No pay? Don’t intern.
Completing an internship does not guarantee future success or wealth. This is especially true for students working as an unpaid intern.
The hiring rate for college graduates who completed an unpaid internship was 37 percent, according to a National Association for Colleges and Employers survey in May 2013.
The troubling fact is that the hiring rate for students who didn’t have an internship at all was 35 percent.
Essentially, an unpaid intern encountered the same obstacles as someone that never did an internship.
However, students who had any history of a paid internship were far more likely to be hired. Their rate was 63 percent.
Gary Beaulieu, Butler’s director of internship and career services, said that he was initially surprised by the study, but he also clarified details that may have been lost in the report.
“Typically, nonprofit internships are the unpaid internships,” said Beaulieu. “For-profit companies tend to be more aggressive, so they hire more students full-time after college.”
In other words, nonprofits can’t afford to pay their interns but engineering companies and investment banks can.
Still, this is not only an issue related to nonprofits. There are for-profit sectors that do not regularly pay their interns, either.
For example, journalism students work the copy desk at a local newspaper, pharmacy students work on their rotations and education majors become student teachers. These internship experiences are usually unpaid.
The status quo must change.
With increased scrutiny against unpaid internships, two universities in particular have taken steps to improve the situation.
Miami University of Ohio stopped posting unpaid internships from for-profit companies, according to The Washington Post. Mike Goldman, Miami’s director of career services, oversaw the initiative.
In another case, George Washington University started a career internship fund to provide $1000 to $3000 grants for students working as an unpaid intern in the nonprofit or government sector.
The stipend is designed to help students pay their tuitions and maintain a healthy cost of living without having to look for more work.
Forty percent of unpaid interns supplement their losses in salary with another paid job, according to Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute.
William Rieber, a professor of economics at Butler, said that George Washington University and Miami of Ohio’s model was “clever,” but he was unsure if their ideas could work at Butler.
“It is a nice model if you have the resources to do it,” said Rieber, “but I’m not sure if Butler has the money for it.”
I think Butler’s internship and career services should look into the policies implemented by the aforementioned universities.
This could be the bridge between keeping unpaid internship opportunities intact while making sure that students are properly compensated for their work.
It is not that experience and learning opportunities aren’t important, as well.
The problem is that experience and learning can’t pay our room and board.
In a perfect world, the money wouldn’t matter.
Since that isn’t a realistic assumption, we must work with our constraints and push the boundaries whenever possible.
If you are unhappy with your unpaid internship, go get help. Butler students are lucky enough to have an impressive internship and career services department at their disposal.
Career advisors can help with students’ internship searches. They can also assist students in searching for the best-case scenario: a paid internship.
But, above all, it is the student’s responsibility to find the internship that best fits his or her short and long-term needs.
If you know you want to be paid and you still accept an unpaid internship, remember that you made that decision voluntarily.