The process of choosing and applying to the best business school for you can be challenging – there are many things to consider. Next to researching the culture, curriculum, and admission requirements, you might be interested to learn about MBA internships.

Like any other type of internship, the MBA internship is an excellent opportunity to gain experience in a new industry, discover what you like about the job and what you don’t, and practice your skills. For many students, it is an important part of their learning experience.

Here is what to consider about MBA internships before your MBA application.

Do all MBA programs offer internships? Are they compulsory?

Each business school has their own requirements for MBA internships. In some cases, they are a compulsory part of the program, but in others it may be up to the student to decide. Many MBA participants choose to complete an internship, even if it’s not required, because of its value for practical learning and increasing post-MBA employment prospects.

For example, the University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business (US) began requiring full-time students to complete internships in fall 2020. As a result, students at Haas often refine their professional goals based on what they learnt in practice, says Abby Scott, assistant dean of MBA career management and corporate partnerships at the school.

Other institutions that require MBA internships include MIT Sloan School of Management, the Yale School of Management, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Online and part-time programs rarely feature a compulsory internship as part of their curricula because most students who enroll already hold full-time jobs, notes higher education reporter Jordan Friedman for Fortune Magazine.

Questions about MBA internships you can ask MBA representatives

The school’s website is a good place to start if you want to know more about their internship opportunities. Usually, prospective applicants should be able to find important details online – a list of partner companies that hire interns at the university, for example.

However, MBA internships can be a great point for discussion when meeting MBA admission officers or alumni. Is there missing information from the school website? Would you like to hear personal internship stories directly from school alumni? Business school representatives would be more than happy to tell you more about this aspect of their programs.

Here are some questions you can ask, depending on the information you already have:

  • When does the MBA internship take place?
  • Are students asked to complete a project or share what they learnt in some form after the internship?
  • What kind of support do you offer so that I can find the right internship and employer for me?
  • I am interested in doing an MBA internship in [industry] – do you partner with companies in this sector?
  • What percentage of your MBA students get a full-time job offer after their internship?

Pros and cons of different MBA internships

If you are already planning your internship experience, you might be thinking of the type of company you would like to intern at. The possibilities are many and diverse, but there are some general differences you can consider.

Plenty of big companies are used to hiring MBA interns and they partner with business schools so that they can offer career opportunities to their top talent. These partnerships usually make it easier to find an MBA internship. Some universities work with their students to help them find an employer.

Bigger organizations may also have an established application process for their MBA internship positions. In some cases, this can make your internship application feel less personal, as the company takes their time to assess all submissions. Of course, this will depend on the company culture and practice.

If you have set your mind on an MBA internship at a startup or smaller organization, it might be more challenging to find. “Often, [smaller] companies don’t have these big programs,” says Emily Anderson, senior director of the Career Management Center at the Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management (US), for Fortune Magazine. “It would require more networking on the student’s part to uncover some of these.” So applicants who are interested in a startup environment should be prepared to invest more of their time and negotiation skills into securing an internship there.

Of course, MBA internships also cover a wide range of industries. Major consulting firms such as McKinsey & Co., Bain & Co., and Boston Consulting Group are among the most popular employers of MBA interns. However, the technology sector has also started recruiting more business school interns in recent years.

Whether you already know which business school you want to apply to, or you are still looking for the one with top MBA internship opportunities – make sure you do your research. Admission representatives will appreciate your interest in and preparation on the topic!