Youth and Work Unpaid Internships Essay

Description

Using at least 750words (written double spaced with 12 font) (Yes your essay can be longer) for your response, prepare a blog post or write a letter to a friendexplaining ONE of the issues that working youth are currently facing in the United States from ONE of the topics listed below that we have explored this semester.   Please choose ONE of the following topics:
? Unpaid Internships
In your post/letter, in order for your reader to get a complete picture of the issue, you must provide the following information:
? General background information about the issue
? Why you feel this is an urgent critical issue for working youth
? What are some potential policies you would propose be implemented to address the issue?You may recommend policies cited in our coursematerials or provide your own. 
Your response must be substantive, analytical and include important facts to support your position.  It should be a well written essay with an introduction (including a thesis statement), supporting body paragraphs and a strong conclusion.T wo Che e rs fo r Unp aid Inte rnship s – Ame rica ne e ds – Slate (USA) – De ce mbe r 4, 2013
December 4, 2013 | Slate (USA) | Matthew Yg lesias
With unemployment sky-high, working-class wages in long-term stagnation, and climate change
spiraling out of control, America’s social reformers have hit upon a strange cause: the plight of the
aspiring young professional doing an unpaid internship. A June court ruling that an unpaid intern on
the film Black Swan was owed back pay has given the movement substantial momentum, and
Labor Day saw the launch of the Fair Pay Campaign, a move to ban unpaid internships in the
United States. And indeed, many current internships would seem to violate the rules laid out in the
Fair Labor Standards Act, including that the experience be “similar to training which would be given
in an educational environment” and that the “employer that provides the training derives no
immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.”
T he abolitionists have this all wrong. T he fact that well-designed internship programs offer training
that isn’t similar to what you’d get in school is part of what makes them valuable. And the fact that
employers benefit from the work of interns is exactly what makes it reasonable to offer
internships .
Critics of the unpaid internship seem to assume that tighter regulation would simply mean today’s
interns would magically become paid employees. In some cases, that might happen. But many
positions would simply be eliminated. More to the point, those positions that were converted into
paid ones would likely be given to different people than the unpaid interns of today. T here’s a
reason there are lots of paid internships and salaried entry-level jobs in the world—you can recruit
better people by offering money, so if you have to offer money, you’ll go after those people rather
than the current pool of underexperienced students and recent graduates.
Which is to say that banning unpaid internships makes the barriers to entering internship-heavy
fields higher, not lower. People who currently have to work without pay to become hirable would
instead seek out entirely different fields or else obtain more schooling.
If you’re alarmed by the thought that breaking into, say, journalism or the movie business often
requires one or more spells of unpaid work, consider the terrifying rise of the journalism master’s
degree. Columbia University, for example, estimates that its nine-month journalism M.A. program
will cost more than $50,000. But never fear: T hey also have a somewhat more expensive
journalism M.S. program. Alternatively, consider the raw deals for students at beauty schools or
other professions where legal rules mandate that you attend school rather than learn on the job.
Since school isn’t work, the tuition at these institutions clearly doesn’t violate labor law. But in terms
of the concrete harms attributed to internships —leaving young professionals saddled with debt,
erecting a huge barrier to upward mobility for people of modest means—the school option looks
much worse. As long as an internship does offer some practical educational value, letting the intern
“pay” with menial labor rather than five-figure tuition fees is a great deal. I got an enormous
amount of practical career advice in the summer of 2000 doing an internship for Rolling Stone,
where my day-to-day responsibilities consisted overwhelmingly of fetching an editor’s coffee and
making Xeroxes. T he bulk of the work was tedious and annoying, but a handful of substantive
assignments and lunchtime conversations with experienced professionals was worth the price of
entry.
T hat’s not to say that every internship should be immune from criticism. Mission-driven nonprofits
are open to valid charges of hypocrisy if they’re not willing to align their labor practices with what
they preach. Progressive institutions such as T he Nation magazine need to make the case to their
donors that providing opportunities to young people of modest means should be a priority. And, of
course, not every internship that promises to impart useful experience and knowledge does so.
T hat’s lamentable, but it’s no reason to ban anything in particular—many entry-level paid jobs and
traditional schooling programs also fall short of their promises. As a matter of practical advice,
anyone considering any internship or any school or any job is going to have to do some due
diligence.
Yet nobody takes the existence of bad classes as evidence that school as a whole is a scam, and
nobody should draw the same inference about internships or on-the-job training either. People
shouldn’t take internships where they don’t learn anything useful just as they shouldn’t take
classes where they don’t learn. But where educational value is present, there’s nothing wrong with
paying in the form of labor rather than paying with money.
If there’s a policy solution fix here, it’s not going to be about banning internships , but about
building better bridges between education and the workplace. Washington, D.C., is launching nine
new Career Academies, a form of schools within schools that “provide career-specific internships
and occupational training integrated with regular high school coursework.” As German firms have
begun opening production facilities in the U.S., they’ve partnered with local community colleges to
bring a version of German-style apprenticeships to our shores.
T he country badly needs more innovation along these lines, not less. Internship critics think stricter
enforcement of FLSA standards will fix a labor market problem, but the risk is they’ll exacerbate an
education problem instead. Wage regulations are a poor tool for addressing the weak earnings
power of inexperienced workers. Bad macroeconomic conditions give employers enormous
leverage in the contemporary marketplace, but this is a problem for the Federal Reserve, not the
Labor Department. If employers are forced to pay more, workers with no experience will be last in
line for jobs and forced to buy more schooling as the only way to improve their qualifications.
Young people will be worse off than ever, and all the tuition inflation and quality problems in
American higher education exacerbated.
At worst, unpaid internships should be seen as a symptom of broader problems with the
economy and school system. At best, smarter and better use of workplace learning should be a big
part of the solution.
CIT AT ION (AGLC ST YLE)
Matthew Yglesias, ‘Two Cheers for Unpaid Internships – America needs more on-the-job learning, not less.
Unpaid Internships: Cheaper Than School!’, Slate (online), 4 Dec 2013 ‹https://infoweb-newsbankcom.proxy.libraries.rutgers.edu/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/14A7E229A6A36350›
Copyrig ht (c) 2013, Washing tonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC
11/3/22, 12:53 PM
These people are making real money in
Horizon Worlds—even as Meta loses billions
More than 40% of interns are still unpaid—why that’s legal
This 23-year-old pays $1,100 a month to rent a
95 sq. ft NYC apartment
10 compa
anywhere
WO R K
More than 40% of interns are still unpaid—here’s the
history of why that’s legal
P u b l i s h e d Tu e, Au g 1 7 2 0 2 1 • 1 1 : 3 2 A M E DT
Abigail Johnson Hess
@ A B I GA I L J H E S S
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12:31
Why unpaid internships continue to exist in corporate America
For many young workers, an internship offers their first taste of the “real world,” and
many interns take home a very real paycheck of $0.
https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/17/more-than-40percent-of-interns-are-still-unpaidwhy-thats-legal.html
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11/3/22, 12:53 PM
More than 40% of interns are still unpaid—why that’s legal
According to a recent survey of 267 employers (including big-name companies such
as Adidas, Dell and Wells Fargo) by the National Association of Colleges and
Employers, the average hourly wage for paid interns in the summer of 2020 was
$20.76 — an increase of $1.22 from the previous year and the highest rate ever
measured.
But while competition at top employers may have led to good pay for some, a recent
NACE survey of college students found more than 40% of interns surveyed said they
were not paid.
Unpaid internships can be a controversial topic. Some argue they provide valuable
exposure for young people trying to learn about an industry, while others critique the
practice as an excuse to exploit free labor from young workers eager to get a foot in
the door.
CNBC Make It spoke with experts to learn why unpaid internships exist — and why
many feel these roles blur the line between opportunity and exploitation.
Legal precedence
The Fair Labor Standards Act, originally passed in 1938, requires for-profit employers
and non-profit employers that generate $500,000 or more in business annually, to
pay employees for their work.
This act was soon impacted by the 1947 Supreme Court case Walling v. Portland
Terminal Company. At the time, the Portland Terminal Company offered an unpaid
program for aspiring railroad brakemen that lasted for seven or eight days. When
trainees sued the company, hoping to get paid, the case made it to the Supreme
Court, which ultimately found participants did not need to be paid because they
were “trainees” rather than employees, based on the court’s finding that “the
trainee’s work does not expedite the railroad’s business, but may, and sometimes
does, actually impede and retard it.”
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11/3/22, 12:53 PM
More than 40% of interns are still unpaid—why that’s legal
This decision created a long-lasting precedent for the conditions under which it is
legal for employers to not pay trainees and interns. Essentially, an organization does
not need to pay an intern under the argument that the intern is receiving more
benefit from the relationship than the organization.
View of the main entrance to the US Supreme Court Building at the intersection of First Street NE and
Maryland Avenue, Washington DC, circa 1944. PhotoQuest | Archive Photos | Getty Images
As work has changed, so did the role that interns provide organizations.
“In the 1970s, internships became more common across various industries as the
college population grew due to the inclusion of women and other groups,” says
Joshua Kahn, NACE assistant director of research. “This expansion of the college
population occurred during a tight job market, so unpaid internships became seen as
a way to help get these folks some experience in lieu of a full-time, paying job.”
Over the next several decades, internships expanded among both for-profit and
non-profit organizations.
https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/17/more-than-40percent-of-interns-are-still-unpaidwhy-thats-legal.html
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11/3/22, 12:53 PM
More than 40% of interns are still unpaid—why that’s legal
“By 1992, about 17% of college students had participated in an internship, with that
number increasing to about 50% by 2008. This year, in our most recent data, 75% of
graduating seniors said they participated in some type of internship experience,”
says Kahn.
Interns speak out
As internship programs grew in popularity, many interns began calling attention to
pay issues.
In 2011, Eric Glatt and Alex Footman who worked on the award-winning film “Black
Swan” as interns, filed a lawsuit against Fox Searchlight alleging the production
company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying them for their work.
In 2013, U.S. District Judge William Pauley found the interns should have been paid.
In a summary judgment Pauley wrote, “Searchlight received the benefits of [the
interns’] unpaid work, which otherwise would have required paid employees.”
Fox appealed the decision and in 2015, Second Circuit Judge John Walker found that
rather than consider if the organization received a benefit from the work of an intern,
“the proper question is whether the intern or the employer is the primary beneficiary
of the relationship.”
In 2016, Glatt and Footman settled their case with 21st Century Fox. Those who
interned on the movie were awarded various amounts ranging from $495 to $7,500,
depending on their circumstances.
Following the suit, similar cases were brought against companies such as Condé
Nast, NBCUniversal, Sony and Columbia Records, Viacom and Warner Music Group.
Each company negotiated multimillion-dollar settlements with their former unpaid
workers and now pay interns for their time.
CNBC Make It reached out to those companies but did not receive a response.
https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/17/more-than-40percent-of-interns-are-still-unpaidwhy-thats-legal.html
4/8
11/3/22, 12:53 PM
More than 40% of interns are still unpaid—why that’s legal
High-profile lawsuits have led to a steady decrease in the number of unpaid
internships, says Kahn.
