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International Journal of Educational Management

ISSN: 0951-354X

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A survey of internship programs for management undergraduates in AACSB-accredited institutions


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DOI (Permanent URL): 10.1108/09513541211263755

Article citation: Eyong B. Kim, Kijoo Kim, Michael Bzullak, (2012) "A survey of internship programs for management undergraduates in AACSB-accredited institutions", International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 26 Iss: 7, pp.696 - 709


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The Authors

Eyong B. Kim, Barney School of Business, University of Hartford, West Hartford, Connecticut, USA

Kijoo Kim, Global Business College, Konyang University, Nonsan-si, South Korea

Michael Bzullak, Barney School of Business, University of Hartford, West Hartford, Connecticut, USA

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to survey the current status of internship programs for Management undergraduate students and to introduce a well-established internship program.

Design/methodology/approach – A web page analysis was conducted on 473 institutions that have AACSB (the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accreditation in the USA. The list of these institutions is from the AACSB web site (member school list) as of July 2010. A description of a well-established internship program is provided. The 15 item questionnaire is developed to get the students feedback on the required internship course described in this paper. Based on that survey and web search findings, suggestions for internship course improvement are provided.

Findings – Most schools (96.5 per cent) offer some type of internship course but only a few schools (4.5 per cent) require students take an internship course. The pass/no pass grading system was preferred by a majority of universities (85 per cent). Students need to work an average of 169 hours for three credit internship courses. The most popular prerequisites are: GPA of 2.5 or higher; permission from an advisor or coordinator (62.5 per cent); and various other restrictions such as school minimum accumulated credit hours (22.5 per cent) and specific courses (33 per cent). The well-established program introduced has dedicated advisors to supervise the required internship courses.

Practical implications – Internship program advisors/coordinators can assess the compatibility of their internship program with the introduced program. In addition, universities can benchmark against the introduced internship program to improve their current programs or establish a new program.

Originality/value – If any universities want to improve their current internship courses, or establish an internship program, the paper's findings offer some guidelines.

Article Type:

General review

Keyword(s):

United States of America; Universities; Undergraduates; Business studies; Curricula; Internship program requirements; Internship course management.

Journal:

International Journal of Educational Management

Volume:

26

Number:

7

Year:

2012

pp:

696-709

Copyright ©

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

ISSN:

0951-354X

Introduction

Business internship programs could help college students gain certain skills for their real world jobs that may not be effectively taught in classroom settings. Even though students perform well in their academic courses, there are other things that need to be learned to prepare them for their careers. For example, employers believe that students lack the important practical skills such as real-world preparation, experience, negotiation skills, and others (Kelley and Gaedeke, 1990; Kelly and Bridges, 2005). To compensate the deficiencies business students may have, 92 percent of business schools offer some type of internship program (Coco, 2000). As a result, students can have advantages in the job market if they utilize the internship opportunities effectively. Indeed, recruiters rated students who had internship experience higher than students who did not have such experience (Taylor, 1988).

Internship experience provides numerous benefits to students and employers. The internship programs allow students to develop important public administration skills, apply technical skills learned in classroom to real world business problems, and to understand the difference between theories they learned in classrooms and real world practices. If students complete the internship program successfully, they will have several benefits in early days of their career, such as; improved perceptions of job fit, higher job satisfaction, greater objective success, and greater job stability in the early career (Gault et al., 2000; Richards, 1984). In addition, previous research suggested the major benefits of internship programs are real world job experience, better chance of employability, and acquisition of job-related skills (Coco, 2000; Garavan and Murphy, 2001).

Employers also can benefit from college internship programs. For example, companies could have a “risk-free” method of evaluating prospective hires and motivated employees that is less expensive than hiring full-time employees (Coco, 2000; Hodgson, 1999). In addition, students returning to school after their internships can help the company's recruiting effort by “spread the favorable word” to other students about a particular organization (Pianko, 1996).

