Effects of Business Internships on Students, Employers, and Higher Education Institutions: A Systematic Review

By Velez, Gisela Sanahuja; Giner, Gabriela Ribes | Journal of Employment Counseling, September 2015 | Go to article overview

Effects of Business Internships on Students, Employers, and Higher Education Institutions: A Systematic Review


Velez, Gisela Sanahuja, Giner, Gabriela Ribes, Journal of Employment Counseling


The objective of this study is to provide a systematic review of the literature on the impact of internships completed by university students. This research also aims to analyze variables that can affect outcomes and satisfaction in the internship experience. Fifty-seven studies were included and examined. The effects and variables identified were listed and classified. The findings of this review support the overall positive effects of business internships and confirm that they are a win-win situation for the main 3 stakeholders: students, employers, and higher education institutions.

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One of the main objectives of higher education institutions is to ensure that their students will be able to find employment within their chosen career (Santiago, 2009). Traditionally, university education focuses on teaching theoretical knowledge, but employers demand practical skills and experience (Chen, Hu, Wang, & Chen, 2011; Coco, 2000), leaving college students without work experience little chance of successfully competing for jobs. Internships are a way of addressing this obstacle (Coco, 2000). Some higher education institutions have incorporated internship programs in which students apply theoretical learning in practice before they graduate (Santiago. 2009).

The literature provides various definitions of what constitutes an intern or an internship. For example, Tovey (2001) stated that

   an intern is someone who is involved in part-time or full-time work
   experience that is related to the student's career goal or major,
   who may be paid or unpaid, may or may not be receiving academic
   credit for the internship, but who is a temporary employee, (p.
   226)

According to Zopiatis (2007), "in general terms, an internship is viewed as a short-term practical work experience in which students receive training and gain experience in a specific field or career area of their interest" (p. 65).

Previous research has identified three stakeholders as the beneficiaries of internships: students, employers, and higher education institutions (Coco, 2000; Divine, Linrud, Miller, & Wilson, 2007: Gault, Redington, & Schlager, 2000; Thiel & Hartley, 1997). The major role of an internship is to offer a planned transition from the classroom to the job, and it is a natural bridge between universities and the labor market (Coco, 2000). The internship experience enables students to apply classroom theory within the actual world of work and therefore bridges the gap between theory and practice (Zopiatis, 2007). Internships provide learning opportunities for students to experience professional practice and activities related to the application of knowledge (Beggs, Ross, & Goodwin, 2008).

In recent years, several researchers have published articles examining the features and effects of internships. These studies include a research review by Knouse and Fontenot (2008) on the benefits of business college internships for students. However, there is no systematic review of the literature concerning the benefits to the three stakeholders and there is no analysis of the findings. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to provide a systematic review of the literature published within the past 10 years on the impact of business internships on the three agents in this partnership: students, employers, and higher education institutions. It also aims to examine the findings and identify if there are particular variables that may affect outcomes and participant satisfaction. Finally, this research aims to conduct a statistical meta-analysis of the results.

METHOD

We identified a sample of articles using a personalized version of the approach developed by David and Han (2004) and later adapted by Newbert (2007). First, we conducted a search using the Polibuscador database for articles published within the past 10 years (from May 2003 to May 2013), requiring that the selected articles contain at least one of the following primary keywords in their title: internship or work placement. …

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