It may fill out your résumé, but new research from the National Association of Colleges and Employers finds that unpaid internships are not worth as much as they used to be.
NACE’s 2012 survey of college students found that 37 percent of unpaid interns received job offers, only one percent higher than graduates without internships at all. The analysis of 48,000 students found that paid internships produced nearly double the job offers, reaching 60 percent of students receiving at least one.
Michelle Carter, assistant director of employer relations at the University Career Center, said she disagrees with the findings because of the skills gained outside of income.
“I think there is definitely a value in unpaid internships,” Carter said, “because you are looking to gain the experience to grow your résumé. You have to know what your goal is.”
Students discussed their internship plans as they reach the end of their studies.
“I’ve been working, trying to get money, but I’m going to try this upcoming summer to get an internship,” said Brent Cribb, a fourth-year political science and communication studies major from Waycross looking to work as a political intern. “I’d probably try to go unpaid, because it’s probably an easier way to get an internship and it’s focused on the experience.”
The Economic Policy Institute in 2010 reviewed the guidebook of top business internships, saying that they violated Labor Department regulations of providing “no explicit academic or training component.”
“Unpaid work is exploitation,” Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the EPI, wrote in a post on the EPI's website. “It is illegal, and colleges and universities should reexamine their role in promoting it.”
At the Career Center, Carter and the team of career consultants help to get people on the right track, but the responsibility lies with the student.
“I tell the students to find what they need,” Carter said. “If someone has a goal to get some experience, I would say to look at the internship job description and see which jobs will give you the experience you need to do well and compete for jobs you seek in the future.”
Some students buck the general trend of the study, showing that ambition is their decider for employment. Stacey Hong, a senior advertising major from Duluth, interned at Idolinens.com, a décor company.
“I was the social media intern for them and organized their social media accounts and so forth,” Hong said. “I got to see the ins and outs of the business side, and have experience and connections that other people don’t have.”
The Career Center is hosting the Fall Career Fair on Sept. 19 at the Classic Center and will be rife with recruiters looking for students for summer 2013. Each college within the University has a career consultant that is available to help “devise a strategy” for employment, Carter said.
“Students are not thinking that an employer will be on campus during the fall semester, looking for an intern for summer 2013, thinking that because summer just ended,” Carter said. “There are opportunities and information that students are not aware of.”