When offering an internship program one of the most important concerns of universities and faculty is whether students achieve the desired learning outcomes from the internship program (Elkins, 2002). Faculty must provide input throughout internships to help the students develop their interpersonal skills and help them understand the importance of strong communication skills, dependability, and initiative (Raymond et al., 1993). The configuration of an internship program is an important factor in providing high quality and productive internship experiences (Gryski et al., 1987). It raises one important question: “Do universities offer internship courses that are designed to help students get the benefits of internship experience?” Thus, the authors reviewed web sites of Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) member institutions to find out how universities configure and manage their internship programs for management majors in respect to, number of credits, prerequisites, work-hour requirements, coursework hand-ins, etc. Then the authors include a description of a well-established internship program along with students’ feedback. This paper will help internship coordinators review their internship programs.

Literature review

One survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) (2011) found that the responding organizations converted 57.7 percent of their interns into their full time hires. That is the highest conversion rate seen since NACE started tracking it on an annual basis in 2001. In the same survey, the rate at which employers offered their interns full-time positions was 66.7 percent in 2010. This phenomenon agrees with previous research suggesting the completion of an internship is linked with finding career-oriented employment more effectively. For example, using 163 seniors graduating with a business degree from a large public university in the mid-Atlantic region of the USA, Callanan and Benzing (2004) found that the completion of an internship was linked with finding career-oriented employment. Knouse et al. (1999) found that students who had internship experiences were offered jobs more quickly than students who did not have such experiences, and they have the greater self-confidence in finding a full-time job. Other research also found that internship experiences give students quicker hiring and overall better employability (Gault et al., 2000).

There are many possible reasons that students with internship experience have a better chance of obtaining a full-time job. One reason may be that students with internship experience have better skills or ability that readily apply to the real world of business. The skills that make students more marketable are critical thinking, written and oral communication, and practical experience that many employers seek from new graduates (Maskooki et al., 1998; Raymond et al., 1993). Employers consider the problem-solving skill as one of the most important learning experience students can get from internships to enhance employability (Molseed et al., 2003; Raymond et al., 1993). It was also found that students can be exposed to ethical issues and global dimensions in an internship that may not be discussed in the classroom (Raymond et al., 1993).

The critical aspects of a successful internship program are the interns’ preparation academically, their initiative and attitude, the quality of supervision, and the host company's practices and policies, and compensation (Beard and Morton, 1999). Another study suggests that maintaining a quality internship program requires adequate resource commitment, the coordinator's genuine interest in the students’ learning experience, customized work that fits students’ needs, and a good evaluation system (Cutting and Hall, 2008). It is true that managing an internship course requires an intensive effort of an instructor including building relationships with community business, matching a student's needs with appropriate work, contacting the employer to verify the intern's progress, evaluating progress reports (journals) regularly and commenting on them, and determining the course grade. Due to the workload, internship instructors, often faculty, consider it is a time consuming job to manage an internship course effectively. Some schools offer some type of incentive to internship instructors but some schools gave no additional reward to internship instructors (Coco, 2000).

Students can have a satisfying internship experience if they are ready to perform the internship work effectively. To be qualified to enroll in an internship course, students may need to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 or 2.0 depending on the program (Cutting and Hall, 2008). However, one study found that, students’ attitudes toward internships is a more important predictor of a successful outcome than prior course work and GPA (Beard and Morton, 1999). In addition, students need to know exactly what the internship work is to have a satisfying internship experience. Defining what interns need to do at the beginning of an internship is very important because it gives students and employers clear objectives and expectations of the internship work. The employers should define the project and skill mix needed and match student skills with project requirements to have more effective internships (Narayanan et al., 2006). If interns had well-defined tasks, they seemed to perform better than those who had less-defined tasks (Rothman, 2007).

