Unpaid internships benefit some more than others

By on October 28, 2013

Students who have an internship in college have a greater chance of finding a job before graduation, according to a recent research conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. However, when these internships are unpaid, the chance of students to find a full-time job before graduation is no greater than students who did not have an internship.

Associate Dean of Career Development at the School of Business Jill Ferrall said she tries to educate students on her experience with unpaid internships.

“I try to educate employers of the dangers of offering unpaid internships,” she said. “Research shows that there is little conversion from internship to full time position. So unless there is truly a valuable learning experience that will provide future opportunity, I steer away from unpaid internships.”

Assistant Dean of Career Development for the School of Health Sciences Cynthia Christie believes unpaid internships are valuable for students.

“There has been much controversy in the news lately about the misuse of unpaid interns,” Christie said. “However, I think if students aren’t open to internships where they don’t receive reimbursement or payment, they may be missing out on some great opportunities for experience.”

Behavioral neuroscience major Ashley Hiep is currently involved in an unpaid internship at the Yale Child Study Center where she assists with a research study about children with anxiety.

“The internship is awesome because it takes what I’ve learned about in class and allows me to witness it in person,” Hiep said. “It’s no longer just reading about specific disorders and understanding the criteria. It’s physically seeing a child suffering from it and watching them being diagnosed and treated.”

Internships come in various forms. Many companies do not offer money or compensation to their interns. Some are easy to commute to and some require a lot of time and money for traveling. With all of the different factors that come in play, students may sometimes feel certain internships can be unfair.

“Internships are great learning experiences but no matter what you should be equally compensated for the time you sacrifice,” junior Javon Andrew said. “It’s unfortunate that students have to base internship decisions around their personal finances. I’ve seen students not be able to go for the internships they really want due to the fact that they can’t afford to not get paid, and that’s not fair.”

Within the School of Health Sciences many majors require students to participate in clinical work. There are 10 majors in the School of Health Sciences which offer internship and clinical work and; eight of the majors require the completion of an internship.

“Students contact a professional in their field of study that they would like to work with and develop an internship schedule that works for them. This is an internship for credit that students can sign up for,” Christie said.

Unlike some other schools at the university, the College of Arts and Sciences has many different majors within so the school does not have an internship as a requirement.

“There are 19 different majors to choose from and within each major you can do so many different things,” Lara Dotson-Renta, assistant dean of career development at the College of Arts and Sciences said. “I’ve had English majors that came to me with a practicum of different things from working with a publishing house to interning with the FBI or shadowing a doctor.”

The curriculum at the School of Communications puts a strong emphasis on internships by making them a requirement prior to graduation for most majors.

“Internships are extremely helpful in that they give students real life work experience firsthand. You get to be in and observe the work environment of your future career. Internships are all about finding what you like and don’t like,” Joseph Catrino, assistant dean for career development for the School of Communications, said.

Within the School of Communications there are four majors students can choose from; three of them requiring a 3-credit internship fulfillment. Students can do this by completing three 1-credit internships or one 3-credit internship.

“At the end of the day an internship is a learning process,” Catrino said. “We want to make sure students are learning, whether they are getting paid, getting credit, or unpaid, we really want to make sure our students are learning because that’s what it’s all about.”

Students can access the resources available online through QU career connections on MyQ to help guide them toward their career goals, Christie said.

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