Chasing the Pot of Gold:
Internships on the Road to Employment
Edward M. Horowitz
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
University of Wisconsin-Madison
821 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706
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Student Paper Presented to the Internship and Placement Interest Group,
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Annual
Convention, August 1996.
The author would like to thank Linda Loofboro, internship and placement
coordinator at School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the UW-Madison,
for her advice, encouragement, and assistance in preparing this paper.
Chasing the Pot of Gold:
Internships on the Road to Employment:
As you stumble to your desk, a luminescent grin pierces the comforting Monday
morning haze. The leering thing in the corner is fresh from tertiary education
and wearing a poor approximation of sensible clothes There is a frantic glint
in its eye, warning you that it will spend the rest of the week asking everyone
in the office if they need help with that. ...This helper from Hades will be
younger than you, less bitter, endearingly enthusiastic and enragingly unlikely
to take the full hour for lunch. He may not be able to work your computer
system, but he wonUt tell you until he has lost your most important files. If
he is remotely competent, heUll only piss you off. Worst of all, in the most
blatant and ingenuous way, he wants your job really badly.1
There is no question that the current job market is rough and many salaries
reflect this situation, particularly for graduates of journalism and mass
communication programs. According to the most recent survey by Michigan State
University (Miller, 1996), starting salaries for 1995 journalism graduates rank
last at $20,154. These findings are nearly identical to other studies of
journalism graduates. Kosicki and Becker (1995) found that the median salary
was $20,000 for 1994 journalism bachelorUs degree recipients who had a full-time
job six to eight months after graduation .
Graduates in 1995-96 face an overall job climate that expects nominal hiring
increases, according to the Michigan State study (Ubinas, 1996). But graduates
should not get overconfident by this news. It is predicted that 30 percent of
students graduating college between the years 1992-2000 will be unable to find
college level jobs when they graduate (Wendling, 1996). Many other students
will be Reducationally underutilized,S one of every five college graduates
entering the labor force between 1984 and 1990 was underemployed in a job that
did not specifically require a college degree (Wilcox, 1994).
Part of the problem graduates face when looking for work is the changing nature
of the workplace. Unlike their parents, few recent graduates will be hired out
of school and remain with a single employer until they retire. Jobs are now
becoming much more mobile as workers can expect to change employers several
times during their working life. Graduates also face increased competition from
experienced and older workers who are the victims of corporate downsizing, as
well as past graduates who are still looking for work (Coolidge, 1995). All of
this gives employers the opportunity to be even choosier about whom they hire.
Finding the job of their dreams will take more than just hard work and a thick
skin to face an onslaught of rejection letters. Students need to prepare
themselves for the marketplace before graduation. According to both employers
and career counselors, one of the best ways to prepare oneself and gain an edge
on the competition is by interning. In this paper I will examine the value of
internships for journalism majors using recent survey data of experiences of
graduates of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University
Interning Paying Off for Grads and Employers
According to the National Society for Internships and Experiential Education
(NSIEE), an internship is Rany carefully monitored work or service experience in
which an individual has intentional learning goals and reflects actively on what
he or she is learning through the experienceS (Gilbert, 1995). What that
definition does not include, however, is that interning can very often pay off
by leading to full-time employment. Twenty-six percent of all graduates hired
in 1993 came from internships or cooperative education programs, an increase
from 17 percent in 1993 (Wilcox, 1994). The College Board reported that
employers hire 80 percent of their interns as permanent employees after
graduation (Lum, 1994). Many employers are also starting to bypass campus
recruiting and hire exclusively from their pool of interns or co-op students
By hiring interns companies can substantially reduce--if not eliminate--the
time-consuming and expensive recruiting for entry level positions. Not only has
the recruiting already been done, but employers have enough experience with
their interns to know who will work out in the long term (Farinelli and Mann,
1994). Personnel directors have come to describe their group of interns as
their Rbull-penS in which each intern goes through an unofficial probationary
period to assess their merits for future employment (Oldman and Hamadeh, 1996).
Rathke (1996) has noticed that hiring from intern pools has become more
prevalent at advertising agencies and expects it to spread into other fields:
As the emphasis on internships has increased, companies are now looking more
and more to those people as a low-risk group from which to hire. Assuming that
works out well for the companies, I would assume that the emphasis on
internships will get even greater--not just in the big cities, but everywhere.
