A City Full of Internships

By: Ali Selby

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” Steve Jobs

Having a college degree is a requirement for nearly any job position as the employee pool becomes larger and more competitive. Thousands of young opportunistic adults move to the so-called “city of dreams” to attend universities they believe will land them their “dream job”. However, you need more than just a degree in today’s world, internship experience is essential. Companies are more interested in the amount of unpaid hours a student has spent working rather than the hard work they put into the last four years of their lives working towards a degree.

Unpaid internships are the not-so-new topic of controversy in NYC, particularly because the dreams of New York City never included 40 unpaid hours of labor per week on top of being a full time student. Although there is no income, they offer college credits as long as the intern is a full time student. This sounds great at first because students can intern as a way to make up credits (if needed) instead of a summer class, and while it sounds like an excellent opportunity for school, there is a price to pay (literally).

Various students at The New School were interviewed about their previous internships, good and bad, and what, if anything, they took away from their experiences. A survey was distributed to students with questions about their responsibilities, the amount of hours they worked, and whether or not they benefitted from The New School summer internship program. Accrding to The New School website, 2014–2015 tuition per credit is $1,380 for students admitted fall 2014, spring 15, sum 15 and $1,370 for current students admitted prior to fall 2014. A student can earn 1–6 credits for a NYC summer internship.

The main question behind our project is: Do unpaid internships that cost a few thousand dollars to get school credit really prepare young adults for their “dream job” or are they just being taken advantage of?

Nina Dreyfus, 22 years old and from New York City, was a production intern at Good Day New York, the morning show on Fox Television during summer 2014 She said, “ I got 6 credits, which I had to pay for. It wasn’t a problem financially but I found it absurd to have to pay the school for me to work for free. Nina thought the intern class was pointless and said, “It felt like a formality to justify charging me nearly $10,000.” When asked about what her experience was like she said, “It was difficult because my hours were 6am-2pm. I had little motivation, making no money, and wasn’t treated well. The human resources staff also hired too many interns, so there wasn’t enough real work to go around.”

Nina said, “I learned what I didn’t like, which is news production. I am not planning on working at Fox after college.”

Photo: Sydney Hamilton

Sydney Hamilton, 21 years old and from Washington D.C., most recently interned for a clothing company even though she is not interested in fashion. When asked about her thoughts on the summer internship program she said, “It’s frustrating to have to pay to work, especially if you really aren’t getting anything out of it besides putting it on your resume. Overall it wasn’t a great experience because she didn’t get along with her boss and was asked to leave after three months. Sydney said that she wasn’t treated fairly and would have to work several hours more than she was scheduled for.

She said, “I feel like unpaid internships are a thing that you deal with, however, there should be some compensation (job offer at the end, monthly stipend for things like travel, food etc. You are really just there for the experience but when they overwork you, or mistreat you in any way, makes it unfair that there is no compensation.”

Zoe Davidson, 20 yars old and from Washington D.C. has had one internship in the past at a theater company and is about to start one. When asked about her first internship experience she said, “I really liked my boss. I liked what I was doing some of the time, but other times I just found it to be kind of boring and tedious. It ended up costing me money to travel into the city every day, I wasn’t getting paid.” Similar to Sydney, she believes there needs to be some sort of compensation.

Photo: Zoe Davidson

Zoe explained that she wasn’t necessarily mistreated but that she remembers there was a day when she was really bothered. She said, “My boss asked me to kind of travel all over D.C. and go to all of these different places but like obviously taking the metro costs money and like I didn’t want to waste $20 $30 traveling to every stop so I remember I was so mad about it I just went to my mom’s work and had lunch with her and like didn’t do anything because I was like so angry that my boss expected me to give up my own money and my own time like on a hot summer day.”

Visualization information taken from NACE Executive Summary 2015 Internship & Co-Op Survey

By: Penelope Eaton

Students at the Bachelor degree-level pursuing jobs in computer science and engineer majors are more likely to receive higher payment from internships than those in education, liberal arts and social science majors.

At The New School, a liberal arts institution, many students compete for internships that pay little to no compensation due to the high volume and supply of people in the creative industries. These internships are seen as the first step into the industry and are therefore valued by interns as more of an experience than a position with immediate compensation.

As of 2015, the average hourly rate for bachelor degree-level internships is $17.36, according to the NACE survey.

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