The unpaid internship dilemma

Editorial Board

Spring semester internships are coming to a close and with that chapter ending another begins. For many students, summer internships are on the horizon. To those who have secured a paid opportunity, congratulations, but to those who haven’t secured an internship–or accepted an unpaid one we advise you consider a paid internship before time runs out.

An internship’s end-goal is job placement, but a National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) student survey revealed paid interns receive more job offers than their unpaid classmates. In 2015, the job offer rate for paid interns was 56.5 percent, while unpaid interns job offer rate was 36.5 percent. Essentially, unpaid interns must intern approximately three times more than their paid counterparts to even receive an offer. Students’ time has value, and your position is contributing value to a company. Normally, such a contribution warrants compensation.

The survey applies to students accepting job offers at a wide range of employer types, including nonprofit, state/local and federal government sectors. The survey was administered to 39,950 students at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels through NACE’s college members.

Naturally, there are exceptions. The two that stand out the most are first, internships that offer course credits and second for work that serves a greater social purpose. Internships may compensate in a different manner, in this first circumstance, compensation equates to progress in a student’s degree plan. In the latter instance, students’ aim isn’t employment but instead public service, and so they may not care about the numbers. This may apply to those door knocking for congressmen they believe in or canvassing for a cause.

At the Paisano we intern for both of these reasons and can attest for them. Serving our community news on a weekly basis is a means to earn college credits, as well as, a public service by engaging our community in meaningful discussions.

When queried about exploiting free labor, defenders of the unpaid internship claim that though it won’t pay the bills it will lead to a job. Internships serve varying purposes, but students deserve to know that odds are an unpaid internship will not lead to a job.

Overall, everyone’s career-path is different, but students owe themselves a moment of reflection, if they are expending resources and investing time on their career-path they must draw a line on where compensation is necessary, that line may expand job opportunities.