Member Publication: The Career Conveyor Belt: How Internships Contribute to Early Career Inequality Among College Graduates

Please check out the recent publication by OOW member Corey Moss-Pech.

Moss-Pech, Corey. 2020. “The Career Conveyor Belt: How Internships Contribute to Early Career Inequality Among College Graduates,” Qualitative Sociology, Online First.


Progressing quickly from school to work is an indicator of early career success for college graduates. Recent research shows that inter-institutional connections between elite universities and prestigious employers easily move students at these schools into a select few firms. Prior research has yet to fully address whether students at non-elite colleges have differential access to connections between their colleges and potential employers. Drawing on 176 longitudinal interviews with students across four majors, I track 91 seniors who have all completed internships as they graduate and enter the labor market. In doing so, I document the inter-institutional connections through which employers recruit some students for internships that often lead directly to permanent employment opportunities, a process I call the career conveyor belt. Career conveyor belt internships have procedures in place to hire some, or all, of their interns immediately following graduation. Students that must find their own internships rarely end up in career conveyor belt internships, and they often spend 3–6 months job-searching after school ends before finding full-time work. Analysis reveals that college major plays a critical role in determining which students access career conveyor belt internships. These findings suggest students’ differential access to inter-institutional connections between schools and employers produce unequal labor market outcomes between college graduates by major.

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