UConn students debate value of paid vs unpaid internships

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Over 70 employers show up at the Student Union for the Internship Co-op Fair today. Students had the chance to talk to companies like United Technology or Amazon in hopes of landing an internship for the summer. (Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

Over 70 employers show up at the Student Union for the Internship Co-op Fair today. Students had the chance to talk to companies like United Technology or Amazon in hopes of landing an internship for the summer. (Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

University of Connecticut students debate the value of experience through an unpaid internship in comparison to an opportunity with compensation on the tails of UConn’s annual internship and co-op week.

Fourth-semester biomedical and chemical engineering major Zachary Ohayan said he would “definitely” want to get paid for an internship of any kind.

“Even if (the compensation was) minimum wage, you’re spending all that time (interning) and deserve to get paid,” Ohayan said. “Because I got paid last summer, I didn’t have to get a job during the school year, and because of that I can focus on studying.”

Ohayan interned for Pratt & Whitney during the summer of 2018, and says he hopes to continue interning there, contingent on his work performance.

“Not only (is Pratt & Whitney) putting money into their interns, because they paid their interns in the summer, those interns put their time into academics during the school year. (Pratt & Whitney) is investing in you both while you work there and during the school year,” Ohayan said.

According to a 2014 study done by The National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE), paid internships are favorable to both students and future employers. The “Class of 2014 Student Survey Report” suggested that students compensated for their internship are “much more likely to have received a job offer than those students with an unpaid internship.”

Fourth-semester real estate and urban economics major Colvert Winston Moore said he could see the benefits to both unpaid and paid internships, contingent on students’ ability to independently finance their lifestyle.

stu“You definitely need money as a college student,” Moore said. “If you have the means to support (the internship) and can get just as good of an experience out of it without the money, it’s worth it.”

Eighth-semester economics major Michael Boni said the most important consideration when deciding on an internship is whether or not it gives the proper training and experiences for future professional positions and opportunities.

“Depending on the industry, it’s becoming more and more uncommon for companies to offer unpaid internships for college students and therefore makes the paid offers more attractive,” Boni said.

According to the National Business and Disability Council, multiple labor lawsuits within corporations such as Universal Music Group, Viacom and Fox Searchlight Pictures have caused both the federal government and large private companies to reexamine the internship policies within corporate America.

Second-semester environmental science major Michio Agresta said that they are an exploitation of student labor.

“I think unpaid internships are slavery,” Agresta said. “You come out of college and if you don’t have an internship, that sets you back a lot. Every company is looking for job experience, and a lot of kids need that experience personally.”

Agresta said the only way unpaid internships are fair to interns would be through working for a nonprofit organization.

“Other than non-profit (organizations), companies can afford to pay you,” Agresta said “For students, (an unpaid internship) will take up their summer while they are in formative academic years.”


Grace Burns is campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at grace.burns@uconn.edu.

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