Student Intern: Often potential experience outweighs potential pay
In a Boston University article by Amy Laskowski, the question is asked, “Are Unpaid Internships Worth the Price?” And the resounding answer is: it totally depends. It depends on your needs as a student both financially and experientially, your needs for your future, your interests, and your goals. As a student myself, I have faced this question from advisors, parents, and peers, several times- as I’m sure many of you have.
In her article, Laskowski speaks with intern Micah Steiger of the Charles River Watershed Association, who talks about her decision to take an unpaid internship. Steiger tells us, “You do an unpaid internship for the experience… it’s up to the intern to work [at a company] for a little while and start taking on more tasks.” With this in mind, the question we must ask ourselves is- will this internship opportunity be worth the experience?
As indicated in the article, The National Association of Colleges and Employers (2009) Student Survey reports that 23 percent of graduates who had interned during their college years received a job post-graduation, whereas only 14 percent of the students who had not interned found the same available opportunities. This survey went on to say that fewer than 20 percent of the students that graduated with the class of 2009 and applied for jobs had received one by the end of April 2010. This information is starting to make even unpaid internships look very worthwhile in the long run!
Laskowski then goes on to quote a recent article in the New York Times, explaining that:
“There are, in fact, several federal legal criteria that must be met if an internship is unpaid. They include requirements that training should be similar to ‘academic education instruction,’ [and that the internship] should be for the benefit of the trainee, and should not displace regular employees.”
This information is very important to keep in mind when looking into internship opportunities that will be unpaid, internships are meant to be both a resume booster and an actual learning experience! That is not to say, however, that internships that require some tedious work, or some perhaps less glamorous work, are not worth looking into- all of this type of work is a learning experience as well. Learning to manage tasks, do effective and quick work, and learn the inner workings of your industry, are all very important, and can sometimes be learned through these less-lovely tasks. As Kimberly DelGizzo, the Career Services director at BU, tells Laskowski: it is very important to find out up-front what your role as an intern will be, what will be asked of you, and what your responsibilities will be. She goes on to advise, “When there is an offer on the table, students should ask for it in writing.” The inevitable question to ask ourselves after learning the responsibilities of the internship is, is the job “resume-worthy,” is the job worth my valuable time and energy, is the job better than working at a restaurant or clothing store in getting me to the future I am hoping for? If it is an internship where the responsibilities consist solely of coffee-making, perhaps being paid at Starbucks would be a better bet, but if it is coffee-making plus, it might be very worth it.
But keep in mind, some of the best internships will be paid, and some of the best internships will be unpaid. Many big Boston companies want to pay their interns well, treat them right, and give them valuable experience, so that they can find the best and the brightest, the people best suited to their type of work, and utilize their skills and talents to benefit their companies, and potentially hire them after graduation. Other big Boston companies know that they have what students want, great experience, great names, and utilize that to draw in students, knowing that they may not need to pay to get the good interns they need. Other companies, espcially in the arts or non-profit industries, just don't have the funds to be paying interns very much. In all of these cases, the experience of the internship can often outweigh the fact that it may be an unpaid position.
I hope this is helpful in making your decisions!
To find both paid and unpaid available internships in various fields in the greater Boston area, you are welcome to start below: