Internships for the Hospitality Industry

November 21, 2018
10 Things You Need To Know And Do When You Hire An Intern
by Astrid Zeppenfeld


We all know the feeling… papers are piling up on our desk, the telephone won’t stop ringing, customers are demanding answers, and we haven’t even had a chance to read our emails from yesterday. So, in desperation, we call on our co-workers. Maybe Suzie in the next office could answer the phone and field phone calls? But Suzie is just as busy as Robbie, Jennie, and Billy.

Now what?


Sure, there are always plenty of people out there looking for work. But many of them are over-qualified for just phone duty. In addition, they’re too expensive. Where can we get someone who will start by doing the remedial tasks we have let pile up? Who will learn the rest of the job on-the-go and won’t need a lot of training? Who will not need a two-year contract or benefits?

One of the first ideas that come to mind is hire a temp worker. They won’t need benefits, have surely opened mail and answered phones somewhere before and are only looking for something temporary, as their title “temp worker” implies.

The other idea might be to hire an intern. Many students have to complete internships in order to obtain their degree, especially in the hospitality industry. But not all hospitality management degree programs have the same requirements for their internships. For instance, Southeast Missouri State, affectionally called SEMO by Missourians, requires hospitality management students to complete 480 hours of internship before grauation. This is in stark contrast to Cornell University’s requirement of 1,000 hours, more than twice as much. At the College of the Ozarks in Missouri students get real-life work experience at their very own Keeter Center, a world-class lodge and conference center on campus, so their internship requires only 200 hours, which equates to five academic credits toward degree.


Internships create an opportunity for students to apply the technical knowledge acquired in the classroom to the business world for the purpose of gaining work experience and making connections that might help them land their dream job after graduation. For the businesses employing interns, the advantages are twofold as well: Interns cost less money than regular employees on the payroll and they often bring new ideas to the business because new concepts get developed all the time and then taught to students as part of the coursework.

There are – essentially – five steps you should take to get the best intern for your business:

  1. First and foremost: Start looking for an intern early enough! Remember, these are students looking for temporary full-time work, either at the start of a semester if the internship is required for graduation or at the end of a semester, right after graduation. Students work on the academic calendar, so they are looking to start internships in January, June or September. As Dr. Quantella Noto, Director of the Hospitality Management program at Southeast Missouri State points out, “Don’t call me at the end of February and say that you need an intern; no, you need part-time help and I don’t have any students available anymore at the end of February.”
  2. Know where to find them. A decade or two ago, the office of career services at the local university was the place to go if you needed an intern. Sure, Career Services still exist at colleges and  universities, but it’s not the only place to look for an intern. These days, students scour the Internet, in addition to their university’s career services, for available internships. seems to be the most popular website for businesses and students to connect. I personally know students who have a more extensive, and frankly, better profile on LinkedIn than I do and I have been out of graduate school for more than a decade.
  3. Be very clear about how much work you have available. As mentioned above, different programs require different amounts of hours for an internship. If you don’t have 1,000 hours of work to do for the intern, don’t call Cornell University, for instance.
  4. Have the funds to compensate your intern. There is quite a bit of competition out there, with salaries ranging from $8.30/hour at the Hyatt Place in Columbus, OH to $11.50/hour at a resort in Watersound, FL. A quick google search indicates that in New York, for instance, interns can make $17/hour plus overtime.
  5. Create a detailed plan for your intern. He or she will most likely come academically prepared to put that theoretical knowledge to good use, but chances are that this “work thing” is new to the intern. So if your internship is well-organized, structured, and guided, it benefits everyone. With a detailed plan, you are a.) more likely to get better candidates who are carefully selecting their internships based on “what they will learn and get out of it” and b.) able to hold the intern accountable to “what you expect and get out of it.”

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According to 2018 ranking, the top 10 college degree programs in hospitality management can be found at the following universities:

  1. Missouri State University – Springfield, offering with two hospitality management programs
  2. Saint Louis University, offering one hospitality management program
  3. Lindenwood University, offering one hospitality management program
  4. Southeast Missouri State University, offering two hospitality management programs
  5. University of Central Missouri, offering two hospitality management programs
  6. Southwest Baptist University, offering one hospitality management program
  7. College of the Ozarks, offering two hospitality management programs
  8. Missouri Valley College, offering one hospitality management program
  9. Three Rivers Community College, offering one hospitality management program
  10. Harris-Stowe State University’s, currently offering zero hospitality management programs

Yes, I have no idea either how Harris-Stowe State University made that list, if they are not offering any degree programs in hospitality management?

Either way, next time you feel like your company could use some temporary help, and you’d like to give an intern a chance to gain work experience (and maybe even academic credit hours at the same time), look no further than this list. Just call the university, ask for career services, and place your ad for an intern with that office. Don’t forget to also go on and place your ad there, too. Have a productive work day! MM&E

(Astrid Zeppenfeld is a contributing writer and MM&E’s editor/business development manager from St. Louis.)


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