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Written by Lotte van RijswijkLotte van Rijswijk

The U.S. internship index: where is the most competition for intern roles?

25 min read
The U.S. internship index: where is the most competition for intern roles?
New research reveals that one in two Gen Z job and internship hunters send off over 50 applications in their search for a role. Landing an internship is clearly a competitive business — but just how does the level of competition vary across the U.S.? We used LinkedIn Jobs as a guide to find out.

Internships are an incredibly popular way for college students to bridge the gap between academia and working life. The NSCI reveals that one in five students undertook an internship in 2021, with a further proportion wanting to but not being able to because of busy academic schedules or insufficient pay (nearly one in two interns in the U.S. aren’t paid). 

With so many people trying to get their foot in the door, “getting an internship you are genuinely interested in these days is like winning a raffle or the lottery,” says one college student, speaking to Forbes. But surely that’s not the case everywhere? Or for every industry? …is it?

Intrigued, Resume.io used LinkedIn Jobs to find out where in the country budding interns are up against the most competition for the same role, where availability is the lowest and the industries offering the most and least room for interns. 

About this study

To find the most and least competitive U.S. states, cities and industries for interns, we calculated the average number of applicants a local/industry-specific role advertised on LinkedIn Jobs receives per day. We then measured the number of internships advertised per 100k of the local population to find the states and cities with the most and least internship roles available. Finally, we identified the industries with the most and least internship roles available per 1,000 jobs within the industry.

Key findings

  • Internship roles advertised in California attract 16.80 applicants per day — that’s more competitive than any other state.
  • Meanwhile, New Hampshire offers more (49.96) internships per 100,000 of the population than any other state.
  • New York is the most competitive city (10.28 applicants per role per day), while Atlanta has the most availability (150.86 roles per 100,000 people).
  • Entertainment ranks as the most competitive industry for interns, with the average internship role attracting 33.33 daily applicants.

Analyzing the internship landscape across America

California ranks as the most competitive state for interns, with the average role on LinkedIn receiving 16.80 applicants per day. Likely fueling the demand is the fact that California is such a desirable state for college graduates; one poll revealed that 11% of students who want to move to a new state after college said they want to move there, a proportion second only to New York. In the Golden State, it’s legal for businesses to not pay interns as long as the program benefits the intern more than the employer. 

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Texas is placed as the next most competitive state for interns (11.02 applicants per role per day). Two factors no doubt contributing to this are the influx of new residents in recent years and the fact that the Lone Star state is considered one of the best states in the country in which to start a career.

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Elsewhere, opportunities are easier to come by. Our map above reveals the number of internship roles advertised per 100,000 of the population. New Hampshire, by far, offers the most (49.96 roles). The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported in August 2023 that New Hampshire was struggling with a “severe” labor shortage, finding only 28 available workers for every 100 open positions. North Dakota is placed as the next most promising state for interns (46.20 roles per 100,000 people).

The best and worst U.S. cities for landing an internship

Which city college graduates move to after leaving school is a big decision. One factor that plays a part in that decision is the cost of living; one in three students, for instance, plans to move to a cheaper city after graduation. Another consideration is what the local job market looks like for budding interns.

Considering that it’s the most popular city for graduate job hunters, it comes as no surprise that New York is the most competitive city in which to apply for an internship, with the average role on LinkedIn attracting 10.28 daily applicants. In a country where 47% of interns aren’t paid at all, it’s an obvious draw that particular interns in the Big Apple can earn nearly $20,000 a month.

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Meanwhile, would-be interns searching for opportunities in Texas — the second-most competitive state in which to land an internship — might consider heading to the city of Garland, where the average role receives just 0.34 applicants per day (fewer than any other city in the country). Here, the biggest local industry is services, encompassing businesses like hotels and health and legal services.

Turning our attention to the availability of roles, we found that Atlanta, Georgia, offers more roles (150.86) per 100,000 of the local population than any other city in the country. In recent years, the local rate of job growth in the Atlanta metro area has been higher than the national rate. Cincinnati, Ohio, ranks next (149.59 roles), followed by Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (147.24 roles).

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Other cities offer far fewer opportunities for budding interns. Louisville in Kentucky comes top in that respect, a city in which we found just 5.28 roles for 100,000 of the population. Interestingly, the next four cities are all in California (the most competitive state for internships), led by Chula Vista (7.16 roles), named by WalletHub as one of the worst cities in the country in which to start a career.

