No one can argue the value of internships. They build resumes, develop experience and craft expertise, all of which is advantageous when entering the present job market. What people do argue about, however, is the difference between paid and unpaid internships. Both offer experience, but is one more valuable than the other? Let’s take a look.
The Case for Unpaid Internships
- Derek Thompson of The Atlantic writes, “Employers want cheap workers, especially with the economy weak, and it doesn't get any cheaper than free.” Nearly half of the internships offered today are unpaid and many have shorter time commitments, thus allowing you to test-drive multiple industries.
- Unpaid internships can also often count towards academic credit. The US Labor Department states "the more an internship program is structured around a classroom or academic experience...the more likely the internship will be viewed as an extension of the individual's educational experience." New educational standards are aiming to make sure your unpaid internship will be a rewarding and beneficial learning experience, not just about fetching coffee and making copies.
The Case for Paid Internships
- WetFeet states that “a NACE study from 2008 stated students who are paid during their internship report having a more positive experience in general than those who aren't paid.” Frank Petrash, a junior at Drexel University, offers his opinion: “Simply put, it’s much easier to enjoy life as a paid intern.”
- According to Forbes, “60% of the time, that internship will turn into a job offer. For those who were working in unpaid internships, however, the news is much less encouraging. Thirty-seven percent of unpaid interns got job offers, according to the data. That’s just 1% better than graduates with no internship experience, 36% of whom got job offers."
- Payment also makes interns more accountable for their performance, which can be beneficial in the level of work you produce. This added incentive to perform well not only helps expand your contact network but also helps build a more impressive work portfolio to show to future employers.
You Make the Call
So the question remains: is there more value in an unpaid or a paid internship? There doesn’t seem to be a conclusive answer as representatives from both sides voice their opinions. What is conclusive is that both offer interns concrete experience in specific industries and the opportunity to build your network and enter the job market with a greater sense of preparedness. So, do your research before applying to internships; who knows which option you’ll get the most out of!