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Find Your Best-Matched Internship

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Internships for college students are among the best bridges to full-time employment. They have been an asset, in one form or another, for centuries. These are not normal times, though. The global pandemic has forced millions of college students across the U.S. to attend school virtually, but they still know that internships — virtual, partially virtual or in-person — are essential if they want to land jobs after graduation.


The search for internships is as competitive and challenging as ever, especially under the current circumstances, as noted by some College Confidential forum members. That's why I was interested to see the latest Vault Career Intelligence internship rankings, which are based on a survey of more than 11,000 interns at over 100 internship programs and include a variety of categories, many of which are new this year. In light of the dislocation of college life, I thought it would be helpful to review the kind of help Vault rankings offer.

Internships Ranked by Various Categories

Taking a look at some of the categories, we see that "Most Prestigious Internships" ranks the companies that students most desire to have on their resumes. The "Best 100 Internships" ranks the top internship programs based on ratings from current and past interns. The "Best Internships by Industry" ranks the top internship programs in Accounting, Consulting, Financial Services, Health Care, Investment Banking, Media & Telecommunications, Retail & Consumer Products, and Tech & Engineering.

Vault also ranks internship programs based on key employment factors, including Career Development, Compensation, Employment Prospects, Networking Opportunities, Quality of Assignments, Quality of Life, Real-Life Experience, and Training and Mentoring. There are additional rankings in four Diversity categories: Overall Diversity, Diversity with Respect to Women, Racial & Ethnic Diversity, and LGBTQ+ Diversity.

New this year you'll find "Best Internships by Role," which ranks internships by various job functions, including Computer Science, Data Analytics, Engineering, Information Technology, Sales and Marketing, Software Development, and Software Engineering.

If you're searching for the best-matched internship, you probably won't find a better categorized and complete listing than Vault's. As with most rankings lists, methodology plays a big role in legitimacy. Vault's approach is comprehensive, which adds to the credibility of what they publish.

Over the past summer, Vault surveyed more than 11,000 current and former interns from more than 100 internship programs. In addition to asking them to rate and review their own internship experiences, Vault asked interns to rate the prestige of other employers to determine which internships are the most desirable. Vault then presented those interns with a list of top companies and asked them to rate them regarding internship prestige on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest and one the lowest, rating only those companies whose reputations they were familiar with. Vault averaged the ratings for each employer and then ranked the companies in order, starting with the highest score as No. 1 down to No. 50.

Google, NASA Take High Honors

Some comments about the Top 5 from Vault:

Google ranks No. 1 in prestige for the sixth year in a row. Survey respondents see Google as their "dream company." They say the firm offers "an awesome work culture," "great perks," and "high pay." They add that Google is "synonymous with innovation" and its employees are "the best of the best." In addition, survey respondents say that Google "looks fantastic on a resume" and is "regarded as the best tech company to work for in the world." However, since "everyone wants to work there," it's "difficult to get an internship" with this "industry leader."

NASA takes one giant leap in the rankings this year to No. 2. Survey respondents tell us that NASA, which ranked No. 3 last year, is "associated with the smartest minds in the world," and that its work is "historical," "groundbreaking," and "life-changing." Respondents add that NASA has an "amazing reputation" and is a "very unique place to work"— "it would help separate you from other applicants" when looking for full-time positions. The internship program offers "tons of learning opportunities," "super interesting work," and "very useful analytical skills"— it's a "career launcher." However, getting an internship with NASA is "extremely competitive."

Apple falls — but not too far — to No. 3 this year. Survey respondents tell us that Apple, which ranked No. 2 last year, is an "American icon and innovator," has an "amazing culture," and is a "trend-setting leading tech company." Respondents also say that Apple offers "high pay," "great perks," and "meaningful projects." While some respondents say that Apple is "beyond compare," "the best company ever," and "probably the top internship you could have," others say that the prestige of your internship "depends on which career path you take." "It's a dream for UX," says one respondent.

Microsoft holds steady at No. 4 this year. According to survey respondents, this "tech leader" and "innovative and creative brand" offers "good benefits," "great pay," and "a cool culture." It has "awesome products" — "its software is widely used around the world." Although some respondents say that maybe Microsoft is "not as cool as Apple," many survey respondents agree that it's a "top tech firm with great career prospects" and that an internship with this "very well established firm" "would look impressive on a resume."

Tesla soars three places to No. 5 this year. Tesla, which ranked No. 8 last year, is an "innovative," "up-and-coming," "cutting-edge," "elite," "impressive" "disrupter" that's "changing the future." Survey respondents also say that this "cool company" and "top engineering and tech firm" would be a "huge resume builder." Tesla offers "great growth" and is "pushing frontiers." Maybe the only drawback is it's "hard to get a job there."

Others in the Top 20

Other notable movers in the top 20 this year include the "groundbreaking" and "trendsetting" SpaceX, which skyrocketed four spots to No. 6 in the rankings this year; and the "cool," "fun," "impressive," and "booming" Spotify, which rose three spots to No. 20. Meanwhile, the "e-commerce powerhouse" but "all-work-no-break" Amazon slipped three places to No. 8; and the "dominant," "innovative," "leading social media platform" Facebook, which is getting some "bad rep due to privacy issues," also fell three spots, taking the No. 10 ranking.

Interesting facts about students, internships, and the internship search:

  • 76.5 percent of internships were virtual this year, 10.9 percent were partially virtual, and 12.6 percent were entirely on site.
  • 38.4 percent of internships lasted less than six weeks, 24.2 percent lasted between 10 and 12 weeks, 12.0 percent lasted between six and seven weeks, and 11.1 percent lasted between eight and nine weeks.
  • 68.3 percent of interns say the virtual aspects of their internships "exceeded their expectations," 29.4 percent say the virtual aspects "met their expectations," and just 2.3 percent say the virtual aspects "fell below their expectations."
  • Approximately 56 percent of internships resulted in full-time job offers.
  • "Career advancement in chosen industry" was the No. 1 deciding factor when choosing an internship. "Corporate culture" was the No. 2 deciding factor, followed by "Opportunity for a full-time job offer" at No. 3, and "Pay" at No. 4.
  • 42.6 percent of respondents found their internships through campus recruiting, 13.9 percent through a company's website, 8.8 percent through referrals/friends and family, 8.6 percent through professional networking, and 8.3 percent through career fairs.

In one of its most helpful aspects, Vault also features a web portal to help students research hundreds of internships, read thousands of internship reviews and get advice on interviews, resumes, cover letters and more. You can view the complete Vault internship rankings here.