Paid internships are typically the icing on the cake for college students. While gaining invaluable experience, one can also benefit monetarily. However, in a day and age when getting a foot in the professional door is more difficult than ever, unpaid internships offer comparable, necessary résumé building. Companies don’t necessarily benefit from paying students. There is a likelihood that students lack the necessary training and credentials to be fully competent to do all tasks that a regular employee would perform. Therefore, we should look at companies as benefactors and students as beneficiaries, removing emphasis from the job aspect of internships.
The number of unpaid internships has ballooned in recent years, according to The New York Times. Some see the rise as a cause for concern, but it can be positively viewed as an increase in opportunity. Common complaints about unpaid internships center on the idea that they are exploitative in nature, due to the amount of free labor that companies receive. While the concern is valid, the rewards for students outweigh the benefits for companies. Although companies don’t have to pay for work, students get professional experience, projects to fill their résumés and materials to add to their portfolios.
Another raised concern is that unpaid internships essentially rule out students who cannot afford to devote time to unpaid work. Self-sustaining students are not given the opportunity to gain necessary experience. However, this can be curbed through student loans or other subsidies by state governments.
Many smaller firms also don’t have the resources necessary to pay interns, but they still have experience to offer. Entry-level positions often require a few years of experience. If firms that offer compensation were the sole providers of internships, demand would exceed supply. It’s necessary for all possible firms to make these opportunities available to build skill. In exchange for meaningful work, interns are able to obtain valuable experience and references to vouch for their skills, according to U.S. News.
While it is often difficult to devote time to unpaid work, it’s important to consider how experience can pay off in the future. Young professionals with experience are more likely to be deemed trustworthy to hold a salaried position upon graduation. Instead of ruling out unpaid work, students should embrace it as an opportunity to solidify their skill sets and improve their résumés.
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