And if itUs happening in advertising, it will be happening in other areas as
well (p. 1).
It is clear that students are paying attention to these changing hiring
practices as more students intern before graduation. The National Association
of Colleges and Employers found that nearly 59 percent of all entry-level
graduates hired in 1995 had field work or internship experience (Kaslow, 1996).
This is nothing new to journalism majors who have long understood internships to
be an important part of their undergraduate experience. Every year since 1987
nearly 80 percent of journalism graduates have reported that they had an
internship while in school (Kosicki & Becker, 1995).
If they have not already done so, most employers are beginning to seriously
think about their intern programs and how valuable they can be. The recession
of the early 1990Us saw the beginning of paid and unpaid interns being used by
companies as a form of inexpensive labor (Rigdon, 1991; Tooley, 1991). With
more companies now hiring from within their intern ranks, employers are being
both more selective of the interns they choose, but also offering more
worthwhile internship experiences. The internship program at the computer giant
Microsoft gives college students more perks than they may have at their eventual
full-time job, including flexible hours, casual dress, subsidized housing,
round-trip travel to Redmond, WA--all on top of a salary between $320-$480 per
week (Coolidge, 1994).
Are perks like those at Microsoft the way good internships are measured?
Oldman and Hamadeh (1996) have a short list of criteria that put some
internships ahead of the rest. The first is that an internship should offer its
participants Rsubstantive, challenging work,S rather than days filled with
busywork at the photocopier. The second criterion is that they allow
behind-the-scenes exposure and networking. Finally, the internship should offer
some financial compensation. Unfortunately most internships in the news media
do not fall within these parameters (Rowe, 1991).
Qualifications Beyond Internships
While journalism students realize that internships are can be a crucial element
in getting hired, they are also pursuing other ways for attracting the attention
of employers. One of these ways is by double majoring or attaining a
certificate in a non-communication field. The double major can be an advantage
as companies are looking for people who can apply RsoftS skills along with
technical skills (Johnson, 1996). Journalism majors may also choose to complete
additional sequences within journalism, such as combining print and
broadcasting, or public relations with advertising. Kosicki and Becker (1995)
have found that interest in advertising and public relations has dropped
slightly in recent years, while interest in more traditional print journalism
and broadcasting has grown.
If students are unable to find an internship they can usually find experience
at school working on various campus media. While most positions at campus media
are unpaid, students do have an opportunity to work their way up to editor and
other supervisory positions--all of which can be very impressive to employers.
One-third of all journalism bachelorUs degree graduates in 1994 worked for their
campus newspaper (Kosicki & Becker, 1995) .
While working at a particularly good internship can be beneficial to students,
many employers are now expecting students to have a variety of internship
experiences (Rigdon, 1993). Many students now start looking around for
internships as early as their freshman year, knowing that competition for
getting an internship--even unpaid ones--can be as fierce as the competition for
a RrealS job (Bounds, 1994). Minority students are particularly aware of the
value of internships. Hanigan Consulting found that 75 percent of minority
students participated in internship programs, compared to only 66 percent of
white students (Wynter, 1994).
These findings and statistics indicate that employment for journalism graduates
may well hinge on having one or more internships, as well as participating in
several of the other activities mentioned above that will help them to stand out
from the rest. As such, the following predictions are made:
H1: The greater the number of internships, the greater the number of job
offers the graduate will receive.
H2: The greater the number of internships, the less amount of time the
graduate will spend looking for a job.
H3: The greater the number of internship, the greater the starting salary of
Questionnaires were mailed to the 233 1993-94 BA/BS graduates of the School of
Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Their
names were provided by the registrar's office. One hundred and twelve
responded, yielding a 48% return rate. The questionnaire asked about the
graduatesU experiences both while a student and in the months since graduation.
Included were questions about university experiences, job-seeking and
employment, and salary. The questionnaire was nearly identical to the one used
by Professors Kosicki and Becker of the School of Journalism at The Ohio State
University in their annual survey of graduates of U.S. journalism and mass
There are three dependent variables: number of job offers; length to find a job
(measured in months, this is based on subtracting the respondentUs date of
graduation from the starting date at work with their primary employer); income
(starting weekly salary before taxes).
