Editorial: Students should seek paid internships whenever possible

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Ana Clara Bless, the Assistant Director of Experimental Learning at the Center for Career Development spoke on the ways for students to prepare and carry themselves to better find an internship, job, or co-op. (Photo by Eric Wang/The Daily Campus)

A frequent debate amongst college students nationwide is that of paid versus unpaid internships. While many students correctly argue that paid internships are more beneficial, the true reason as to why may not be what they think.

The first nuance that must be established in this debate is the fact that internships are not actually jobs. While both require the performance of labor, the distinction to be made between internships and jobs is one of purpose.

A job can typically be defined as a paid position in which one is employed to perform a certain task or offer a certain set of skills. From the perspective of the employee, the purpose of having a job is to earn money, often minimum wage in the case of college students, in order to pay for living expenses, such as food and gas.

An internship, on the other hand, is typically the exact same thing as a job, but with a very different purpose. Students don’t apply for internships to earn money in the way that they apply for summer jobs. The purpose of an internship is for a student to invest time at a company in order to gain work experience and receive proper training. The ultimate goal is to become employed by that company upon graduation from college as a result of the time invested previously in that company’s working environment. At that point, the idea is to be earning far more than minimum wage.

While it is arguably rather entitled to expect payment from an internship, a growing number of companies are offering compensation to their interns and perhaps without complaint. The argument can certainly be made that it is unnecessary for them to do so, but these companies are more than willing in light of recent evidence.

According to the NACE “Class of 2014 Student Survey Report” students who completed a paid internship are “much more likely to have received a job offer than those students with an unpaid internship.” While there are many factors that influence the results of this study, the verdict is pretty clear.

Historically, internships were a study in delayed gratification. But, now, students can have the best of both worlds. While seeking internships, students should keep in mind the ultimate goal of gaining employment at a successful company after graduation. But, in the interim, if students have the opportunity to earn compensation, the evidence indicates they ought to do so.


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