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Four in 10 College Students Have Had Internship Experience

Four in 10 College Students Have Had Internship Experience

by Stephanie Marken and Drew Curtis

Story Highlights

  • 41% of students have had an internship while enrolled in college
  • Students report difficulty getting an internship as primary barrier
  • First-generation college students least likely to say they’ve had internship

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Roughly four in 10 currently enrolled college students nationally, 41%, have had an internship while pursuing their bachelor’s degree, according to newly released data from Gallup.

Reports of internship participation are lower among first-generation college students whose parents have not completed a degree (27%) and among students enrolled at public colleges and universities (36%) compared with their counterparts. At the same time, internship rates are similar among different demographic subgroups of the currently enrolled student population, with higher rates among Hispanic, White and male students.


These results are based on web survey responses collected March 13-30, 2023, from 2,430 students pursuing their bachelor’s degree at a four-year private not-for-profit, private for-profit, or public U.S. institution. Overall rates include those attending private for-profit colleges; however, rates are not reported among private for-profit institutions for sample size reasons.

Difficulty in Obtaining Internship Is Top Reason for Not Having One

Three in 10 bachelor’s students who have not had an internship cite the difficulty in obtaining one as their primary barrier. Another 23% say it is hard to find an internship that interests them, 20% say they cannot afford to have one, and 17% cite the need to relocate for an internship as the reason for not obtaining one.

One-quarter of students without an internship say they are not interested in getting one.


Students’ reasons for not having an internship are similar regardless of the type of institution they attend (public vs. private), their Pell Grant status or whether they were the first in their family to attend college. This underscores the consistency in challenges students have accessing internships.


Internships can play a crucial role in providing students with valuable workforce experience and the opportunity to explore jobs and industries while seeking fulfilling career paths. Additionally, prior Gallup research has shown that recent graduates who had a job or internship relevant to their degree while enrolled were more than twice as likely to secure a good job immediately after graduation.

These data show that less than half of bachelor’s students have had an internship, and internship rates are even lower for first-generation college students and those at public colleges. Students face difficulties in finding internships that match their interests as well as practical barriers like the need for more pay or to relocate. To foster more equitable pathways for students to identify and access the right career fields for them, higher education institutions should work to ensure college students have ready access to relevant internship opportunities and help to lower the barriers currently preventing some students from accessing them.

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