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(R. Michael Stuckey/Photos.com/R. Michael Stuckey/Photos.com)
(R. Michael Stuckey/Photos.com/R. Michael Stuckey/Photos.com)

Is a summer internship necessary in a one-year MBA? Add to ...

As the time to start the search for a summer internship nears, Adam Janikowski, who left his job as vice-president of investment banking at BMO Capital Markets in Britain to pursue an MBA at INSEAD in France, looks at the pros and cons

MBA students go back to school for many reasons: some to enhance their education, some to take a break from the work force, and some to change an aspect of their employment, such as location or industry. For those who choose to get an MBA in order to make a change in their career, a summer internship can be the easiest way to try something new. An internship allows a student to test the waters and potentially ensure that he or she is making the right choice, without making a commitment that will later be regretted.

INSEAD offers a ten-month MBA program rather than the traditional two-year program offered by schools such as Harvard, or Rotman. One of the benefits of choosing to attend INSEAD during the January to December promotion of INSEAD rather than the September to July promotion is a two month summer break. This break gives a student not only the opportunity to pursue a summer internship but also an opportunity to volunteer, travel, or just relax and spend time alone or with their families. There is no requirement by the school for the student to do anything during this time.

Out of the 495 students in my class at INSEAD who responded to a survey about their summer break, 56 per cent of the students found an internship opportunity and spent the summer working. This is a sharp contrast from Rotman, where, according to their career services website, 85 per cent of their students spent the summer working or Harvard where 100 per cent of their full time MBA students participated in internships. Interestingly, of the INSEAD students who did spend their summer working, overwhelmingly these students did not go to work for their former employer; 95 per cent of them decided to try something new.

If a student is interested in changing career paths, INSEAD Career Services feels that for certain sectors a summer internship is very important. As an example, for students who want to move into investment banking at a bulge bracket firm such as Goldman Sachs, Career services advises students that a summer internship is the best, if not the only path into such a full time role. In fact, most bulge bracket banks will only make their full time offers following an internship program and although not all summer internships are created equal (two-year MBA programs typically offer a four-month break rather than INSEAD’s two), INSEAD Career Services has been assured by the banks’ human resources departments that the banks do not distinguish between the length of the internship.

So does having an internship get you a job at the end of your MBA? At the end of the summer, the answer is somewhat inconclusive. About a quarter of the students who were polled reported being offered full time roles, a quarter of the students were not offered any role and the rest were left wondering but hopeful.

Despite how many students held job offers at the end of the summer, across the top business schools both internationally and in Canada, at the end of the MBA program, the percentage of graduates who have received job offers is reasonably standard. A quick review of the numbers show that for last year’s classes, three months after the end of their graduation, IVEY reports 92 per cent of their job-seeking MBA grads had received an offer, Rotman quotes a figure of 89 per cent while INSEAD reports 92 per cent. INSEAD Career Services does not publish statistics separating the two promotions but says there is no statistical difference between the July promotion and the December promotion, even though the students graduating in July had no opportunity to participate in an internship.

Regardless of a student’s reasons for participating in an internship, spending two months working does provide the ability to experience a career change without actually having to make a commitment. Almost all of my fellow students who worked over the break felt that the experience will be useful in their future career. An internship is also a good opportunity to earn some money at a time in one’s life when there is only cash outflow.

The decision to take a summer internship is very contextual; it depends on the sector a student wants to work in, his or her previous experience and his or her personal priorities. However, judging from the ability to get a job quickly after graduation among students who choose not to or do not have the opportunity to participate in a summer internship, the summer internship may not be the necessity that people think it is, at least not in a one-year MBA.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Editor's note: The Richard Ivey School of Business has a one-year MBA program. Incorrect information appeared in a previous version of this story.

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