Entertainment is the most competitive industry for budding interns

By far, entertainment is the most competitive industry for internships in the U.S., with the average role garnering 33.33 applicants per day. Encompassing roles in movie and TV production (among others), this industry is “nearly impossible” to land a job in without having completed an internship first, likely why so many applicants are trying to get their foot in the door. 

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Computer hardware comes next, an industry in which the average internship advertisement attracts 9.38 daily applicants. It could be that applicants are keen to land full-time employment within an industry that is known to offer salaries of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When it comes to the availability of internships, the legal services industry ranks as the least available, offering only 5.58 roles per 1,000 jobs. It likely doesn’t help that roles that do come up can be filled “sometimes years in advance.” Health, wellness and fitness internships are likewise rare (6.12 per 1k jobs). 

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In contrast, farming ranks as the top industry for available internships; we uncovered 90.52 positions per 1,000 jobs on LinkedIn. Interns within this industry can, unfortunately, be seen as a cheap labor resource. “Small farmers sometimes maintain that they seek to hire so-called apprentices and interns because they can’t afford skilled workers,” writes Lela Nargi of Ambrook Research. “And that they don’t have the time, energy, or resources to teach them formally.”

How to stand out as an intern in a competitive job market

Whether you’re applying for an internship that’s garnered a hundred applications in a day or one that’s a lot less competitive, here are five things you can do to make yourself stand out. 

1. Put together a portfolio

If you’ve done personal or school projects before that are relevant to the role you’re applying for, consider putting together an online portfolio to accompany your application. Make sure it’s easy to access and attractive to look at. If you’re applying for a journalism internship, for example, you could present previous pieces you’ve written with a specialist portfolio website like Clippings.me.

2. Research the company in depth 

One way of impressing a recruiter is by dazzling them with your knowledge about the company and giving them reasons as to why you’re so enthusiastic about the idea of an internship with them. You could also research news and trends within the sector to show that you’re interested and up-to-date with what’s going on in your target industry. 

3. Personalize your application

As with any job application, it’s important that you completely tailor your application to the internship role you’re applying for. This means customizing your cover letter to the job advert’s requirements. Use the letter to highlight your education, skills and experience and why you’d be a perfect fit for the role. Check it’s spelled and formatted correctly before sending it off. 

4. Sanitize your social media

According to one poll, 71% of hiring decision-makers in the U.S. believe that looking at a candidate’s social media is a good way of screening them. You know what that means — it’s time to take a look at your Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and LinkedIn profiles to make sure they present you in a positive light. Making them private is another option. 

5. Ask questions

Before an interview, think about questions you’d truly like to ask the recruiter. Asking questions not only demonstrates your interest in the role but will give you more information about the internship and the company. For example, you might want to know more about the day-to-day responsibilities of the role or what kind of challenges interns in similar positions typically face.

One last thing to remember is not to be disheartened by rejection. Consider widening your search to less competitive companies; gaining work experience elsewhere is always a positive addition to your resume and can tip the scale in your favor the next time you apply for an in-demand internship. 

Methodology

We analyzed job listings for internship positions advertised on LinkedIn Jobs for the top 100 most populous cities in the U.S. in order to explore the competition and availability of internships across America at a state, city and industry level:

  • Competition: the average number of daily applicants per internship in each location and industry.
  • Availability (States and Cities): the number of internships per 100k population in each state/city.
  • Availability (Industry): the number of internships per 1,000 jobs in each industry.

The industries are grouped according to LinkedIn's industry categories.

The data is correct as of January 2024.

Additional sources

  1. Bellassai, J. (2023). Nearly half of college students don’t feel Career-Ready, Forage study finds. Theforage.com
  2. Honor Society. (2023). Pros and Cons of unpaid internships. honorsociety.org
  3. Khokhar, H. (2018). 4 Industries where interning is important. inspiringinterns.com
  4. Marken, S., & Curtis, D. (2023). Four in 10 college students have had internship experience. Gallup.com
  5. Pelkey, M. (2023). The U.S. internship report. cashnetusa.com
  6. RippleMatch. (2023). Internship & Entry-Level Job Candidates Share How RippleMatch Helped Them Land a Role. ripplematch.com
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