Study Says Unpaid Internships Do Not Lead To Jobs For College Students

June 21, 2013  |  

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Unpaid college interns reluctantly agree to get coffee, make some copies, and essentially serve a company — for free — in hopes that their experience will make an impression on employers.  Unfortunately, unpaid internships may just be a waste of time; studies show that there’s no significant difference between the jobs obtained by students with unpaid internships and those with no internships, reports The Atlantic.

A survey of more than 92,000 seniors over the course of three years by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) discovered that 63.1 percent of graduating seniors who had a paid internship received at least one job offer. But only 37 percent of college students who worked as unpaid interns were offered employment. This was a measly 1.8 percentage points higher than those without internships.

In a 2012 poll by Intern Bridge, results showed that 17 percent of unpaid interns did not receive a job offer while 36 percent of their paid counterparts did. However, it is important to note that this survey included sophomores and juniors, not just seniors like the recent NACE survey. Job offer rates might have been higher if it only included upperclassmen.

If we’re talking salary, the results are even more startling. Unpaid interns were actually offered less money than students without internships on their resumes.

There are some theories that point to why unpaid interns remain in the same tier as non-interns in the job market. One theory speculates that the students who are hired for paid internships are more intelligent than those who get unpaid internships. However, Intern Bridge’s data shows that the distribution of GPAs between the two groups are about the same. Another theory blames the fact that most unpaid internships breed from industries with a poor job market, such as magazine journalism. As a result, job searchers find no luck.

And if you haven’t heard, last week a U.S. District Judge ruled in favor of two unpaid interns who experienced labor maltreatment while working on the set of Black Swan. Time called it “the beginning of the end of unpaid internships.” One day unpaid interns may very well be a thing of the past.

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