“I know there’s a big push on Capitol Hill to end unpaid internships for staffers in
legislative offices, and that does seem to be moving the needle,” he adds.
One of those leading this push is Carlos Vera.
As a student at American University, Vera was an unpaid intern at the White House,
the European Parliament and the House of Representatives. He took side jobs as a
waiter and a barista to financially support himself.
“Coming from a working-class background, I couldn’t ask my parents for money. So
what I did was I interned about 30 hours a week. I was taking a side job, working at
20 hours, and then taking six courses as a 17-year-old,” he tells CNBC Make It. “I
started seeing that a lot of the people in my cohorts were very well off. These are the
people that are going to be the future judges, lawyers, professors, elected officials,
journalists”
Frustrated by what he felt was a system that held poor workers and workers of color
back, Vera co-founded a nonprofit called Pay Our Interns in 2016 with the goal of
bringing attention to unpaid internships at non-profit and government organizations
such as Congress.
In 2017, the organization published a report called “Experience Doesn’t Pay the Bills,”
which found 43 out of 100 offices in the Senate offered paid internships, and in the
House, only 26 out of 435 representatives paid interns.
One year after publishing the report, the number of Senate Democrats who offered
paid internships had doubled. Vera argues that organizations need to be regulated
to pay their workers.
Unpaid internships are “not going to just magically go away,” he says. “As long as
someone or an institution benefits from free labor, it’s going to continue.”
Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.
https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/17/more-than-40percent-of-interns-are-still-unpaidwhy-thats-legal.html
5/8
11/3/22, 12:53 PM
More than 40% of interns are still unpaid—why that’s legal
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More than 40% of interns are still unpaid—why that’s legal
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UNDERSTANDING
THE IMPACT OF
UNPAID INTERNSHIPS
ON COLLEGE STUDENT
CAREER DEVELOPMENT AND
EMPLOYMENT OUTCOMES
By Andrew Crain
Funded by the NACE Foundation
FOUNDATION
Copyright December 2016 by the NACE Foundation. All rights reserved.
2 | Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Abstract …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….4
Executive Summary ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 5
Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………………………………9
Current Issues ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 10
Literature Review …………………………………………………………………………………………………….11
Theoretical Framework ………………………………………………………………………………………….13
Method ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..15
Findings ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 18
Conclusion …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 20
Endnotes ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….21
Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development
and Employment Outcomes was funded through a grant from the NACE Foundation, a
501(c)(3) charitable, not-for-profit organization created to foster leading-edge resources and
educational resources that facilitate the employment of the college educated.
Research and analysis were conducted by Andrew Crain, a career consultant for the Franklin
College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Public Health at the University of Georgia
(UGA). Crain joined the UGA Career Center in May 2011. He worked with students in the
Terry College of Business for four years before transitioning to serving pre-health and science
majors and students in the College of Public Health in 2016. Crain has a master’s degree in
student affairs and undergraduate degrees in history and anthropology from Missouri State
University. He can be reached at acrain@uga.edu.
Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes | 3
ABSTRACT
Abstract
In recent years, the topic of unpaid internships has grown increasingly important—and controversial—within the field of
higher education and the court of public opinion. This study explores the developmental and employment outcomes of
undergraduate students participating in unpaid internships at one large, public research university in the Southeastern
United States.
Drawing upon previous research and existing theories of experiential learning and psychosocial development, a
mixed-method analysis was conducted to understand how unpaid internship participation impacts factors such as
full-time employment, job satisfaction, professional skill development, goal-setting, networking, academic performance,
and job-search success. Overall career development benefits and exposure to quality supervision were also considered
in the analysis.
In general, the study confirmed that unpaid internship participation exhibits a negative impact on graduate
employment outcomes. Additionally, unpaid internships were shown to play significantly different roles in student
career development than paid internships, particularly in regard to professional skill development and academic
performance.
4 | Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Executive Summary
In the world of college career development, it is certainly no secret that unpaid internships are one of the most hotly
contested topics among students, employers, and society at large. A quick Google search of the term yields a number
of troubling results—articles decrying the systemic unfairness of working without compensation, legal guidelines
for employers (such as the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fact Sheet #71), advice for students on evaluating internship
opportunities, and, of course, information on class action lawsuits.
In 2015, the NACE Foundation issued a call for research proposals on the topic of unpaid internships. In response, the
author examined student data from the University of Georgia (UGA) Career Center and conducted a mixed-methods
study on the role of unpaid internships in undergraduate career outcomes.
The Study
Each year, the UGA Career Center surveys students returning from summer break to assess their work experiences. The
response has been favorable, averaging more than 3,000 student participants annually with feedback on part-time jobs
and internships. Interestingly, 85 percent of respondents in recent years had reported that their unpaid internships were
highly beneficial (either “extremely beneficial” or “very beneficial” to their career development on a 5-point Likert scale).
However, a further analysis of the data somewhat discredited this initial finding. Compared to paid internship
participants, unpaid interns were 10 percent less likely to give their experience a top rating (“extremely beneficial”).
A combined analysis of internship survey responses and first-destination data reinforced this differential, showing that
students completing an unpaid internship the year before graduation were more likely to be still seeking employment
six months after receiving their degree.
The study was framed around the following research questions:
• Who does unpaid internships, and why?
• Does the method of finding internships impact quality of experience?
• Why do students find their unpaid internships to be useful to their career development? How do their perspectives
differ from the perceived benefits identified by paid internship recipients?
• What correlations exist between unpaid internships and career outcomes, particularly in comparison to similar
students who complete paid internships or no internships at all?
Some of these questions were answered more effectively than others. In particular, questions of “why” are particularly
difficult to assess when discussing unpaid internships, as student decision-making about career opportunities is
highly contextual. However, all of the key points outlined above were addressed in some form or fashion through the
application of the mixed-method approach.
