The Best Companies For Summer Internships

Do you want the prestige or the preparation?

Many business school students ask that question when weighing internship offers. Who wouldn’t want a famed company on their resume? At worst, it’ll open doors elsewhere, right?

Maybe, but real question is this: Does the internship teach students how to excel once they land a gig? In this regard, not all internships are created equal. In many cases, they lack an overriding structure. As a result, they don’t consciously help interns develop skills, grow networks, and absorb professional mores.  That begs the question: Which company offers the highest return on a summer internship?


That would be the Elliott Davis ENVISION Summer Internship Experience according to Vault, a leading collector of market intelligence for employer ratings and reviews. A Top 30 accounting firm with locations across the Carolinas and Tennessee, Elliott Davis takes on 100 interns per year, paying $18-$26 an hour. It is an internship where students learn by doing, working directly with real clients and senior managers alike. Like many top internships, Elliott Davis helped business students beef up their resumes.

For interns themselves, it was the firm’s ability to foster a sense of belonging that truly set it apart. “They made you feel as if you were capable of doing things and wanted your help in doing things and never made you feel stupid for not knowing something,” says one intern.

Elliott Davis is just one of the firms honored by Vault in its 2018 “Best 50 Internships.” It is an all-encompassing ranking that evaluates firms on both quality and prestige. These evaluations are based on survey ratings from 12,000 current and former interns who completed internships with over 110 firms. As part of the survey, these respondents were asked to evaluate their internships on a variety of criteria, including Quality of Life (work-life balance, culture, and flexibility); Compensation and Benefits (pay, perks, and subsidized expenses); Interview Process (application requirements and interview experience); Career Development (training and mentoring, quality of work assignments, and networking opportunities); and Full-Time Employment Prospects (possibility of landing full-time work).


Each category was scored on a scale of 0 (“No one wants to work here”) to 10 (It’s a dream job”). Using the same scale, survey respondents also measured the prestige level of interning with various firms. Along with ‘Best 50’ and ‘Prestige’ rankings, Vault also broke rankings down by Industry (Accounting, Consulting, Energy, Financial Services, Health Care, Investment Banking, Media and Telecom, Retail and Consumer Projects, and Tech and Engineering) and Performance (Quality of Life, Career Development, Compensation & Benefits, and Employment Prospects).

At first, the ‘Best 50’ summer internship ranking feels a bit unfamiliar. Notably, many of the big names, such as Google, McKinsey, and Goldman Sachs, are conspicuously absent. In fact, Bain & Company is probably the most recognizable name on the Top 10 – though names like PwC, Barclays, and Deloitte Consulting eventually crop up well down the list. The reason for excluding top names came down to participation, with just 30% of the 400 firms invited ultimately participating.

“To be ranked in the overall category, a firm had to have taken our survey,” explains Derek Loosvelt, senior finance editor at Vault, in a statement to Poets&Quants. “A majority of the firms that ranked among the Most Prestigious Internships did not participate in our survey.”


Joe Perella, Co-founder and Partner at Perella Weinberg

The Perella Weinberg Partners Advisory Summer Internship program placed 2nd in the ‘Best 50.’ A decade-old financial services firm headquartered in New York City, Perella Weinberg offers 6-12 week summer internships to 21-50 students annually. How popular was the firm? It earned the highest scores from survey respondents for career development and compensation and benefits. It also finished second for employment prospects. Such sentiments came out clearly in intern surveys, where respondents touted the firm for giving them “good deal exposure” and placing them in the “middle of the action.”

“The work is meaningful, engaging, and high impact,” writes one 2017 intern who worked out of the San Francisco office. “I helped companies do things that will be front page news when they are completed and will have lasting effects on the industries they operate in.”

What was the downside of interning at Perella Weinberg? It was the same as working in any financial: grueling hours that cut into interns’ work-life balance. How deep did it cut? The firm didn’t even rank among the Top 25 firms for Quality of Life, which undoubtedly cost it the top spot in the ‘Best 50.’ Still, many interns were philosophical about the tradeoff. “The hours take time to get adjusted to,” observes one 2017 intern philosophically. “Once that adjustment is made, it doesn’t seem bad because the people at the firm are very smart and fun to work with and the content of the work takes the mind off of time.”

Perella Weinberg may offer access and responsibility, but the firm’s culture is why many interns can’t wait to return after graduation. “The access to the senior bankers provides you with an industry experience that larger banks can’t provide,” adds a 2016 intern. “The ability to see a project from start to finish teaches a great deal about analysis that you don’t receive at bulge bracket banks that have you churn a great number of reps on the same concepts. Most importantly, the relationships you can build at a smaller firm like Perella are truly what makes the firm great. Being able to walk into a firm and know almost every single person that works in the office is special in the finance industry and is something that I will certainly cherish.”

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