Are non-paying internships worth it?

As the competitiveness of today’s job market continues to rise, a college degree is no longer the only essential components needed to land a job or career. Internships have become one of the greatest tools on a resume.

Although internship opportunities do offer valuable benefits and career skills, it has become common for companies, corporations and organizations to not offer stipends or salary for their interns.

Internships allow students to gain professional experience and confidence in their desired interest. One of the most valuable benefits of internships is having the opportunity to network with professionals and potential employers, while in many cases gaining school credit.

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According to a survey conducted by The National Association of Colleges and Employers, 58 percent of employers consistently convert their eligible interns into full-time hires, which motivate students to chase internship opportunities.

“[Internships] help you establish business connections,” said sophomore Rebecca Rado. “If you intern for a company and they see how hard you work when you aren’t being paid, there’s a chance they could reach out to you in the future for a paid position.”

By law, unpaid internships are required to abide by the Fair Labor Standards Act. This act protects unpaid labor, especially internships, with certain requirements, such as professional supervision and solid learning, and without the fulfillment of the Fair Labor Standards Act requirements, the labor would be considered solely volunteer work.

“A student can go into a situation, where literally all they take away is experience.” said University Career Services Internship and Co-op Coordinator Colleen Perry. “The concept of internships started with only receiving credit, but then internships ballooned out and became bigger.”

Students who participate in unpaid internships do admit that financial compensation would greatly motivate them.

Senior Brent Yancy, who serves as the Newsroom Intern at Atlanta radio station V103, agrees.

“My internship requires early mornings,” said Yancy. “So if it was a paid internship, I’d be more motivated to get up.”

Although experience and networking continue to motivate students to participate in unpaid internships, students, such as senior Oluwatobi Ayedun, still do not think unpaid internships are fair. Ayedun has interned for magazine corporations, such as Paper and Jezebel.

“I do not think they are fair,” said Ayedun. “I did as much work as the actual employees-if not more.”

In addition to not receiving payment, some unpaid internships also require travelling. Ayedun’s internship at Paper required travelling to New York, where she had to find and finance housing.

“I knew I could not afford an apartment in New York,” said Ayedun. “So I stayed with family acquaintances.”

The lack of monetary benefits and incentives in some internship opportunities, however, have not decreased the determination of some students who have participated in or plan to pursue unpaid internships.

“In my opinion, it does not matter whether an internship is paid or not.” said Yancy. “The point of an internship is for a student to gain experience or to further their knowledge in their field.”

Although some students continue to pursue unpaid internships, others are financially unable to do so. Today, most students are in circumstances that require them to work while pursuing their college degrees, and these students have neither the time nor finances to participate in internships that do not offer salary or stipends.

“It certainly does open more doors for people if you can pay them and allow them to have a strong learning experience,” said Perry. “The goal is paid internships.”

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