City University of New York-Guttman and faculty director of the Ethnographies of Work program. In addition, she was the research director at the Rutgers University Center for Women and Work and a senior scholar at Wider Opportunities for Women in Washington D.C. Dr. Gatta also served on New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's Labor and Workforce Development Transition Team.

Dr. Gatta received her bachelor’s degree in social science from Providence College and her master’s and Ph.D. in sociology from Rutgers University.

She can be reached at mgatta@naceweb.org.

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