There are three demographic control variables: journalism sequence
(advertising, news-editorial, public relations, broadcast news, mass
communication); grade point average (an eight-point scale from RAS to Rbelow a
There are six independent variables: internship (having had a media-related
internship while in college); college publication (having worked for a college
publication or other campus media while in college); number of semesters (having
an internship or working for a campus media); prior work (having worked for or
interned with employer before being hired); second major (in an academic field
other than communications); certificate (earning a certificate in another
Control Variables: Ninety-three percent of the respondents received Bachelor of
Arts degrees and seven percent received Bachelor of Science degrees. Women made
up 75.9 percent of the survey respondents. Members of racial or ethnic
minorities made up 4.5 percent of the sample
A breakdown by area of specialization reveals that advertising was the most
popular sequence, chosen by 48.2 percent of the respondents, while mass
communication was the least popular sequence, chosen by only 12.5 percent of the
respondents (Table 1). These percentages add to more than 100 percent because
half of all respondents specialized in more than one concentration.
Do men and women select the same sequences? There is a slightly higher
percentage of men in the news-editorial and public relations sequences, and
slightly more women than men in the broadcast sequence (Table 2). Percentages
again add up to greater than 100 percent because of double sequences.
The most popular combination of sequences was advertising and public relations,
selected by 28.6 percent of the respondents who specialized in two or more
sequences (Table 3). Three respondents specialized in three sequences, and one
person specialized in four sequences.
Respondents reported graduating with impressive grade point averages: over 44
percent reported attaining a GPA of 3.4 or higher (Table 4). A large majority
of respondents (77 percent) reported that the their job involves communication
activities and skills related to their area of study in college.
Independent Variables: Respondents worked for many different college
publications and media, some students working for more than one. Sixty-eight
percent reported working for a college publication, the most popular choice was
working on a student newspaper (Table 5).
Media-related internships were much more popular than working on college
publications. Eighty-three percent reported that they had an internship while
in college, the most popular choices being advertising and public relations
internships (Table 6).
Students reported working on a campus medium or interning an average of 3.26
semesters (standard deviation of 2.67). Thirteen percent of respondents
reported that they had neither worked on a campus medium nor interned (Table 7).
Forty-two percent of the respondents completed a second major. The most
popular second major was in a foreign language (Table 8). Seventeen percent of
the respondents earned a certificate (Table 9).
Dependent Variables: Of those journalism graduates who have looked for a job,
42 percent received at least one or two job offers since graduation. The
average number of job offers was 1.6 (Table 10).
Within six months of graduation 84 percent of the respondents reported that
they had found either full or part-time work. Ninety-eight percent had found
jobs within one year of graduation. Excluding those respondents who found jobs
prior to graduation, the average length of time to find the first job was 4.5
months. However, the mean drops to 2.8 months when those respondents who found
jobs prior to graduation are included (table 11).
The mean weekly salary of respondents is $343. Reported salaries ranged from a
low of $100 per week to a high of $680 per week (Table 12). There is a small
difference (although not statistically significant) in the mean income between
male graduates ($367) and female graduates ($336). Advertising majors had the
highest mean income ($384), while mass communication majors had the lowest
($254) (Table 13).
Hypotheses Testing: There are no correlations between any of the control
variables and the number of job offers a graduate receives or the length of time
needed to find a job (Table 14). However there are two interesting findings
regarding the five journalism sequence variables and income. There is a
significant, positive correlation between graduates in the advertising sequence
and their starting salary (r=.36, p < .01). However there is a significant,
negative correlation between graduates in the mass communication sequence and
their starting salary (r=-.28, p < .01). Graduates who have worked on a college
publication or other media take less time to find a job than those graduates who
did not work for a college publication or other media (r=-.22, p < .05).
Students who graduated with a certificate get fewer job offers (r=-.22, p < .05)
and take longer to find employment (r=.26, p < .05). Graduates who had worked
or interned with their employer prior to being hired have higher starting
salaries than those without prior work or internship experience.
What predicts to having an internship? Students appear to attain internships
uniformly, without regard to their choice of journalism sequences (Table 15).