A brief note on the theoretical foundation of the study: This is based primarily upon David Kolb’s theory of experiential
learning.
Methods
The approach used for this study consisted of a concurrent, mixed-method research design and an initial sample of
12,220 recent graduates from the academic classes of 2013 through 2015 at UGA. A total of 348 students completed
a survey consisting of 66 multiple-choice and open-ended questions, and one-on-one interviews were conducted with
an additional six students via phone or webcam. While the survey portion of the study collected data from a diverse
range of recent alumni and reflected a variety of college experiences (including internship participation as well as
Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes | 5
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
other varied forms of campus engagement), the interviews were conducted with students who had completed both
paid and unpaid experiences during their time in college, allowing the participants to contrast their experiences and
reflect on the unique impacts of each opportunity.
The survey portion of the study focused on several different aspects of the student experience, including not only
reports of participation in paid and unpaid internship activity, but also questions about other elements of their college
experience, such as Greek life, community service, leadership, intramural sports, and involvement with general social
or professional organizations. Students rated their participation in each activity relevant to their peers, ranging from
no participation at all to extreme levels of involvement for each area. Students were also asked to report on their three
most beneficial activities during college and categorize whether each activity was a paid internship, unpaid internship,
or other type of involvement. For these involvements, ratings were also requested for key developmental outcomes
drawn from Kolb, Bandura, and Super. These areas included the activity’s impact on goal setting, professional skill
development, networking, academic performance, job-search success, quality supervision, confirming or rejecting a
field of interest, and overall benefits to career development. In addition, demographic data were collected for each
student as well as general feedback on their post-graduate careers, including overall satisfaction with their first position
after college. Survey data were then combined with reported first-destination information from the UGA Career
Outcomes Survey, providing a more complete picture of the student’s career journey.
While the bulk of the data collected for the study was quantitative, interviews from participants helped bring additional
context to the study. Qualitative data informed analyses of the survey data and helped situate the role of paid and
unpaid internships within the students’ career narratives. This exercise was also extremely useful from an evaluative
standpoint, providing information on classes, faculty members, part-time jobs, and student organizations that the
students found to be valuable. Some students cited on-campus experiences that enhanced their internship experiences
or provided useful feedback on ways to improve career services at the institution. Although most of the data shared
here are drawn from the quantitative portion of the study, the value of these conversations should not be understated.
Lastly, it is important to note that this study did include some limitations. The expanded survey painted a more
balanced picture of student career development experiences, but self-selection of participants may still have resulted
in a final sample that was not wholly representative of the campus population. Positive skewness is also a concern
since students were often asked (in both the survey and the interview) to report on their most beneficial experiences. In
general, students at UGA exhibit high levels of engagement with on-campus and career development activities, which
is a further consideration when generalizing findings to the broader college student population.
Findings: Paid Versus Unpaid Internships
A quantitative analysis of the survey data was conducted using 21 different regression models, beginning with an
exploration of which students on campus were pursuing paid and unpaid internship experiences.
Male students and business or agriculture majors were significantly more likely to pursue paid internships, while
journalism students and students in the College of Family and Consumer Science (including diverse majors such as
consumer economics, financial planning, nutrition, human development, and fashion merchandising) proved more likely
to pursue unpaid experiences. Students majoring in political science and international affairs were also more likely
to report high levels of engagement with unpaid internships. Lower grade point averages were correlated to lower
participation rates for both types of internships. It should be noted that the logistic regression models for this initial
question seemed to do a better job of explaining paid internship participation (with higher R-squared values).
Altogether, students in the survey sample (n=348) reported participating in unpaid internships at higher levels than
paid internships.
Models gauging the impact of unpaid internship participation on job-search success showed that unpaid internship
participation was negatively correlated to student salary and employment outcomes. One model showed that
participants in unpaid internships were 11 percent less likely to report high levels of satisfaction with their first job.
Another calculation assessing time-to-hire found unpaid internship participation to be one of the most significant factors
6 | Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
among 24 independent variables, exhibiting a strong negative influence on student acceptance of a job offer prior to
graduation. Participation in unpaid internships—as well as research activities and study abroad—was correlated to
a longer job-search process upon graduation, which helps support the argument that unpaid internship experiences
are largely academic exercises. Part-time off-campus work was also correlated to a longer job-search process, while,
interestingly, intramural sports participation was correlated to earlier full-time job acceptance. While unpaid internship
participation was consistently found to be a negative influence in graduate career outcomes, these examples illustrate
the complexity of interpreting student engagement data and the need for further research in this area.
Another portion of the analysis gauged the impact of reported experiences on specific developmental outcomes
drawn from the study’s theoretical framework. These models included dependent variables gauging whether
experiences helped students confirm or reject career interests, set and attain career goals, develop their network,
enhance professional skills, succeed in the job search, experience quality supervision, or better understand academic
coursework. Students were also asked whether experiences were beneficial to their overall career development. In total,
645 individual activities were reported in the survey (students were asked to share up to three beneficial experiences).
Unpaid internships were correlated to positive outcomes in the areas of confirming or rejecting career interests, setting
and attaining career goals, quality of supervision, and networking. In the latter two categories, unpaid internships
proved to be slightly more impactful than paid internship experiences (although both were significant). Notably, unpaid
internships were rated as being significantly beneficial to gains in understanding academic coursework, while paid
internships were not rated as significant in this area.
Likewise, paid internships were rated as significant to professional skill development, while unpaid internships were not
significant in this area. Participation in paid and unpaid internships was fairly evenly split within the sample (103 paid,
101 unpaid).
