LONDON, England (CNN) -- One of the key elements of any MBA is the internship -- in fact it is often the difference between securing your dream job and having to make do with something less exciting and challenging.
A popular destination for internships -- and jobs.
Typically undertaken in the summer between the first and second academic years of a full time MBA, competition for internships is nearly as fierce as that for jobs once the program is over.
Students are especially keen for a high profile internship with a big-hitting company in one of the traditional post-MBA glamour industries such as finance or consulting.
There's a good reason for this -- a top internship can very often lead to a top job.
According to a survey last year by business school professional body the Graduate Management Admission Council, or GMAT, more than 60% of 700 major companies surveyed around the world took on summer interns.
Almost three quarters of these companies considered their interns for subsequent jobs before looking externally, while on average, half the post-MBA hires came from this internship pool, the GMAT study found.
So, is the trick simply to apply early for a string of blue chip companies and hope one of them lets you sign up for the summer? Not necessarily.
Many students take MBAs with other ambitions than simply to secure a high-flying -- and highly paid -- job in the financial sector.
As well as those interested in socially conscious business work, some people go to business schools intent on learning the skills needed to start their own business.
However, such aspirations can sometimes be lost amid the prospect of an internship at, say, a Wall Street giant, especially one which pays its interns relatively handsomely. Why, some muse, spend the summer working for nothing on a startup which might never take off?
In a direct effort to counter this, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton school has launched a scheme to assist those with dreams of entrepreneurship.
Its Wharton Venture Award, organized by Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs, give money to MBA students -- as well as undergraduates and those taking doctorates -- to help them launch startups.
In spring of this year, six students received $10,000 each, while three more received $1,500 in so-called Entrepreneurial Intern Fellowships, aimed at those who want to work in an entrepreneurial setting even if they are not ready to start their own firms as yet.
The school's Professor Raffi Amit says those aiming to start their own enterprises should not be ignored: "These entrepreneurial students are boldly making real what they're learning at Wharton," he says.
For Vikram Joshi, co-founder of Red Ladder Media, the award money meant he and his fellow founders could travel to China over the summer to launch their company, a video based health-and-fitness web site for young people in the country.
"We set up camp in Beijing and made contact with a young Chinese filmmaker," Joshi says. "He helped us set up auditions, and we then auditioned hostesses and went into the field and shot more than 15 hours of footage."
Another student, Maria Merchant, used the cash to pay for another expensive startup commitment - patent lawyers. Her firm, Angiologix, is developing a device to detect the risk of heart attacks by gauging vascular function in people's limbs.
"For all startups, without funding, it's very difficult to handle some of the early but necessary costs like legal expenses." E-mail to a friend
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