Competition Begins Early for Plum Summer Internships

Another summer is just around the corner and the race is on among America's college students to land the best internships to jump-start their careers.

With statistics showing the rate of hiring from internships on the rise, it has become ever more important for students to gain entry to corporate America before graduation to have a foot in the door later.

The Wall Street Journal's Weekend Journal recently surveyed more than 150 companies in 10 different industries to identify internship trends.

Last year, major employers brought 38 percent of their interns back for full-time positions after graduation. That number is up from 25 percent in 2001, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The variety of experience gained at internships varies dramatically, with some students receiving direct contact with chief executive officers and others confined to more menial tasks. However, the Journal's survey showed that summer internships are no longer just about gaining experience in an office environment.

David Bordson-Bozzo, a 21-year-old college junior majoring in engineering and business at the University of Pennsylvania, knows the stakes are high. He told the Journal that the competition is intense, and failure to secure a plum position would set his career back before it's begun. The right internship, he says, "is a huge bargaining chip."

The Journal reported that many companies refused to disclose compensation details, but anecdotal evidence shows that pay varies widely as well. Some consulting firms pay up to $4,000 a month while other industries do not offer paid internships, but do provide stipends for travel and housing. The Central Intelligence Agency is a notable exception to unpaid government internships, with pay of $7,000 to $11,000 per summer, the Journal reported.

Click her to view the internship programs that earned multiple recommendations from companies in the Journal's survey. (Adobe Acrobat required)

Students recommend a polished resume and an early start to guarantee the best summer internship. It is also recommended that applicants make a dynamic first impression during the all-important interview.

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