Because different parties (employer, students, and instructor) may have different expectations from an internship, a signed learning contract that outlines the internship work is a vital tool for clarifying such expectations for them (Henry et al., 2001). The learning contract may be used as the basis for evaluating an intern's performance. Assessment of an intern’s work should be balanced between academic standards and practical work experience to provide the student guidance and continuity. Based on the learning contract, internship coordinators can determine effectively the evaluation methods including submission dates and contents of progress reports (journals) and the final report. Once the learning contract is established, all parties can play a role in the internship evaluation. The internship instructor may assign final grades while company supervisors can provide valuable feedback as part of the evaluation process. The involvement of the company supervisor in the evaluation process may allow the instructor to help interning students achieve their goals more effectively. Company supervisor can share their evaluations of interns’ performance at work with instructors using a phone call, detailed written reports, a company performance appraisal, or the use of standard evaluation forms (Henry et al., 2001). Nowadays, it is popular to use e-mail systems, web pages, or the blackboard system to communicate among internship instructors, company supervisors, and interning students. Standardized evaluation methods across the internship programs in a college are an important factor in maintaining consistency among internship programs, along with clear academic objectives and sufficient educational content (Scott et al., 1990). Positive perceptions of the institution will be fostered if the internship program content is properly integrated with formal methods of assessment (Gault et al., 2000). Because some faculty believe that the internship is often difficult to provide enough academic value, they have been critical of providing course credit for internships (Ciofalo, 1989). However, most internship programs offer academic credits (Coco, 2000).

As a progress report of an internship, some schools require students submit journals regularly. Journals that include problem solving and other experiences in internships can provide insights and understanding about careers (Clark, 2003). By keeping journals, interns can provide further information about the experience when they need it, and journals can serve as a vital communication link between students and internship instructors (Alm, 1996). Writing journals help students recollect what has been done correctly or incorrectly and give time to think about future plans for work. Students who keep journals have demonstrated the ability to transfer classroom knowledge to real-world situations because they perceive university curriculum more relevant to organizational contexts (Eyler, 1993). Not only journals but classroom meeting is also important part of internship learning process. To allow students gain feedback and share experiences, informal or formal meetings are valuable such as meetings between internship instructor and student or a seminar in a classroom (Englander et al., 2000). In classroom meetings, instructors can help students solve their problems or achieve better outcome. To do this, internship instructors are required to collaborate closely with the employers to maximize workplace learning (Ellis, 2000).

Even though interns are working in the real world business environment, they are students who need guidance and advice. In other words, mentoring is one important aspect of internship program. Callanan and Benzing (2004) found that interns need to be mentored at work to get more valuable internship experience. Interns need a mentor at the workplace to adjust to the demands and requirements of the internship work (Tovey, 2001). Mentors can provide coaching, careful monitoring, and sufficient thought regarding professional development to maximize students’ learning outcomes (Ellis, 2000). Even though mentoring is an important aspect of internship program, it may be true that mentoring interns is considered as time consuming job for both company supervisors and academic supervisors. Company supervisors often want interns who can finish their work with minimal supervision (Watson, 1992).

Faculty have shown concerns about the time required for coordinating, implementing, monitoring and evaluating internships (Ackerman et al., 2003). However, academic faculty is responsible for managing internship courses in general (Coco, 2000). Coco (2000) also found that 28 percent of academic faculty does not believe that they receive any form of reward for overseeing these programs based on a survey of members from the Association of Collegiate Business Schools.

Methodology

1. Web search

To find out how internship programs are managed for Management undergraduate students, a web page analysis was conducted on 473 institutions that have AACSB accreditation in the USA. The list of these institutions is from the AACSB web site (member school list) on July 2010. Out of 473 schools, five schools dropped from the further analysis because they are specialized institutions or do not offer any undergraduate programs. From the web sites of the remaining schools (468 schools), the authors searched for information about the internship programs such as, internship course offerings, is it a required course or an elective course, GPA requirements, amount of work time required, credit hours, assessment methods (grade type, employer involvement), other employer participation, and the prerequisites for the internship course.

2. Questionnaire survey

The questionnaire items were developed based on the previous studies and the experience of the instructor who has approximately a decade of coordinating internship courses. It has 20 items of which first five items are for demographic information and remaining 15 questions employ a seven-point Likert-like scale to measure students perception on different dimensions of an internship course (1: strongly disagree, 7: strongly agree). The questionnaire is in Appendix 1.

