Education

Who Wants to Intern with the Government?

Women, minorities and community college students have more interest in government internships than the general student population, a survey finds.
by | June 18, 2014
Summer interns give presentations to the Maryland governor at the State House. Flickr/Maryland GovPics
 

Most college students prefer taking internships at for-profit companies, not the government, according to a new survey.

But women, Hispanics, blacks and community college students have a higher interest in government internships than the general student population.

The findings come from a State of the Internship Report published in June by InternMatch, a for-profit website that connects college students to internships. The service is free for students, but involves a fee per posting for companies.

About two-thirds of respondents said they preferred internships at a for-profit company. Only about 14 percent said they preferred internships with the government. In general, for-profit internships were more appealing across specific demographic groups, too, such as minorities and women, but the gap wasn't as big.

The table below shows the percentage breakdowns of preferred type of internship company (for-profit, nonprofit or government) for all college students in the survey and certain categories of respondents that showed a greater interest in government internships (highlighted in yellow).

Students pursuing "academic-oriented" majors reported a stronger preference for government internships than students pursuing "career-oriented" majors. Academic majors included English, foreign language, liberal arts or the humanities, history, political science, psychology, sociology and the visual or performing arts. Career majors included accounting, business administration, communications, computer science, engineering, education, health care and environmental science.

While the findings suggest that interning with government is more appealing to some groups of people more than others, the survey doesn't give insight as to why. Nathan Parcells, a co-founder of InternMatch, said he suspected that differences in interest are linked to differences in the recruitment and hiring of interns in the for-profit and government sectors.

While most students preferred for-profit internships to government internships, responses to a more detailed question about specific industries showed that government internships are still popular. When asked to select their top three preferred industries from a list of 18, including education, health care and legal, government ranked the third highest at 28.8 percent, below only marketing/press relations and technology. 

InternMatch surveyed 9,001 respondents between March and April 2014, using an online questionnaire. The company made statistical adjustments to the sample to make sure it mirrored the actual student population in college in terms of key demographics, such as region, gender and ethnicity. The margin of error was 1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. 

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