Unpaid internships represent more experimental, academic activities that offer early opportunities for immersion
and socialization in a chosen field. Meanwhile, paid internships—with their enhanced influence on professional skill
development—often allow students greater opportunities to manipulate the external environment. Obviously, the divide
between these categories is blurred, as many unpaid internships also allow students to apply and grow their skill sets.
However, these distinctions are helpful in a general sense for articulating the developmental considerations of the
internship process. The learning processes presented here are also borne out in the qualitative interviews, as students
discuss the process of conceptualizing a career interest, seeking out an exploratory opportunity, and reflecting on
their experience. As career interests develop, students increasingly sought out more meaningful work experiences that
allowed them to play a greater role in manipulating their work environment.
Next Steps in Determining True Impacts of Unpaid Internships
For most career development professionals, the study’s findings will not be particularly shocking. Most working in the
field realize intuitively that employers that choose not to pay interns (whether due to resource limitations on their part or
qualification/experience limitations on the student’s part) are not likely to convert unpaid interns to full-time employees.
However, studying this issue through an empirical lens is helpful in more fully understanding the true impacts of unpaid
internship participation, as well as identifying opportunities for further research.
First and foremost, undertaking this study provides an eye-opening look at the need for better data on student
experiences. Recent gains in measuring graduate outcomes offer numerous avenues for advances in career
development research, and knowledge of student engagement with on-campus activities is also growing exponentially.
However, surprisingly little is known about the off-campus career development experiences that lead to graduate
outcomes. Further consideration of this issue is needed to truly understand the role of paid and unpaid internships as
well as other nuanced aspects of student career development, as working with incomplete data only offers a partial
understanding of the role of these experiences.
One solution to this issue may be to continue expanding the structured integration of internship experiences into the
academic curriculum. Data from this study show that approximately half of the internship experiences reported by
students were unpaid, and that unpaid internships were significantly tied to enhanced academic performance. Class
Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes | 7
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
assignments and other forms of intentional reflection may help support students in fully leveraging these growth
opportunities, particularly early on in their academic careers. Meanwhile, paid internships—which are more closely
tied to professional skill development—may be encouraged later in a student’s college career in a format that is more
decoupled from the academic curriculum. One hypothetical model might include a three-credit academic course for
unpaid internships and a zero-credit course for paid internships, with each type of experience carrying implications for
degree completion. This concept aligns closely with Kolb’s model of experiential learning, which suggests the need for
various levels of concrete experience and emphasizes reflection as a gateway to higher levels of abstract thought.
A greater emphasis on tracking internship and work experiences would not only facilitate ongoing research and
assessment, but could also be useful in the creation of strategic interventions for students who are at risk. Since unpaid
internships are correlated negatively to a number of desired employment outcomes, students who overemphasize
these forms of experience should be informed of the potential risks and, if necessary, supported in creating a plan for
broadening their experience.
Above all, one thing remains clear: While unpaid internships remain controversial within both the court of public
opinion and the field of student development, they are not likely to go away anytime soon. These experiences, while
not as empirically beneficial as paid internships, still lead to important gains for many of our students. As career
development professionals, we have an obligation to help our students understand the multifaceted risks and benefits
of such opportunities and, if possible, leverage all of their internship experiences on the path to desired graduate
outcomes.
8 | Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes
INTRODUCTION
Introduction
Each year, millions of college students, employers, and higher education professionals devote a significant amount
of attention to the topic of internships. Over the past several decades, internships have become a preferred method
of helping students learn about careers and transition into the work force. A recent employer survey by the National
Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) indicated that more than 90 percent of the organizations that were
polled had a formal internship program, with the majority of employers using their internship program as a way to
source full-time, entry-level hires.1 In a related study, NACE found that approximately two-thirds of college students had
participated in at least one internship, with students who completed an internship also being significantly more likely to
receive at least one job offer.2
In the wake of a recession, a growing focus on the return on investment for a college degree has heightened student
awareness about the importance of gaining work experience, and internship programs have subsequently become
an even greater focus on many college campuses.3 In fact, a growing number of programs or institutions now require
students to complete at least one internship in order to graduate.
However, as experiential learning gains more attention in the broader landscape of higher education, students,
parents, and career development professionals are also beginning to ask more critical questions about the type of
training that students receive.4 In particular, there is mounting concern over the topic of internship compensation
as leaders in media,5 policy,6 and popular press7 spheres have highlighted concerns about a lack of quality and
potential unfairness related to unpaid internship experiences. Critics claim that unpaid internship programs create
an insurmountable burden for lower-income students, offering “a great way of giving the children of affluence a leg
up in life,”8 while certain sectors of the economy—including fashion, entertainment, and even Congress—have been
particularly exploitative of America’s aspiring youth. A handful of empirical studies have been conducted in an attempt
to more fully understand this topic,9 but further research is still needed. In a 2015 call for research proposals, the
NACE Foundation argued that “research clearly supports the proposition that experiential education helps college
graduates when they leave academia and enter the work force,” but prominent questions remain about the possibility
of “differential consequences”10 associated with whether or not the student receives payment.
Thus, the primary purpose of this project is to contribute to the ongoing dialogue surrounding the topic of internship
outcomes and compensation. In this paper, I will review current literature on the topic of internship outcomes and
further discuss the legal tensions surrounding this issue. I will then conduct a mixed-method analysis of undergraduate
students from a large public research university in the Southeastern United States to assess the potential implications
of unpaid internship participation on student employment and developmental outcomes. In short, this study will seek to
address a number of pressing questions:
• Who does unpaid internships, and why?
• Does method of finding internships impact quality of experience?
