Date of Conferral

2016

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Public Policy and Administration

Advisor

Mary Brown

Abstract

An estimated 1.5 million underemployed or unemployed college graduates have one or more college degrees, and many have high loan debt. Policy makers, students, and institutions of higher education are all concerned with the question of how prepared students are to enter the workforce upon graduation, yet little is known about whether internships are a strategy to improve career preparedness and gainful employment after graduation. Guided by Dewey and Kolb's experiential learning theory, the purpose of this nonexperimental study was to evaluate the impact of internships on career preparation from the perspective of graduates, specifically to evaluate whether graduates perceive participation in an internship improved their level of career preparedness in human services related fields. Post-internship survey data were acquired from a group of 21 graduates using the Career Benefits of CO-OP/Internship Experience instrument who were enrolled in a degree program at various colleges and universities in southeastern Virginia. These data were analyzed using a paired t test to compare pre and post internship perceptions of career preparedness. Results indicate a statistically significant improvement between the pre-internship and post-internship perceptions (p = .05). Furthermore, the study offers support to the notion that experiential learning may impact career success. This result indicates that internships may have a positive impact on career progression and gainful employment after graduation. The positive social change implications of this study includes recommendations to policy makers and university leaders to construct academic programs that incorporate internship opportunities, particularly to promote overall student success and future gainful employment.