Internships fail to offer equal opportunity

With internship experience graduates are more likely to land a job. But at times, students are exploited and some aren’t able to take advantage of the opportunity because of financial responsibilities. Getting a bachelor’s degree

Cary CarrWith internship experience graduates are more likely to land a job. But at times, students are exploited and some aren’t able to take advantage of the opportunity because of financial responsibilities.

Getting a bachelor’s degree doesn’t hold as much weight as it used to with both the dismal job market and the economy looking grim, so students need to set themselves a part from the rest of their graduating class. They need experience, work-ethic and a boost to their résumé. They need internships.

According to research from the Graduate Management Admissions Council, this year’s graduates who had an internship were 26 percent more likely to land a job after graduation than their peers who didn’t.

Unfortunately, the majority of internships are unpaid, sometimes requiring extensive hours and excessive transportation. And while many boast a chance for learning and prospective job opportunities, it’s also a chance for employers to exploit students doing menial labor for free.

Some are even questioning the legality of the practice of hiring unpaid interns.

Two men working on the movie “Black Swan” recently filed suit, claiming Fox Searchlight Pictures violated minimum wage and overtime laws, according to the New York Times. They also asserted that the company did not offer an educational experience, which labor rules require of employers hiring unpaid interns.

Preparing coffee, cleaning the office and getting lunch orders from production staff were a few of the responsibilities plaintiff Alex Footman described.

And it’s not just inane tasks that ruin the credibility of internships. Some programs have their interns doing nothing at all. A friend of mine described his full-time internship as a chance to catch up on homework and lose himself in Netflix–not quite an educational experience.

I’m sure the majority of college students, who are busy in school organizations and other activities while simultaneously taking on a full course load, would rather not be cleaning out coffee pots or staring at a blank computer screen in their free time. But with employers requiring experience to land an interview, there’s no longer much of a choice if you want to compete with thousands of other college grads desperately seeking a salary.

And the true dilemma arises for students with college loans, whose parents aren’t able to support them. They need close to full-time jobs, and balancing that with 15 credits is tricky enough in itself. How can they possibly add an internship to their mounting list of responsibilities?

I have been lucky enough to have the support of both of my parents, who not only pay for my tuition but also my rent and groceries, allowing me to get involved in various organizations as well as several internships on top of my class schedule.   This semester I took my second unpaid internship at Philadelphia Magazine. I’m required to put in a minimum of 16 hours a week and provide my own transportation, but I’m certainly not doing menial tasks. All interns get a chance to pitch and write story ideas as well as improve their editorial skills.   However, the internship is definitely time-consuming and wouldn’t allow room for a part-time job on top of my other responsibilities, leaving me to believe that middle and upper class students get an unfair advantage.

Unpaid internships require students supporting themselves to also fend for themselves when it comes to building an extensive résumé. And those who can’t afford to take on these internships, many of whom are first-generation college students, are the ones who could benefit from the experience the most.

In addition, internships that require students to take college credits don’t provide much of a solution for many of us. Unless already built into a major’s curriculum, adding on credits can prove to be more of an expense than a money saver. Plus, more and more employers expect multiple internships, leaving a loophole in the for-credit policy.

I sympathize with businesses that can barely manage to pay their own employees, let alone interns. But, this does not excuse the exploitation of students desperate for experience. And I have a hunch the big corporations can afford to pay their interns minimum wage, or at least offer lunch.  Instead of pressuring students to take on internships with little guidance, universities should offer supplemental scholarships to first generation college students or those in need of financial aid. With evidence out there that experience pays in the job market, it is vital that the students receive not only direction on which internships to apply for, but also assistance in handling them on top of all of their other responsibilities.

Maybe there’s not a definite solution. As long as jobs require experience and students compete for fewer and fewer job openings, businesses will be able to use and abuse interns. But I hope that universities can step their game up and turn the practice into an equal opportunity that doesn’t just benefit the well-off. I also hope that these businesses can at least offer legitimate educational experience and appreciate the eager students who are devoting their time for free. We’re people too after all.

Cary Carr can be reached at



  1. I work 48 hours a week and go to school fulltime like i have for two years, and I am doing an unpaid internship. If you have the opportunity to learn a job and network and not pay tuition you should consider yourself lucky. If you think you should start as an intern and be involved in company project right away then that is the problem with our entitlement society, you have to start at the bottom and show your commitment and work your way up.

  2. “leaving me to believe that middle and upper class students get an unfair advantage.”

    Welcome to life, Ms. Carr; Life isn’t fair.

  3. No, life isn’t fair. Which is why we 99%ers need to stand up to corporate America and millionaire politicians and say “enough”. Thank you Ms. Carr for pointing out yet another inequality in this country.

  4. Why this article doesn’t carry any weight, as usual, because it demonstrate incredible entitlement attitude. Articles like this diminish the brand name of Temple University and the Fox School of Business. Recruiters and hiring managers pick up on articles like this and it leaves the perception that Temple students are afraid to do jobs that they seem below them. Also, please keep the entitlement mentality so that other, young, driven, intelligent students will continue to outwork you, outsmart you and out promote you while they gain the experience and admiration of their employer. Good luck and Ms. Carr…. Don’t graduate from college,stay there as long as possible… you will be in for a rude awakening when you whine about how life isn’t (fill in the blank,etc) …

  5. I’m assuming the writer is communication & theater major due to her internship at Daily Mag. Most of the internships for communications major do not get paid, not even stipend for transportation. I have done 4 internships all unpaid, and just for the gas fees monthly, I paid at least $150 a month myself. Paid interns are paid for their contribution to the work, and unpaid
    interns do not have that much jobs to do on their work. Truthfully if you people have done any kind of unpaid internship, you will notice that matter of $1 per hour and $0 per hour is a big difference. If your unpaid you have lot of time without any supervising or laid back environment. When your paid, the employers tend to actually treat you as an employer, and actually needs you for the job done.

    Network? Are you serious about network or getting experience for an unpaid internship? Network I agree you can suck it out of the internship for some reference but unpaid interns don’t do much compared to who is getting paid some amount a hour. Unpaid interns gets very little ‘chance’ of promoting themselves to the employer. Not every people are socially active as some, thus those people get ‘no’ chance.

    Unpaid interns wants about 3 sentences on their resume on their 3 months, no paid little experience internship. The employers wants relationships with the University for good brand image on their company or variety of information they can gain from University environment for unpaid internship opportunity.

    In case for Paul up there, there are honestly not that many people who live
    like you in a tight rope. Ask, If you have connection on other colleges Top 100, their aren’t that many people working 48 hours which is at least 5 hours a day with 12 hours weekend of work, full time student which is at least 12 credits equals to at least 10~12 hours a week, with unpaid internship where you have to contribute at least 12~20 hours a week. Are you passing your classes with such small time to study?

    People don’t even want 7.25 a hour for internship.
    At least $20 for the day should be awarded for interns.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.