Students with higher grade point averages do not have any more internships than
students with lower GPAs. There are also no correlations between internships
and having a second major, or acquiring a certificate. Both women and men
participate in internships equally.
The hypothesis that having an internship predicts to a greater number of job
offers is not supported (Table 16). Regression analysis indicates that after
controls there are two negative predictors to the number of job offers, having a
second major (b=-.20, p < .10) and attaining a certificate (b=-.19, p < .10).
Graduates who spend less time looking for employment have many job offers
(b=-.32, p < .05), as do graduates with high starting salaries (b=.31, p < .05).
The hypothesis that having an internship will lessen the amount of time spent
looking for a job is also not directly supported (Table 16). However, graduates
who have worked for a college publication or other media spend less time looking
for employment (b=-.28, p < .05), as do graduates who spent multiple semesters
working for a college publication or interning (b=-.25, p < .10). Graduates who
have a certificate spend a longer amount of time looking for employment (b=.30,
p < .05). Graduates with more job offers spend less time looking for work
(b=-.32, p < .01).
The hypothesis that having an internship will increase a graduates starting
salary is supported (Table 16). Having an internship (b=.23, p < .01), as well
as working on a college publication or other media (b=.28, p < .01), predicts to
income after controls. However, prior work (b=.33, p < .01) continues to remain
a strong predictor, even after controls. Graduates with many job offers also
have higher starting salaries (b=.22,
p < .05).
Job Offers: The analyses sheds little light on what variables predict to the
number of job offers a graduate receives. While the literature emphasizes that
students need to be well-rounded with more than just technical skills (Johnson,
1996), graduates who have made the extra effort for a double major or
certificate receive fewer job offers than their peers. Further research must
examine the types of job offers they do receive. Perhaps these students are
looked highly upon by employers and receive one great offer. These graduates
may also be more sure of their career objectives (journalism with a foreign
language was the most frequent of the double majors) and be more selective of
which companies they target.
Length of Time to Find Work: The hypothesis that an internship would decrease
the amount of time spent looking for work was not supported directly. However
the more semesters graduates spent interning (or working for a college
publication or other media) does predict to less time spent looking for
employment. This appears to support the literature that says employees expect
graduates to not just have a internship, but to have multiple internships
(Rigdon, 1993). Employers can afford to be choosy as the number of job
applicants increase. If multiple internships are the real key to employment
then students who start their internship experiences earlier (and thus have more
time to do more) will have an advantage over the competition.
Starting Salary: Somehow all roads--or at least the annual employment
surveys--eventually turn to salaries. While journalism graduates may find some
solace that the average starting salary for 1994 graduates was $1,500 higher
than the year before (Kosicki & Becker, 1995), salaries for journalism graduates
are still ranked last behind 27 other majors (Miller, 1996). This analyses
indicates that having an internship predicts to higher starting salaries. This
supports Hypothesis Three. Yet working for a college publication or other
college media is nearly as strong a predictor of higher income as having an
internship. However, this may not necessarily mean that each experience is
interchangeable with the other. It may be instead that career-minded journalism
majors do both activities--interning and working for a college publication.
Rather than be interchangeable, the two experiences are more likely
complementary. Students also need to begin planning their career well in
advance of graduation. Interning or working part-time at their eventual
employer is the strongest predictor of high starting salary. Unfortunately for
journalism majors this usually means an unpaid internship (Rowe, 1991).
However, these results indicate that months of unpaid labor can pay
off--literally--with a higher starting salary. These findings also support the
literature that indicates employers are hiring from within their intern pool
WhatUs Next?: These results seem to indicate that a college education alone no
longer guarantees one a job--not that it ever really did. In a period of
corporate downsizing and changing economics, the pressure is on journalism
students to plan often and ahead. Students who are seeking the top jobs need to
start looking for internships earlier than ever, even starting in their freshman
year for competitive programs. Internships do pay off with higher starting
salaries. The pressure is also on journalism advisors and career counselors to
help their students become aware of the importance of internships, as well as
helping them find intern positions.
Bounds, Wendy. 1994. RAll Work and No Pay.S Wall Street Journal, p. B7.
Coolidge, Shelley Donald. 1995. RSpring Thaw in Job Market Encourages College
Grads.S Christian Science Monitor, 21 March, Economy Section, p. 1.