To improve the validity of the questionnaire items, other faculty reviewed them if these items effectively assess the different aspects of an internship course. In addition, selected interning students were asked if these items reflect the important aspects of an internship course. From these processes, the authors believe the questionnaire items are valid to measure the different aspects of an internship course. After data were collected, the Cronbach's α reliability test was conducted using the SPSS software. This questionnaire has Cronbach's α value of 0.744 that is acceptable (George and Mallery, 2003). George and Mallery (2003) provided a rule of thumb guideline: 90 percent or above, excellent; range of 80 percent, good; range of 70 percent, acceptable; range of 60 percent, questionable; 50 percent range, poor; and lower than 50 percent, unacceptable (p. 231). Thus, the authors consider these questionnaire items are valid and reliable.

At the end of the semester, the questionnaire was administered to the students who registered for internship courses in one university in New England. Students voluntarily participated anonymously in this survey in class and over e-mail. E-mail system was used for students who did not attend the class on the day of conducting the survey. To maintain unbiased responses, those doing the e-mail survey were instructed to submit it to one of this paper authors, not to the internship instructor. The response rate was 36.8 percent that is 32 responses out of 87 students who registered in the internship courses in the spring semester of 2011.

Findings

The 15-item questionnaire is developed to get the students feedback on the internship course described in this paper. Based on that survey and web search findings, suggestions are provided.

1. Web search results

1.1. Overview of internship offerings

Regardless of school type (private or public institutions) or their highest degree offered, most schools (96.5 percent) offered some type of internship course to their undergraduate management majors (shown in Table I). It is slightly over the national survey result (92 percent) by Coco (2000). Among these, approximately 78 percent of schools (365 out of 468) offer internship courses by either the management department or the college of business; 87 schools (18.5 percent) use internship courses offered by the university for their management students.

Even though the internship experience is very important for students’ careers, not many schools consider it as a course that students must take (required course or required elective course). Among 468 schools, only 21 schools (4.5 percent) require students take internship courses. The rest offer an internship course for management majors as an elective course.

1.2. Assessment methods

Out of 166 schools that clearly specified their assessment method, most schools prefer “pass/no pass” grading system (85 percent, 141 schools) to a letter grading (15 percent, 25 schools) for the internship course. In grading the course, most schools (98 percent, 330 out of 338) require the employer evaluation for a student's internship work performance. Many schools ask students to write a paper for their work at the end of the semester or quarter (208 schools). Among these 208 schools, 102 schools clearly specified a journal requirement. However, the interval of journal submission was not clearly specified – it could be weekly or monthly. It means, whatever the interval, 102 schools require a final paper and journals to complete an internship course.

Totally, 174 schools clearly specified the number of work hours to satisfy the internship course requirements. As expected, it varies widely among institutions. As the minimum, a few schools require 50 workhours for a three-credit internship course. One school requires 560 work-hours for a three-credit internship course that is equivalent to the full-time employment for a 14-week semester. On average, students need to work 4.7 hours to get one credit in their internship course. As shown in Table II, 150 work-hours is the most popular (25.3 percent, 44 out of 174) followed by 120 working hours (19 percent). Because of the wide variety of required working hours, a weighted average was calculated that is 169 hours for three-credit internship courses.

1.3. Prerequisite requirements

Students need to be well prepared to benefit from the internship experience. For this reason, many universities have prerequisites for internship courses. For example, internship programs require completion of some course work and attainment of a minimum GPA (Cutting and Hall, 2008). A total of 165 schools explicitly specified a minimum GPA requirement to register for an internship course. They are summarized in Table III. The minimum GPA was 1.75, the maximum was 3.5. Most popular GPA for registering for an internship course is 2.5 (70 schools, 43 percent).

In addition to the overall GPA requirements, 331 universities specified prerequisites for an internship course to ensure the minimum qualification students need for their internship. The prerequisite requirements vary widely from no restrictions (anyone can register) to highest restrictions, junior or senior standing and specific courses. Some schools (three schools) even require students to submit proposals of their internship work to enroll in an internship course. The most popular prerequisite is permission or approval from the internship supervisor, department chair, or the dean. In all, 207 universities (62.5 percent) include the permission as a part of the prerequisite (permission only or with some other requirements). Among these, 67 schools (20.2 percent) require only permissions (or approval) for the internship course. Also, 73 schools (22.5 percent) require permission with school standing (sophomore, Junior, Senior, Number of Credit Hours completed). This emphasis on permission might be due to the finding of previous research that evaluating a student's attitude toward the internship project and the student having the appropriate skill mix is more effective in predicting the success of an internship than completion of specific courses or achieving a minimum GPA (Beard and Morton, 1999).