• Why do students find their unpaid internships to be useful to their career development? How do their perspectives
differ from the perceived benefits identified by paid internship recipients?
• What correlations exist between unpaid internships and career outcomes, particularly in comparison to similar
students who complete paid internships or no internships at all?
Since internships are so important to college students’ career development and (in many cases) their ability to meet
graduation requirements, an enhanced understanding of these questions will enable faculty, staff, and employers to
more effectively guide students through the internship process. Upon concluding my analysis, I will assess how my
findings contribute to the broader conversation on this issue and suggest opportunities for future research.
Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes | 9
CURRENT ISSUES
Current Issues
Before discussing prior scholarship on internship outcomes, it is important to further outline the current tensions
surrounding the topic of internship compensation. In the wake of the Great Recession, a spate of lawsuits, government
regulations, and media debates has generated a frenzy of attention to the topic of internship compensation. The New
York Times’ “Room for Debate” forum featured this issue in February 2012 with a number of articles responding to the
question, “Do unpaid internships exploit college students?” Ross Perlin, author of the book Intern Nation: How to Earn
Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy, offers a particularly scathing commentary. Calling the modern
internship a “racket,” Perlin laments the “rash of illegal, exploitative situations” that pervade the modern internship
market, and he calls for college and government officials to hold employers to more ethical standards. Alex Footman,
a claimant in a prominent internship lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures—Glatt et al. v Fox Searchlight Pictures,
Inc. et al.—argues in a similar vein that students should not be the ones responsible for ensuring they receive ethical
treatment from employers. “Interns should be focused on preparing for their careers,” Footman writes, “not worrying
about whether their employer is exploiting them.” Footman’s lawsuit, known in popular media as the Black Swan case,
was most recently decided in favor of the employer, as was a similar lawsuit brought against the blogging company
Gawker Media—Mark v. Gawker Media LLC.
Part of the debate around unpaid internships centers on the Fair Labor Standards Act and the court system’s definition
of employment. The U.S. Department of Labor attempted to specify the exact parameters of an internship experience
through the issuance of Fact Sheet #71 in 2010, a six-point litmus test that outlines when a student may technically
be considered an employee. However, this approach has proven to be very problematic, with judges in recent
lawsuits rejecting Fact Sheet #71 in favor of their own definition. In the Black Swan and Gawker Media cases, the
court developed its own list of seven key parameters for assessing fair treatment, including an assessment of who
was the primary beneficiary, whether a mutual understanding existed about compensation, and the extent to which
the internship provided training similar to that of an educational environment.11 On its website, NACE also weighs in
on the topic, outlining a clear position statement that aligns closely with the seven standards established by the U.S.
Department of Labor’s Fact Sheet #71.12 In particular, NACE emphasizes that students must gain some educational
benefit from their experience, even if the employer also benefits from the relationship (differing slightly from the U.S.
Department of Labor in this regard). Going a step beyond Fact Sheet #71, NACE also specifies seven standards that
may be used to gauge the legitimacy of internship experiences, such as an opportunity to apply academic training,
obtain transferable skills, and receive regular feedback from an experienced professional. NACE also argues that
internships must have clearly defined learning goals, defined start and end dates, and sufficient organizational
resources to support the achievement of desired student outcomes.
While the specific nuances of the legal and ethical debate surrounding internship compensation is beyond the scope
of this paper, this basic overview should help readers to understand the broader legal context of this debate. It is clear
that intern compensation and fair treatment are important concerns for our society as a whole, and a more empirical
understanding of internship outcomes could further elucidate this issue.
10 | Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes
LITERATURE REVIEW
Literature Review
As we begin to explore existing research on the topic of internships, it is helpful to contextualize just how widespread
the internship phenomenon has become. It is notable that organizations as broad as the Association of American
Colleges and Universities and the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS)13 have taken
steps to address the topic of internships. Increased efforts to standardize internship experiences, both within higher
education and across various professional fields,14 further demonstrate the importance of this training mechanism for
students, employers, and institutions of higher education. Consider for a moment the following recent statistics provided
by NACE.15
• 92 percent of employers reported having a formal internship program, with more than 70 percent of those
internship programs being focused on converting students into full-time, entry-level employees.
• In 2015, the intern conversion rate (successful transition to full-time hire) was more than 51 percent.
• 65.4 percent of student respondents reported participating in an internship, co-op, or both.
• 60.8 percent of interns were paid, with unpaid interns being most common in the social services industry.
• More than 56 percent of students completing an internship or co-op received at least one job offer, compared to
less than 37 percent of students with no internship or co-op experience.
These statistics, although just a sample of existing data on this topic, reinforce the growing importance of internships
(and practical training in general) within the broader landscape of higher education.
However, as we have seen, the exact definition of the word “internship” is a point of contention, with various
organizations offering their own conceptualization of the term. NACE defines an internship as:
“…a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom
with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give
students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in
professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to
guide and evaluate talent.”16
Offering a similar perspective, CAS defines an internship as “a deliberate form of learning” that involves reflection
and feedback aligned with specified learning objectives.17 While there are many variations of what an internship is,
the themes of intentional learning, feedback, practical career application, and connection with academic curriculum
resonate frequently throughout both post-secondary institutions and organizations serving as internship providers.
These distinct characteristics are key, because they separate internship experiences from other forms of experiential
learning, such as volunteering or service learning.18 For the purposes of this study, the term “internship” will be
conceptualized using the above definitions, including both paid and unpaid opportunities.
