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  • Signing Bonuses for Interns/Co-ops Making a Comeback

    August 02, 2017 | By NACE Staff

    An intern accepts an offer which includes a signing bonus.

    TAGS: internships, compensation, trends and predictions, surveys, nace insights, co_ops

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    The practice of employers offering signing bonuses to candidates for intern and co-op positions seems to be making something of a comeback in recent years, according to NACE’s 2017 Internship & Co-op Survey.

    Although offering signing bonuses to candidates for intern and co-op positions has never been common practice, it became particularly rare in the years immediately following the recession. In the last 10 years, the percentage of employers that offered signing bonuses to internship and/or co-op candidates fell from a high of 26.6 percent in 2008 to a low of 12.7 percent in 2012. Since then, however, the practice has climbed to 20.2 percent in 2017.

    In the last three years, signing bonuses have been more commonly offered to internship candidates (17.9 percent in 2017) than they were to co-op candidates (8.9 percent in 2017), perhaps due to the former being a wider and more competitive group of candidates. (See Figure 1.) In addition, among bonus-offering employers, signing bonuses were standard for bachelor’s-level candidates, but were much less common for associate-, master’s-, and doctoral-level candidates.

    Likewise, the dollar amounts for these bonuses have gradually picked back up since taking a post-recession dip, especially for co-ops. In 2017, the median signing bonus amount was $2,500 for interns and $3,750 for co-ops.

    NACE’s 2017 Internship & Co-op Survey was conducted from November 21, 2016, to February 17, 2017, from NACE employer members; there were 276 respondents, representing 26.4 percent of all eligible respondents. The 2017 Internship & Co-op Survey report is available to participants through MyNACE. An executive summary of the 2017 Internship & Co-op Survey is available on NACEWeb.

    Figure 1: Internship/co-op candidates offered signing bonuses, by degree level

    Degree Level Internship Candidates Co-op Candidates
    2016 2017 2016 2017
    % of Responses
    Associate 4.8% 8.3% 16.7% 0.0%
    Bachelor’s 95.2% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
    Master’s 76.2% 50.0% 50.0% 35.3%
    Doctoral 19.0% 25.0% 0.0% 11.8%
    Source: 2017 Internship & Co-op Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers