Students Pay the Price of Unpaid Internships


The majority of majors at Mount Mary University require a minimum of one completed internship during the college career. As an English major, I found nearly all of the internships that were posted online were unpaid.

As someone who has to pay her own way through college by working multiple jobs, this reality was frustrating and stressful. I needed to find a paid internship, but my options were limited. I was fortunate to secure a full-time internship that was paid as part of a scholarship through the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, but I know many students who were forced to take unpaid internships.

According to the April 2015 “2015 State of College Hiring Report” released by Looksharp, the largest marketplace dedicated to internship and entry-level jobs, “Internships increase a student’s odds of finding full-time employment upon graduation, but only if they are paid.”

Looksharp surveyed more than 50,000 people, making it “the largest student job seeker survey of all time,” according to its website. It found that “students with paid internship experience are 3x more likely to receive a job offer than those with unpaid internship experience — a student with only unpaid experience is just as likely to have a job offer as a student with no internship experience at all.”

The report does not explain why this may be. It could be due to a company’s existing resources; if the company has the means to hire on a paid intern, it might be more likely to have the means to move that intern to full-time standing than a company that does not have the means to hire an intern at all. Regardless, finding skilled employees is a time-consuming and expensive process, so it is to the company’s benefit to hire people who have already proven themselves.

My experience as a paid intern points to another possibility: as a paid intern, I felt more valued and less focused on the stresses of not being able to pay my bills; overall, I was better able to focus on performing well. If the study is right, my paid internship also increased my chances of securing full-time employment.

While one could speculate the various factors behind this finding, the bottom line still stands: for post-collegiate employment, paid internships are preferred. They are not only good for the student, but employer as well.

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