Beyond the implicit labor market advantages suggested by the widespread popularity of the phenomenon, there are
a number of additional studies citing the developmental benefits of internship experiences. Numerous researchers
studying this topic have found that internship experience enhances student marketability in the job search,19 increases
career self-efficacy,20 and may positively impact academic outcomes21 and other areas of development, such as
multicultural skills.22 Prior studies also report that internships may help students develop their professional networks,23
commit to or reject certain career fields, and land higher-paying jobs upon graduation.24 Although a large proportion
of prior research on this topic is concentrated in specific disciplines, such as medicine,25 business,26 journalism,27 or
liberal arts,28 the scholarship is consistent in reporting positive effects of internship experiences across disciplines.
It should also be noted that several studies emphasize that the quality of the internship is perhaps the most salient
aspect of the student experience, although this variable is presented differently in different studies, ranging from the
Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes | 11
LITERATURE REVIEW
quality of supervision received29 to structural components such as socialization into the organization and the nature of
daily work,30 including very specific characteristics such as the autonomy of the intern.31 Overall, the wide degree of
variability among internship experiences makes the factor of quality difficult to assess.32
Despite the myriad studies that explore this topic, the issue of compensation is rarely raised within the larger context
of the internship discussion—an important point for the relevance of this project. In a number of studies over the past
several decades, researchers have attempted to identify predictors of successful internship experiences33 and/or
empirically assess the developmental outcomes related to internship participation.34 However, compensation is almost
never mentioned as a potential factor in either of these frameworks. One reason for this omission may be attributed to
changing cultural norms—it is possible that unpaid internships were once less controversial and/or less commonplace
than they are today, having become somewhat ubiquitous in fields such as government, fine arts, and nonprofit work.35
Although further research would be needed to confirm this theory, such sociocultural changes would help to explain
the paucity of attention given to the distinction between paid and unpaid internship outcomes prior to this time.
However, that is not to say that the topic of compensation remains entirely unaddressed. There have been several
scholarly studies that have included compensation as a key variable for comparing internship quality. Two notable
examples are Basow and Byrne’s study on internship expectations and learning goals, and Beard and Morton’s study
on predictors related to successful internship experiences. Both studies provided inconclusive evidence on the topic of
compensation, with Basow and Byrne finding that:
“Receiving payment seems to increase students’ feelings of educational preparedness, perhaps
because a paid job provides a better reflection of the real world environment. Students who
received payment showed less agreement with statements about self-esteem, however, which
suggests that students who were unpaid may have received preferential treatment such as more
mentoring by employees.”36
Similarly, Beard and Morton argued in favor of intern compensation, claiming that payment would result in students
rating their experience more highly, reduce stress levels for participants, and signal the importance of the commitment
to all parties. However, the authors went on to conclude that compensation was the least important of six factors in
measuring internship quality.37 Thus, during the 1990s we see the emergence of scholarship on the topic of unpaid
internships, but little conclusive evidence.
Recent efforts by organizations such as NACE and Intern Bridge (an internship research and consulting organization)
have contributed further to the dialogue on the possible benefits and/or limitations related to internship compensation.
Specifically, NACE reported in a 2013 statement that, “Students coming off of an unpaid internship and seeking a
job prior to graduation had no greater probability of receiving a full-time job offer than students with no internship
experience in their background,”38 based upon a quantitative analysis of three years of data from an annual student
survey. While NACE stipulates elsewhere the potential value of unpaid internship experiences,39 the organization
admits that this “interesting counter-intuitive result…begs for further, more detailed research” on the topic.40 Likewise,
Intern Bridge conducted an analysis of more than 27,000 student respondents with the goal of presenting “the latest
research into the…psychosocial and socioeconomic factors” affecting unpaid internship participation.41 This study
produced helpful descriptive data, including the fact that women and students in certain majors (led by arts and
humanities) are more likely to participate in unpaid internships, while myriad other variables (such as family income,
type of institution attended, and GPA) had little or no connection to unpaid internship participation. However, while the
Intern Bridge report provides a comprehensive view of who participates in unpaid internships, the study stops short of
addressing any differences in outcomes related to involvement in such experiences.
12 | Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
Theoretical Framework
For the purposes of this study, I will primarily draw upon Kolb’s experiential learning theory, and will also give
consideration to Super’s self-concept theory of career development and Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy.
Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory
The first important framework related to this study is Kolb’s experiential learning theory. Based upon previous
philosophical and psychological studies by John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, and Jean Piaget, Kolb’s model emphasizes the
importance of personal experience in the learning process. In particular, his theory outlines a series of developmental
stages—acquisition, specialization, and integration—through which individuals progress during their lifetimes. Kolb
defines learning as a process of adaptation through the integration of experiences, citing that, “Human beings are
unique among all living organisms in that their primary adaptive specialization lies not in some particular physical
form or skill or fit in an ecological niche, but rather in identification with the process of adaptation itself—in the
process of learning.”42 This essential learning process, Kolb argues, is distorted during historical periods when
educational philosophy focuses more heavily on rational or behavioral models of learning. While some critics claim
that experiential learning is vocationalist or anti-intellectual, Kolb counters such arguments by contending that his
model illustrates the link between personal development, education, and work. In essence, Kolb perceives experiential
education as a means for helping students make meaning of their classroom experiences, rather than serving as a
replacement for traditional teaching methods.
For the purposes of this study, Kolb’s model provides an excellent theoretical context for understanding the potential
benefits of internships. Particularly relevant is the second stage of Kolb’s model—specialization—which is the period
of time when students begin to acquire competencies “that will enable them to master the particular life tasks
they encounter in their chosen career… .”43 Furthermore, Kolb’s framework also explains a process by which the
concrete experiences of learners can lead to progressively more complex levels of reflective observation, abstract
conceptualization, and active experimentation.44 This perception of learning as a process (rather than a transaction)
is crucial to understanding the possible latent benefits of internship experiences. In short, real-world work experiences
acquired by students have the potential to unlock doors for further pursuit and integration of classroom learning
experiences. For the context of this study, the real question is whether paid and unpaid internship experiences affect
this process in quantifiably different ways.
