Internship for Careers in Retailing and Consumer Sciences

Society-Ready Graduates
Research Year: 

Demand exceeds supply for graduates who can fill jobs in the expanding field of retailing. According to the National Retail Federation's Retail Industry Indicators, retail added 3.3 million new jobs between 1988 and 1998. Projections are for 3 million new retail jobs by 2008 for a grand total of 25.4 million jobs throughout the industry. One in five American workers is employed in retail - with register sales exceeding $3 trillion last year. To meet this need many employers recruit through Career Centers to identify candidates for both internships and career placement. According to the 2003 NACE Job Outlook Survey, experiential education programs are the number one tool used for recruiting graduates.

Description of Action: 

The University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences offers a program of undergraduate and graduate study in Retailing and Consumer Sciences. The rigorous, comprehensive curriculum offers courses in global retailing, services retailing, e-commerce, supply-chain management and leadership development. Eligible students complete structured internships in a variety of retail formats worldwide. These have included department stores, discount retailing and specialty retailers.

In addition, the Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team is an extracurricular activity where students are given the chance to develop leadership, mentoring, teamwork and communication skills, by learning, teaching and practicing the fundamentals of free enterprise. The Southwest Retail Center that is affiliated with the Retailing and Consumer Sciences Division facilitates the connection between academic instruction and experiential learning.


Each year approximately 65-75 students from the Retailing and Consumer Sciences major participate in an internship These internships are primarily in the retail industry, ranging from corporate retailing and marketing offices to in-store internships, to working with key fashion designers. Of this group, 65 percent are offered permanent placement at the conclusion of the internship. In addition, another 10 percent are offered priority status for placement upon graduation, but a specific position is not held for them. These numbers prove significant due to the highly competitive nature for entry level executive positions in the retailing industry.

More than 80 percent of the interns reported in 2004 that the internship was helpful in developing their career goals and leadership skills. Sixty-five percent of the interns were paid; they reported that being paid for an internship made them feel as though they were actually working for a company, not just interning. They also enjoyed interfacing with the executives and leaders in the retailing industry. These exchanges enabled the students to see what the expectations for specific employment required. The internship program proves to be a win-win situation for both the employers and the students every year. The students are given visibility in the largest industry which contributes significantly to their employability upon graduation. The employers are allowed the opportunity to put the student through their program and be able to see where the student could ultimately be within the company. The employers state that “long-range planning proves to be a significant positive factor for their companies.” Permanent positions include merchandise analyst, assistant buyer, merchandiser, buyer, store manager, and HR recruiter. Students report the most exciting part of their internship was:

“Seeing both sides of the business–storeline and merchant. I was also able to meet many people at the company–the CEO, CFO, VP Credit, VP HR and many more.”

“Networking with so many people at all levels. Also, working in three different areas- a department, human resources, and in a buying office.”

“Working in retail for the first time, seeing how much respect they had for my views.” “Going to headquarters in Troy, Michigan and getting to meet different directors.”

Funding Agencies: 

The University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Corporate support: Bear Creek Corporation; Bridgestone/Firestone; Enterprise Rent-A-Car; Federated Department Stores; IBM: International Council of Shopping Centers Foundation; JCPenney Company, Inc.; Kmart Corporation; KPMG; Macy's West; Mervyn's California; Nordstrom; Office Depot; PETsMART; Philip Morris USA; Sears Roebuck & Co.; Strategic Mindshare; Target Corporation; Walgreens; Wal*Mart Stores, Inc.

Conact Name: 
Melinda Burke
Contact E-mail: 
Contact Address: 

The University of Arizona

PO Box 210033, Tucson, AZ 85721-0033

Tel: (520) 621-1140, FAX: (520) 621-3209