Coolidge, Shelley Donald. 1994. RPay May Be Poor, but Some Internships Throw
in a Car.S Christian Science Monitor, 29 April, Economy Section, p. 9
Farinelli, Jean L. and Mann, Phil. 1994. RHow to Get the Most Value From Your
Internship Program.S Public Relations Quarterly 39 (3), 22 September, p. 35.
Gilbert, Sara D. 1995. Internships: A Directory for Career Finders. New
Johnson, Paul. 1996. REmployers Look for Big Picture.S Wisconsin State
Journal, 27 February, p. B1.
Kaslow, Amy. 1996. RWorried US Work Force Emerging as Political Force.S
Christian Science Monitor, 25 January, US Section, p. 3.
Kosicki, Gerald M. and Becker, Lee B. 1995. RAnnual Survey of Journalism and
Mass Communication Graduates.S Paper presented at the Association for
Education in Journalism Annual Convention, August, Washington, D.C.
Lum, Lydia. 1994. RCollege Students Find Interning Gets a Good Foot in the
Door.S Arizona Republic, 7 March, p. E2.
Miller, Alan D. 1996. RMore Jobs for Grads, But MarketUs Still Cool.S
Columbus Dispatch, 6 January, p. B1.
Oldman, Mark and Hamadeh, Samer. 1996. The Princeton Review Student Access
Guide to AmericaUs Top Internships. New York: Random House.
Rathke, Roger H. 1996. E-mail correspondence, 22 February.
Rigdon, Joan E. 1991. RFor Companies Facing Rough Sailing, Student Interns
Provide Cheap Power.S Wall Street Journal, 25 April, p. B1.
Rigdon, Joan E. 1993. RGlut of Graduates Lets Recruiters Pick Only the Best.S
Wall Street Journal, 20 May, p. B1.
Rowe, Chip. 1991. RLearning on the Cheap.S Quill, September, pp. 33-34.
Tooley, Jo Ann. 1991. RInterns Turn.S US News and World Report, 22 July, p.
Ubinas, Helen. 1996. RSeeking Field of Their Dreams; Even the Best College
Grads Find Job Search Tough.S Hartford Courant, 17 March, p. A1.
Wendling, Patrice. 1996. RAcademics Get Reality Check on Workplace.S Capital
Times, 27 February, p. C1.
Wilcox, Melynda Dovel. 1994. RStarting Out in America Today; More Than Ever
Before, The Path to Personal Prosperity Begins on a College Campus.S
Kiplingers Personal Finance Magazine, April, p. 69.
Wynter, Leon E. 1994. RMinority Hires Mapped Their Own Paths to Jobs.S Wall
Street Journal, 7 September, p. B1.
Public Relations 34.8%
Broadcast News 7.9%
Mass Communication 12.5%
Gender and Sequence
News-Editorial 54.2% 40%
Broadcast 14.8% 18.8%
Advertising 50% 49.4%
Public Relations 41.7% 34.1%
Mass Communication 12.5% 12.9%
Combinations of Sequences
Advertising and Public Relations 28.6%
News-Editorial and Public Relations 17.8%
Public Relations and Broadcast 12.5%
Advertising and News-Editorial 10.7%
Advertising and Mass Comm. 10.7%
Advertising and Broadcast 5.3%
News-Editorial and Broadcast 3.6%
News-Editorial and PR and MC 3.6%
News-Editorial and Mass Comm. 1.8%
Broadcast and Mass Comm. 1.8%
News-Editorial and Adv. and PR 1.8%
News-Ed. and Adv. and PR and MC 1.8%
Grade Point Average
A (4.0-3.8) 8.0%
A- (3.7-3.4) 36.6%
B+ (3.3-3.1) 33.9%
B (3.0-2.8) 16.1%
B- (2.7-2.4) 5.4%
Worked for College Publication
Radio Station 11.6%
TV Station 11.6%
Any Other Media 8.9%
No College Media 31.3%
Public Relations 28.6%
Other Media 20.5%
TV Station 18.8%
Radio Station 8.9%
No Internship 16.1%
Number of Semesters Working
Or Interning for Campus Media
0 Semesters 13.4%
