Spotlight: Internships

By Amy Gorel, Staff Writer

These days the words “internships” and “paid” don’t typically go together./PHOTO VIA Flickr user creighton_admissions

After the long summer, the first question out of your professors’ and your classmates’ mouths is  probably going to be along the lines of, “So what did you do this summer?”

While some are probably unconcerned with what you did and others can hardly wait to tell you about the prestigious or cool or both internship or travel plans they had over the summer, they do bring up a point of interest for many these days–internships are just as much a part of the college experience as classes are today. Since internships are intertwined with higher education, more people are competing for less internships, most of which are unpaid.

Over the summer, a student who was unpaid for his work with Fox Searchlight Pictures sued–and won. The U.S. district judge said that when student interns do the work of a regular employee, they do deserve a paycheck.

Though you should probably wait a second before you start filing suits against all of your previous internship supervisors that made you grab coffee one too many times. The U.S. Department of Labor did spell out what is allowed and what is not for unpaid interns. The Department of Labor said that as long as the student is getting more educational benefit from the internship than the employer is gaining from their work, not getting paid is permissible.

However, is it a good thing to teach students that their contributions are so small that they don’t even deserve minimum wage?

Among the 2013 graduates who applied for a job after they received their bachelor degrees 63.1 percent of those who completed paid internships received at least one job offer. That compared to the 37 percent who received a job offer but having completed unpaid internships, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers 2013 Student Survey.

While this may have something to do with the type of fields that offer paid internships (usually in the STEM fields) and the fields that are hiring the most people at the time, these are somewhat frightening statistics.

Why get up before noon and head to an office during the long, hot months of June, July and August and not be paid at your internship?

For this reason: Internships are not only a part of higher education, but are also responsible for teaching students many skills they they may not learn in the classroom. Employers also get a good deal out of the popularity of internships as well; young people bring fresh perspectives as well as being both Internet and technology savvy.

Though it would be nice if employers and students reached a balance wherein students learn on the job while paying for their own food.

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