In an increasingly competitive jobs' market, U.S companies are becoming ever more reliant on interns when it comes to sourcing new talent, with salaries rising as a result, according to a new study.
The research by career guide publisher Vault has found that getting an advanced degree is no longer a direct ticket to a steady job and good career.
Now 99 per cent of graduates believe that completing an internship is extremely or somewhat important to future career success.
But it is not a one-way relationship. Companies are increasingly coveting graduates, too, and not just to fill in the gaps left by vacationing employees Ė a need reflected in growing salary levels for interns.
"Overall, corporate America is increasingly reliant on interns for new hires," said Mark Oldman, Vault founder.
"It's cost-effective if they first hire a former intern," he said, characterizing an internship as a long interview or probation.
For bottom-line conscious companies, the reward of an internship program is employees who are ready to work and already know the ins and outs of the company.
Those who hire interns also see higher retention rates and lower hiring expenses, said the Vault survey.
The average age of a U.S. graduate student is now about 26, with some MBA students brushing up against 30.
That means the interns can be given more responsibilities and be assigned complex tasks, at a fraction of the cost of a full-time hire, argued Vault.
Intern salaries have also risen along with their responsibilities, said Oldman.
A survey by Harvard University in 2005 suggested that a typical three-month internship now costs a company about $10,500 per intern.
And a study by corporate recruiting consultant WetFeet has reported a 12 per cent rise in interns' salaries since 2003, with interns in finance and law expecting to take home around $2,000 to $3,000 a week in some cases.