Your Guide to MBA Internships

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn the benefits of an MBA internship and discover tips for landing one, from submitting an application through acing your interview.

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If you're in the process of earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA), you may have the opportunity—or, in some cases, the requirement—to complete an internship. You can gain valuable business experience and build new relationships that might even lead to your next job by pursuing an internship.

MBA internships generally last from eight to 12 weeks. As an MBA intern, you'll likely be supervised by a personnel director or human resource manager of a company or business, as well as a member of your business school faculty. 

Benefits of an MBA internship

A significant benefit to completing an MBA internship is that it gives you a chance to get valuable experience working for a company while also pursuing your studies. Here are more ways an MBA internship may add to your educational growth: 

  • You'll get exposure to the workings of a company, including different tasks, staff members, and departments, which can help you decide if you'd like to work at a similar company.

  • You can preview a specific job role that interests you.

  • You can form connections with people in the corporate world.

  • You can have access to recommendations and references for future employment.

  • You can build confidence for job hunting in the future.

  • You may receive a monetary stipend.

  • You may receive a permanent job offer.

When to start looking for an MBA internship

Most full-time MBA students pursue an internship during the summer between the first and second year when classes are not in session. To ensure you get the internship you want, it’s a good idea to start looking shortly after starting your MBA program.  

You can take several steps to make your search for an internship easier. When you decide it's time to start looking, these tips might help you land the MBA internship that’s best for you.

Access your school's resources

Your college or university can be a valuable resource for finding an internship. Some companies recruit MBA interns directly from business schools, and the school's career services department usually handles the process. The staff in this department may also offer you tips for conducting your internship search and ideas for companies to contact. 

In addition, colleges and universities typically host events that bring internship recruiters to campus, so keep an eye out for events like these. 

Get to know the industry

When you're talking to an internship recruiter, you may be able to get a leg up if you do some research about the industry beforehand. Learn more about what's happening in the world of business by taking these steps:

  • Read the business sections of prominent papers like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

  • Subscribe to magazines or e-zines like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune.

  • Search online for the latest business trends, blogs, and important press releases. 

Research the company 

You’ll likely have an easier time talking to a recruiter or human resource manager if you understand the company they represent. Before entering an interview for an internship or speaking with a recruiter:

  • Check out the company's website.

  • Take a look at the company's social media accounts.

  • Research key employees of the company on LinkedIn.

  • Find the company's operations and financial information through the Securities and Exchange Commission.

  • Learn about the company through people you may know who work there.

Make your resume shine

As an MBA candidate, you've likely already polished your resume to highlight your career objective, work experience, skills, and other qualifications when you went through the application process. Make sure to add any newly acquired skills or relevant coursework before applying for internships.

If you need help updating your resume, you can visit your school's career services department or even hire a professional resume writer. A strong resume could set you apart from other internship candidates. 

Be persistent in your MBA internship search

The writer James Michener once said, "Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries." In other words, when you're searching for any job, a little persistence can go a long way. 

If you've applied for an internship, follow up on it about two weeks later. Send the company's contact person a short email asking if they received your application and thank them again for considering you for the position. You may have to apply for several internships before you land the one you want, so don't give up. 

Prepare for internship interviews

The interview process is often an important factor for landing an MBA internship. Because some companies hire their interns for permanent positions, they want candidates who are knowledgeable, thoughtful, skilled, and well-versed in the goings-on of the company and industry. That's why it's essential to prepare. 

Here are a few common interview questions that many employers ask MBA intern candidates and other job applicants:

  • Can you tell me a little about yourself?

  • Why are you interested in this particular internship/job?

  • What do you hope to gain from it?

  • What can you offer our company?

  • What do you see as your strengths and weaknesses?

  • What are some of your interests and hobbies?

  • What motivates you?

After every interview, take time to debrief. Jot down how you think you can improve and what you feel you did well. You can then use these notes to improve your performance in the next interview. Email the interviewer to thank them for their time and consideration to create one last positive impression. 

Find the right MBA internship fit

Getting a good internship may lead to a career that fills you with purpose and contentment. To find the right internship for you, consider a few strategies. 

Take advantage of career workshops and assessment tests offered through your school's career services department. By clarifying your career goals, you might have an easier time narrowing your focus and finding more satisfying internships. For instance, if you decide you want a career in marketing, you may wish to focus your internship search on advertising agencies, marketing firms, or graphic design companies.   

The interview process might also help you determine whether an internship is right for you. When you have an interview for an internship, pay attention to your surroundings and ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the company look like a place you might like to work permanently? 

  • Do the employees appear calm, productive, and happy in their work?

  • Will taking this internship help you build new professional skills?

  • Will accepting this internship help advance your specific career goals?

Next steps

If you want to build skills in a particular area of business, consider a business specialization in areas such as digital marketing, strategic leadership, or financial management from the University of Illinois Gies College of Business, all available on Coursera. Each specialization is part of the university's iMBA program, which allows students the ability to work toward their degree from anywhere with an internet connection at a breakthrough price.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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