MBA internships: Finding and landing the right one for you

To score a great MBA internship, you need to take an intentional, methodical approach. An MBA internship is a formative experience for most business professionals and can potentially change your life.

If you are entering an MBA program or about to start your MBA degree, there is one learning component that is probably on your mind: the MBA internship. What are MBA internships like, and what do they have to offer? 

MBA internships are a crucial component of any MBA curriculum, offering practical experience, networking opportunities, and a close-up view of your future role. This page will offer practical advice on how to find and apply to an MBA internship and how they pay off down the road. MBA internships should be regarded as a great learning opportunity. Read on to see why.

What is an MBA internship?

An MBA internship is a supervised work experience that usually takes place in the summer after the first or second year of an MBA program. The purpose of the internship is to give learners practical work experience in a specific industry. Internship length depends on the student: the experience usually lasts 2-3 months for full-time students, while for part-time students it can take a whole year.

Depending on the company, MBA internships are sometimes paid, sometimes unpaid. Some schools offer college credit for completing an internship; however, this depends on the school or program.

Pay-offs of an MBA internship

Completing an MBA internship offers a variety of benefits to your future career, including:

  • Practical experience
  • A preview of a particular job/role
  • Opportunities to gain industry knowledge
  • Financial compensation
  • Possible job offers post-internship
  • Higher earnings post-internship

It is no wonder that many business professionals look back on their MBA internship experience as a formative one.

What types of MBA internships are out there?

MBA internships are typically concentrated around three main industries: tech, financial services, and consulting. The most common types of companies that take MBA interns on include:

  • Consulting firms
  • Tech start-ups
  • Financial services and consulting start-ups
  • Large tech companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc.
  • Large consulting firms like Deloitte, Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company, etc.

Many MBA programs partner with industry leaders to streamline the internship-finding process  — this can be a stepping stone to getting a secure job with great benefits! However, remember that opportunities can come from almost anywhere, from household names to small companies in your local community.

How to find and land an MBA internship

Finding and landing an MBA internship need not stress you out. If you approach the process intentionally and strategically, you will easily find the right internship for you! Going forward, remember the following tips:

  1. Get yourself recruitment-ready as early as possible.

To land the right internship, you need to start preparing to apply as early as possible. Recruiters can start accepting summer internship applications as early as January, so you need an action plan ready months before your internship begins. Start networking months in advance. Also, keep abreast of and attend informational sessions offered by possible recruiters.

You will also need to balance your MBA courses with internship prep. Keep the following time management skills in mind:

  • Get plenty of sleep each night
  • Keep organized with a calendar, reminder notifications, or other systems
  • Use work-break interval systems, such as the Pomodoro method

2. Gather a list of the types of internships you're interested in.

The MBA internship that fits your needs won't just fall into your lap. Be intentional and make a list of possible options that fit your career plans. Quickly cross off options that don't fit. This might mean clarifying your career plans to begin with.

Ask yourself what career options are available for people in your MBA concentration. Think about what kind of industry, position, or size of company you would like to work in. What kind of company culture attracts you? Then, pursue the internship that gives you hands-on  experience in the role, company, and industry that interests you.

3. Seize multiple avenues to find internships.

Staying on the lookout for different networking opportunities is vital to securing an MBA internship. Your peers and professors are one good source. Being friendly with classmates and instructors can help you find out about internships that you otherwise would not have known about. Look out for recruiting events offered by your school or program, such as career fairs, alumni networks, and career services centers.

Take care also to scour the internet for online opportunities offered through LinkedIn or online job boards such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and WayUp. Email companies you like to see if they are recruiting interns. Another great avenue is reaching out to former managers, co-workers, or even family members to ask for connections that could lead to a potential internship. 

4. Strategically prepare in order to land the internship you want.

During the internship application process, you need to be strategic to score an internship you feel passionately about. Use your school's career services center for guidance on how to craft your application materials. Your resume, cover letter, interview, and presentation materials need to tailor to the recruiter's company culture, industry, and ethos. All of these elements should display your background industry knowledge and your enthusiasm for getting the opportunity to learn more from them!

5. Accept an MBA internship that feels like the right fit for you.

If you want your MBA internship experience to turn out right, make sure it feels right going in. Ask yourself whether this internship seems to fit your career goals and whether you will likely learn something substantial from this experience. If a company's culture and communication style do not fit with your expectations, it may not be a good fit. You want to work with a company that values their interns and will treat you well.

6. Make the most of your internship experience.

To make the most of your MBA internship, approach the experience as a combination of learning opportunity and professional development. If you impress the company enough, they might offer you a job. And even if they don't, the contacts you make might be useful down the road.

Take care also to balance the internship with your studies, which represent an equally important learning experience. You need to give the right amount of time and energy to both these priorities.

Do MBA interns get paid?

Sometimes. At some of the higher paying internships in consulting and financial services, they can make around $10,000-$20,000 a month. However, other internships are unpaid or pay very little.

Which internship is best for MBA students?

There is no "best" type of internship for MBA students. The best internship for you will align with your career goals, work culture ethos, and expectations for how you want to be treated.

Can I do an MBA without an internship?

Not all MBA programs require students to complete an internship. However, an internship adds a strong practical experience component to any MBA program that you should not pass up!

This article was reviewed by Krystal Covington, MBA 

Krystal Covington, a woman with medium-length, curly hair, smiles at the camera.

Krystal Covington, MBA, is a business growth strategist with 15 years of experience in marketing and public relations. Her company, Go Lead Consulting, provides clients foundational tools to build new client and customer relationships. 

Covington founded Women of Denver, one of the largest privately held membership organizations in Denver, Colorado. Her program helps women increase their business acumen, sharpen leadership skills and connect with other high-achieving women. Covington received her MBA from Western Governors University in 2012.

Krystal Covington is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.