1 Semesters 14.3%
2 Semesters 14.3%
3 Semesters 20.5%
3.5 Semesters 1.8%
4 Semesters 9.8%
5 Semesters 7.1%
6 Semesters 9.8%
7 Semesters 3.6%
8 Semesters 0.9%
9 Semesters 0.9%
10 Semesters 0.9%
11 Semesters 1.8%
15 Semesters 0.9%
Foreign Language 8.9%
Political Science 6.3%
Comm. Arts 6.3%
No Second Major 57.2%
Integrated Liberal Studies 3.6%
Environmental Studies 2.7%
Women's Studies 2.7%
Criminal Justice 0.9%
Since Graduation, Number of Job Offers
No Offers 31.0%
One Offer 22.6%
Two Offers 20.2%
Three Offers 17.9%
Four Offers 3.6%
Five Offers 1.2%
Six Offers 1.2%
Seven Offers 1.2%
Ten Offers 1.2%
Length of Time to Find First Job
Upon Graduation 12.1% 10 Months 1.1%
Or Prior to 11 Months 2.2%
One Month 13.1% 12 Months 1.1%
Two Months 15.4% 15 Months 1.1%
Three Months 9.9% (91)
Four Months 7.7%
Five Months 12.1%
Six Months 14.3%
Seven Months 7.7%
Eight Months 1.1%
Nine Months 1.1%
Weekly Salary Before Taxes
Below $300 per week 36.0%
$300-$399 per week 28.0%
$400-$499 per week 25.9%
$500 and Above per week 10.1%
Mean Salary by Journalism Sequence
Public Relations $354.62
Mass Communication $254.04
Among Dependent and Independent Variables
Number of Length to Income
Job Offers Find Job
News-Ed. -.10 .07 -.13
Broadcasting .10 .01 -.15
Advertising .03 -.11 .36**
Public Relations -.14 .04 .08
Mass Comm. -.01 -.01 -.28**
GPA .10 .08 .13
Gender (female) -.07 -.01 -.10
Internship .02 -.12 .20
College Media .06 -.22* .11
# of Semesters .07 -.18 .03
Prior Work -.06 -.09 .34**
Second Major -.10 .04 .01
Certificate -.22* .26* -.05
Number of Job Offers ----- -.35** .25*
Length to Find Job -.35** ----- -.12
Income .25* -.35** -----
N = 112 ** = p < .01 (two-tailed test) * = p < .05 (two-tailed test)
Figures shown are Pearson correlation coefficients (r) before any controls.
Antecedents to Interning
Public Relations .09
Mass Communication -.10
Gender (female) .07
Second Major .09
N = 112 ** = p < .01 (two-tailed test) * = p < .05 (two-tailed test)
Figures shown are Pearson correlation coefficients (r) before any controls.
Multiple Regression: Predicting Income,
Length of Time to Find Work, and Number of Job Offers
Number of Length to Income
Job Offers Find Job
News-Ed. -.29# -.07 -.07
Broadcasting -.07 -.01 -.10
Advertising -.12 -.19 .21
Public Relations -.15 .06 .09
Mass Comm. -.03 .01 -.34**
GPA .23# .04 .26*
Gender (female) -.21# -.13 -.09
Incremental R2 12.15% 3.56% 24.55**
Internship .03 -.17 .23*
College Media .06 -.28* .28*
# of Semesters .13 -.25# .18
Prior Work .01 -.02 .33**
Second Major -.20# .04 -.10
Certificate -.19# .30* -.10
Incremental R2 9.77 17.34 19.21**
Number of Job Offers ----- -.32** .22*
Length to Find Job -.32* ----- -.01
Income .31* -.01 -----
Incremental R2 13.57* 8.83# 4.25**
N = 112 ** = p < .01 (two-tailed test) * = p < .05 # = p < .10
Figures in Block 1 are standardized beta coefficients before any controls.
Block 2 figures are standardized beta coefficients (before entry) after controls
for the seven variables in Block 1. Block 3 figures are standardized beta
coefficients (before entry) after controls for the variables in both Block 1 and
1 Brooks, Elizabeth. 1996. RHelpers from Hell: Internship Programs.S New
Statesman and Society 9 (No. 389), 9 February, p. 26.