Totally, 109 schools (33 percent) require specific courses or specific courses plus other requirements to register for internship courses. Table IV summarizes the prerequisite requirements.

2. Student survey results

Based on the responses of 32 students who registered internship courses, the mean and standard deviation of each questionnaire item is shown in the Table V.

Description of well-established internship program

An internship program in one university in the northeast is described in this section. This school's internship program was commended by the AACSB accreditation visitation team as one of the strengths in this university.

The internship courses are part of a Career-Ready Program at the business school. Students take preliminary courses in their freshman and sophomore years, and then take the internship course after they have had at least one course in their major.

As part of the Career-Ready Program, students are required to find their own internships as practice for when they graduate and need to find a job. Once they find one they must fill out a learning contract with their employer which includes their learning objectives, a contract form signed by the student and the work supervisor, and a job description written by the employer.

The internship advisor reviews the learning contract to make sure the internship is compatible with the student's major and the work involved is challenging and offers a good learning experience for the student. The advisor also makes sure the student has met the course prerequisites (minimum 2.0 GPA, at least 53 credit hours, the preliminary Career-Ready courses, and at least the introductory course in their major). The advisor then signs the learning contract form and approves the student for registration into the course.

The course requirements are: a minimum of 200 hours work time, submission of weekly journals, and an 8-10-page paper at the end. The internship advisor sends a one-page evaluation form to the work supervisor at the end of the internship. Grading is as follows: weekly journals – 30 percent, paper – 20 percent, and work supervisor's evaluation – 50 percent.

The internship course is a hard requirement for the BS degree. Hard requirement means that students cannot even walk through commencement exercises and take the course later unless they have successfully completed the internship course. The reason for this is to provide a very strong incentive for students to obtain real world experience before they are granted their degree. This internship program has been in place since the fall of 2001 and is considered successful. The AACSB peer review team that visited the school for its maintenance of accreditation review used the following terms when describing the internship program as one of the school's strengths: the Career-Ready Program – impressive, the requirement of completion of an internship course for graduation – progressive, and the designation of an internship coordinator – a best practice.

Additional evidence of the success of the program is the positive changes observed by the faculty advisors in the students’ attitudes and maturity levels after they complete their internships. Evidence of success also comes from the employers who invariably ask for another intern in the future in response to a question at the bottom of the student's evaluation form.

Suggestions to improve internship programs

Based on the survey on students who took the internship course described the above (32 students), and the findings from this study, the authors offer the following improvement suggestions:

  • Make the internship course a required course (or required elective course) As discussed, research suggests that internship programs are important and valuable to students’ careers. However, only 4.5 percent of 468 schools in this study require students to take an internship course for graduation. Even though schools offer internship programs, there is no guarantee that students will take an internship course at the right time to prepare for their career if it is an elective course. If the internship course is a required course, students recognize the importance of the course from the freshmen year and prepare for it.If a school cannot make an internship course a required course for any reason, an alternative is to make it a required elective course. This means the internship course is listed as an elective course that students must take in a specific school year. It will provide visibility to students so they will understand the importance of an internship from their freshmen year.
  • Students should have permission to waive an internship course instead of taking one Currently, many schools require students to obtain permission to enroll in an internship course. Instead, students should have to obtain a waiver if they do not want to take the internship course. In other words, even though an internship course is not a required course or a required elective course, students will be exposed to the internship course more seriously because they must contact the faculty advisor to discuss why they do not need an internship course. It will provide students with a chance of reviewing the need and benefits of an internship more thoroughly.
  • Encourage employers to actively participate in the internship program To make an internship program more effective, an employer should clearly define the project and the skills needed, and then try to match student skills with project requirements (Narayanan et al., 2006). If students have mentors in their internship programs, students get more benefit out of them. (Callanan and Benzing, 2004; Feldman et al., 1999). Employers could mentor students to socialize and network in the organization and learn additional valuable skills for their careers. Most schools (98 percent) require an employer evaluation of a student's internship performance that is often used for assessment purposes at the end of the semester. Instead, employers should be involved from the beginning of the internship course, specifying the project objective and skills needed, providing progress report or memos, mentoring interns for their work or career issues, and participating in the final assessment.
  • Make students write weekly journals The benefits of writing journals regularly are well known in the education field. For example, keeping a journal helps develop the insight process (Burke and Miller, 1999). Students can have insights and understanding of careers and organizations by writing about problem solving and other experiences in internships (Clark, 2003). Writing journals regularly (i.e. weekly journals) will provides students with the review session of what has been done, what has been learned, how it could be done better, and others lessons learned from their internship.
  • Have a classroom presentations on problem solving experiences in internship work Previous research suggests that employers consider problem-solving experience in internships as the key skill set that improves employability (Moreover, Molseed et al., 2003). As mentioned, writing journals will help students have better problem solving experiences. To maximize the benefit of problem-solving experience, it is recommended that classroom meetings (physical or virtual) be held for students to share their learning and problem-solving experiences. By doing so, students can fortify their experience and learn from other student's experiences.
  • Establish appropriate prerequisites to enhance students internship experience The most common prerequisites for an internship program are attainment of a minimum GPA and permissions (or permission with something else such as specific courses). Because a positive attitude toward the internship is more important than specific courses or GPA (Beard and Morton, 1999), if an internship program does not have faculty who has expertise in evaluating a student's attitude, the permission as a prerequisite may not be effective as expected. Thus, depending on each university's human resource availability and student demographics, prerequisites for their internship program should be re-evaluated.
  • Fully dedicated instructor to supervise interning students One of the important requirements of a successful internship program is a fully dedicated instructor who can monitor interning students’ progress, help solve problems during internships, facilitate employer participation, etc. However, Coco (2000) survey reported that 28 percent of schools gave no additional reward to internship instructors. To improve faculty commitment, proper compensation for an internship course should be implemented.

Further research

Even though a student's attitude toward the internship is important, having the necessary knowledge is also important to finish an internship course successfully. In that regard, it may be valuable to study whether the current prerequisites for internship courses are appropriate for internship success. For example, students need human resource knowledge and skills to work in human resource related internship. Even though the prerequisite requirements may vary depending on the internship work, it seems that current internship programs do not require the matching of the internship work and needed specific knowledge very often.

Measuring the effectiveness of an internship program may not be easy, but a study is needed to improve the internship programs in general. Previous researches measured the perceived effectiveness or satisfaction but not the actual effectiveness of internship programs. Different parties involved in internship program (students, employers, recruiters, universities) may have different goals that result in defining success differently. Thus, effectiveness of an internship program may need to be measured in different dimensions. It may not be easy to measure the integrated effectiveness of an internship program.

Conclusion

Currently, most universities offer internship programs to improve their student's job opportunities. However, the way of managing internship programs varies widely among universities. Considering the importance of the internship experience to students’ careers, a surprisingly small number of schools strongly encourage students to participate in an internship program. The information in this paper would be valuable to institutions that do not fully utilize an internship program yet, or institutions that want to establish internship programs. The authors believe that the internship program could be more effective if universities modify their current process of managing internship programs. To make an internship experience more valuable to students, it is recommended that an internship course should be a required course or required elective course supervised by a dedicated faculty member.

ImageTable I Internship course offerings for undergraduate students
Table I Internship course offerings for undergraduate students

ImageTable II Number of work hours required
Table II Number of work hours required

ImageTable III GPA requirements for internship
Table III GPA requirements for internship

ImageTable IV Pre-requisites for the internship course
Table IV Pre-requisites for the internship course

ImageTable V Descriptive statistics of each item
Table V Descriptive statistics of each item

ImageFigure A1 Survey questionnaire
Figure A1 Survey questionnaire

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Appendix

Corresponding author

Eyong B. Kim can be contacted at: ekim@mail.hartford.edu