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Study reveals advantages of paid internships for college students


Monday, June 24, 2013

Securing an internship is an integral part of a college education. Whether for pay or just for the experience, an internship can be highly beneficial to your career prospects, particularly for those students who wish to enter competitive industries like technology. There has been much discussion of the benefits of paid versus unpaid positions, and until recently, it seemed there was little advantage to securing a paid position, in terms of students' likelihood of securing a job afterward. However, according to a recent study published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), individuals who undertake paid internships are more likely to receive a job offer at the conclusion of their internship than those who accept unpaid positions.

Changing attitudes
NACE surveyed graduates of the class of 2013 who had completed either a paid or unpaid internship and were actively looking for work after completing college. Findings of the study show that more than 63 percent of students who participated in a paid internship while in college had received at least one job offer. By comparison, just 37 percent of individuals whose internships were unpaid had at least one offer of employment.

Some experts argue that even unpaid internships provide students with a competitive advantage over their peers who did not undertake such an experience, but the evidence revealed by the NACE report indicates otherwise. Slightly more than 35 percent of individuals who did not complete any type of internship received at least one job offer, calling the value of unpaid positions into question, at least for the purposes of strengthening job applications.

A hot-button issue
Internships, particularly unpaid positions, have come under intense scrutiny in recent years. Although the terms of internships are clearly defined by the U.S. Department of Labor, some employers have landed themselves in hot water over the duties and responsibilities assigned to interns. According to The Atlantic, Fox Searchlight Pictures was found to be in violation of these restrictions by a federal district judge in Manhattan after failing to pay two interns for work performed on the set of award-winning film, "Black Swan."

Whether the Fox Searchlight Pictures case will set a legal precedent for unpaid internships remains to be seen. According to the NACE's report, however, it appears that looking for a paid internship could be more advantageous for college students than taking an unpaid position.

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