Choose your internship with care

The heated debate of the moment revolves around a subject that is very relevant to any college student. This subject is the internship.

Are college students really getting valuable work experience while interning or are they simply being used as cheap labor, doing the same work as the paid staff?

There is a fine line between a well-meaning internship and a company that is using the concept of the internship as a ruse for what is actually cheap labor. An internship stops being an internship when the intern has the same amount of responsibility and workload as the paid staff.

Once an intern has the same responsibilities as other paid workers, companies are putting a toe over this thin line. This question of exploitation of interns was debated heavily in a recent New York Times article. Many interns were outraged at what they call “exploitation” by companies that offer unpaid internships.

The conflict started after interns complained of doing hours of work, which benefits the company immensely, without earning any money themselves.

“These unpaid interns receive no benefits,” writes Raphael Pope-Sussman, a news assistant at Law360 for The New York Times. “No legal protection against harassment or discrimination, and no job security.”

An internship, according to an online dictionary, is “any official or formal program to provide practical experience for beginners in an occupation or profession.” This definition does not include the aspect most focused upon: money.

“The internship is meant to be viewed as a chance to gain experience, network, get your foot in the door and apply classroom theories to real, practical, experiential learning,” said Megan Corkery, coordinator of internships and career counselor. “Internships allow for people to do career exploration and see if their chosen field is really for them.”

Internships can be both paid and unpaid. Both can be extremely helpful for college students in terms of work experience. They are also a great addition to any résumé and a way to show companies your past experience in the work place.

However, when taking into consideration that many college students are heavily in debt and in need of a paying job, these types of no-pay internships seem more and more frivolous. Yes, the work experience is very valuable, but money is a necessity and not to be gained with certain internships.

College students are looking for ways to not only get jobs, but to also gain experience and knowledge. It would be helpful to have more paid internships where college students can get both.

The harsh reality is that more and more college students are graduating in serious debt, but companies are not willing to hire an inexperienced newbie. They would rather hire a person who already has a few things on their résumé.

But getting an internship doesn’t necessarily mean not getting paid. There are plenty of companies that offer compensation for their interns. If money is that much of a factor, this might be the better solution. There are plenty of opportunities out there to not only gain great experience in the work field, but to also earn some money doing it.

The bottom line is that college students do not have to compromise their time and money to an internship where they feel they are being treated unfairly. Money and experience can be found at the same time, through a paid internship.

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