Do Internships Lead to Jobs?

Ah, the new intern–so starry-eyed, so earnest, so sure that his hard work will lead to a job offer. So often, an intern comes into a company believing he or she will get a job out of the experience only to leave empty-handed. More like building your own college resume, right? And yet, you hear plenty of stories of people who got their jobs through internships. So which is it? Do internships lead to jobs or not?

Paid or Unpaid?

It turns out that whether you’re a paid or unpaid intern could be the greatest factor in whether you get a job offer. According to studies by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, if you are working as a paid intern, odds are 60% that you will be offered a job. Unfortunately, for unpaid interns, the chances of getting a job offer drop to 37%. So if you’re in the market for an internship, your best bet is to keep searching until you find a paid one. Despite what you might think, this shouldn’t be terribly hard. According to the NACE’s research, half of all college internships are paid. And the Wall Street Journal reported in 2018 that paid internships were on the rise, while unpaid internships were becoming less popular. 

Increase Your Odds

There are certainly some things you can do during your internship to increase the chances of being offered a job. Perhaps the most assertive one is to make your intention clear to your supervisor at the outset of the internship. Try something like, “My goal is to so exceed your expectations that I am offered a full-time job.” 

Forbes magazine recommends showing your supervisor your work ethic and your engagement. Despite all the distractions of college life, it’s the intern who well-manages his time and remains committed to the internship who gets the job offer. Supervisors also want to see an engaged intern–someone who isn’t just showing up to do the bare minimum. Ask questions, ask to work on different kinds of projects, show a real desire to learn and grow from the internship opportunity.

According to, asking for informational interviews with different leaders at the company will better your odds of being hired. An informational interview is one in which you ask questions to learn about the real-life experience of someone working in a field or company that interests you. Not only will this help you rub elbows with leadership, it will also show a high level of engagement in the internship.

When seeking a paid internship, look at large companies that are more likely to be capable of paying you. You’re less likely to find a paid internship at smaller businesses. However, if you do decide to intern unpaid at a smaller company, there are other benefits, such as having the opportunity to see your projects go from start to finish.

In sum, if you want the best odds at snagging a job offer at the end of an internship: 1) find a paid internship, 2) let them know you want a job, 3) do your very best work, and 4) network while you’re there. There’s no guarantee that even if you do all of these things that you’ll get a job. But if you follow the four guidelines above, you’re likely to have a worthwhile internship experience, regardless of whether you’re paid.