The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

My quest to learn the musical instrument struck a chord much greater than the beautiful sound of a perfect stroke.
I decided to learn the guitar, but I walked away learning more about life
Bella Edmondson, Staff Editor • June 19, 2024

Are unpaid internships really worth the cost?

By Kelly Neupert

Job Description: Marketing Intern

Qualifications: Must have at least a 3.0 GPA and is currently enrolled in a college or university either in their junior/senior year, would be helpful to have knowledge and experience in the marketing field, must have proficient abilities in Microsoft Excel, Word, and Outlook

Compensation: None; can seek college credit

Posts like the one above flood community boards, as well as university career websites all in hopes of hiring motivated students looking for internship opportunities. As school winds down and application cycles begin to close, students are anxious to find internships that will build their resume.

Students gladly accept unpaid internships expecting compensation in the form of useful experience and networking, wistfully hoping that their hours of labor won’t go unnoticed and will eventually turn into a paid job opportunity. Yet, should students be so quick to assume that their unpaid internship will transform into a job?

According to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, hiring rates for those who had chosen to complete an unpaid internship ended up being 37 percent, almost the same for those who had not completed an internship at all at 35 percent.

In contrast, students who received payment for their internship had a 63 percent chance of securing employment. Additionally, students with paid internships guaranteed a much higher salary with an average of $51,930, while students with unpaid internships or no internship history at all received $37,721 and
$37,087 approximately.

While some argue these trends result from students pursuing jobs in lower-paying fields like journalism and fashion, I rationalize that the act of accepting no compensation for one’s labor devalues your worth from the perspective of the employer.

If an employer can get away with hiring you and not compensating you for your work, what motivation do they have for doing anything other than that?

Lately, new laws formed defining what constitutes as a legal and illegal internship after previous interns filed public lawsuits against high-profile corporations, such as Conde Nast, Fox, Sony, NBCUniversal, and Hearst Magazines.

According to the New York Times, in June 2014, a Federal District Court judge ruled in favor of two interns, citing that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated federal and New York minimum wage laws. The ruling sent most major corporations scrambling to review their internship programs and geared them towards internships for academic credit.

While some would consider this an achievement, students beg to differ. Offering internships in exchange for course credit requires students to physically pay to do their labor, considering that in order to get course credit you must be enrolled in the school and therefore, paying school tuition. Most students maneuver their way around this alternative, opting to keep their internship illegal rather than to pay to work.

New legal restrictions won’t curtail the mass availability of unpaid internships. Furthermore, students will continue to take unpaid internships for fear of looking less qualified in comparison to other hopefuls wishing to gain “work experience.”

According to the research firm, Intern Bridge, it is estimated that undergraduates work in more than one million internships per year with an approximated half of which are unpaid. This double-edged sword creates what some call a new generation of graduated interns stuck in the middle of unemployment and naive thinking.

The solution seems to be two-fold: students need to refrain from voluntarily taking unpaid internships and set their sights on industries with high demand and low supply of labor, while companies need to recognize the value of interns and begin to only offer paid internship opportunities.

In providing paid internships, companies automatically designate value and effort towards their interns, guaranteeing that they receive true real world experience
and networking.

In turn, if trained correctly, interns become a beneficial resource for future hires and the improvement of the company for the long-term.

Neupert is a junior majoring in psychology.

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