By Brittany Reed
The topic of unpaid internships is a highly debated one, especially by college students who pay extra tuition money to receive academic credit from them. However, internship experience can be an employer’s deciding factor on whether to hire a potential employee.
According to a National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) article, recent studies have shown that students who graduate with internship experience are more likely to find a post-grad job. Having real, hands-on experience in a desired work field not only provides new skills but also opens doors for networking, possible certification and can even result in a hire.
“It is up to the student to decide if they want to accept an unpaid internship,” said Kelly Allgeier, the associate director of Career Services at the University of Tampa.
According to Allgeier, the Office of Career Services uses the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to educate employers about the legalities of internship programs. Interns aren’t always recognized as employees under the FLSA; therefore, they don’t have to be compensated for their work. If an intern is found to be an employee after analysis of the Primary Beneficiary Test, a seven-factor test used to determine eligibility of employment, then they are entitled to minimum wage.
Sometimes interns are assigned the same tasks as employees, which seems unfair when they’re doing it for no compensation. At a past internship, I wrote a lot of articles for no cost when freelance writers were getting paid to write the same thing. However, not only did I get published, but I also posted links to my work on my LinkedIn account and mentioned them in cover letters for new internships. Even though I wasn’t getting paid, I was still receiving benefits that furthered my academic career and helped me get my current internship.
Students can receive academic credit from an internship if they choose to. Each major varies on the number of hours that must be completed during the internship in order to receive academic credit for it.
Some students, like Thea Conlin, sophomore advertising and public relations major, choose not to get academic credit for internships, making the requirements more relaxed. Conlin spent eight hours a week interning while juggling work, exercising, 16 credits, and extracurriculars.
“ It was tiring, but I made it work because having an internship looks great on a resume,” said Conlin.
Other students pay tuition to get academic credit for their internships. Maliya Griffiths, junior criminal justice major and past intern for the Tampa Police Department interned for a total of 150 hours during her 13-week internship and received four credit hours for it at UT.
“In order to complete the needed hours of my internship I had to take fewer physical classes at the university and drop some of my student organizations like Student Government and Orientation. However, I do think that it was worth it in the end because the internship allowed me to see what the job is actually like before committing to it,” said Griffiths.
According to Allgeier, students that plan ahead when it comes to applying for internships are the most successful.
“Many employers recruit student interns one to three semesters in advance. For students to remain competitive in their search and have more options in their internship selection, researching companies and internship opportunities at least one semester before they would like to do the internship is critical,” said Allgeier.
The Office of Career Services assists students in securing internships and also hosts networking events and internship fairs to help students find the program they are looking for. According to Allgeier, in Tampa there are currently 1,836 paid internships and 522 unpaid internships posted on Handshake. The problem is, majors and job fields are big determining factors on whether or not an internship will be paid or unpaid.
According to Business Insider, companies in engineering, finance, tech, media and aerospace pay the highest intern salaries. These fields also hold some of the highest paying careers. NACE has reported that the lowest paying internships are in fields such as education, liberal arts, and social science, which can be some of the lowest-paying jobs. However, some internship opportunities are too good to pass up.
Madeline Colón, junior communications major is an intern at McKinney Law Group. “This is a difficult field for a woman who’s not in law school to get her foot into, so this internship is the highlight of my day,” said Colón. “It’s something I will put on my resume and is going to help me when I take my LSAT later this year.”
Despite not getting paid for my past internship, the experience stood out to my current employer and helped me get the internship I have now. Whether it’s paid or not, an internship can be completely worth it for the experience and skills. For more information on how to get an internship at UT, contact Career Services or visit the Career Services website.
Brittany Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org