Super’s Self-Concept Model of Career Development
Like Kolb, Super perceives personal experience to be a significant factor in individual development. However, whereas
Kolb views these experiences largely as a mechanism for learning and adaptation, Super’s model characterizes the
integration of experience as a process of identity formation. In essence, Super argues that all individuals have a
perceived self-concept, which impacts their vocational choices and aspirations throughout life. This perception evolves
progressively, growing more complex as individuals integrate new experiences and competencies into their identity.
Super outlines the typical sequence of developmental stages in the following order: growth (ages 0-14), exploration
(ages 14-25), establishment (ages 26-45), maintenance (ages 45-65), and disengagement (ages 65+). In this model,
traditional college students (those most likely to complete unpaid internships) are located in the exploration phase,
learning about many different areas of work, progressively making a commitment to a specific field, and beginning
to engage in more focused training. Thus, it is clear that there is potential for internship experiences to affect this
exploration process.
Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes | 13
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
Additional components of Super’s model that are relevant to the internship experience are the five developmental tasks
associated with vocational identity formation. In sequential order, these tasks are:
• CRYSTALLIZATION—The process during which individuals begin to explore vocational options, discarding some,
and begin to apply an understanding of their skills, interests, and abilities to the formation of their vocational
self-concept. This process also requires an expanding understanding of environmental factors (such as the labor
market) that may impact career goals. Super suggests this task should occur between ages 14 and 18.
• SPECIFICATION—The process of committing to one occupation, which includes the pursuit of focused training
activities and a growing sense of confidence in one’s vocational goals. Super suggests that this task should occur
between ages 18 and 21.
• IMPLEMENTATION—The process of completing training for a selected occupation and landing one’s first job in the
field. Ideally, this task should occur between ages 21 and 24.
• STABILIZATION—The process of settling into an occupation, making contributions to the field or employer, and
realizing the benefits of having made a good choice. Super suggests that this task should occur between ages 25
and 35.
• CONSOLIDATION—The process of continued commitment to the chosen field through advanced positions of
seniority or productivity that come with experience. This task continues until retirement.
Viewed from the lens of these developmental phases, one can further see how the internship experience could be an
influential component of the growth process, particularly in relation to increasing individual understanding of the self
and world of work (crystallization), deciding to commit to a specific occupation (specification), and the process of
completing training and transitioning to the first job (implementation).
Bandura’s Model of Self-Efficacy
Closely related to Super’s model is Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy. Bandura argues that self-efficacy is one of the
most influential predictors of human behavior, dictating an individual’s ability to cope with challenges, impacting the
degree of effort that individuals contribute toward a goal, and affecting the length of time an individual may persist
toward a goal in the face of obstacles. Bandura defines self-efficacy as the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and
execute courses of action required to produce given attainments, with four important sources for this belief: personal
performance, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and physiological and emotional factors. Bandura indicates
that personal performance is the most influential source of self-efficacy, which also appears to be the area most likely
to be impacted by internship experiences.
Furthermore, Bandura outlines the means by which self-efficacy impacts behavior, indicating that overly high or low
self-efficacy may lead to negative effects, such as psychological damage or an unwillingness to expand one’s skills.
Optimum self-efficacy, Bandura argues, is slightly higher than one’s actual ability, which encourages the pursuit of
reasonable challenges that will allow the individual to grow. Normative levels of self-efficacy are also associated with
increased motivation, lower stress levels, and a greater sense of control over one’s destiny. Taking all of these factors
together, it follows that healthy amounts of self-efficacy would influence one to identify more ambitious career goals,
and would likely create a positive impact on one’s ability to achieve those goals. Bandura refers to this relationship as
the Triadic Reciprocal Model of Causality, wherein one’s personal attributes, external environment, and overt behavior
(experiences) work simultaneously to influence an individual’s outcome expectations.
14 | Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes
METHOD
Method
The approach used for this study consisted of a concurrent, mixed-method research design45 and an initial sample of
12,220 recent graduates from the academic classes of 2013 through 2015 at a large public research university in the
Southeastern United States. A total of 348 students completed a survey consisting of 66 multiple-choice and openended questions, and one-on-one interviews were conducted with an additional six students via phone or webcam.
While the survey portion of the study collected data from a diverse range of recent alumni and reflected a variety
of college experiences (including internship participation as well as other varied forms of campus engagement), the
interviews were conducted with students who had completed both paid and unpaid experiences during their time in
college, allowing the participants to contrast their experiences and reflect on the unique impacts of each opportunity.
The survey portion of the study focused on several different aspects of the student experience, including not only
reports of participation in paid and unpaid internship activity, but questions about other elements of the college
experience, such as Greek life, community service, leadership, intramural sports, and involvement with general social
or professional organizations. Students rated their participation in each activity relevant to their peers, ranging from
no participation at all to extreme levels of involvement for each area. Students were also asked to report on their three
most beneficial activities during college and categorize whether each activity was a paid internship, unpaid internship,
or other type of involvement. For these involvements, ratings were also requested for key developmental outcomes
drawn from Kolb, Bandura, and Super. These areas included the activity’s impact on goal setting, professional skill
development, networking, academic performance, job-search success, quality supervision, confirming or rejecting
a field of interest, and overall benefits to career development. In addition, demographic data were collected for
each student as well as general feedback on their post-graduate careers, including overall satisfaction with their first
position after college. Survey data were then combined with previously reported first-destination information from
the participants, providing a more complete picture of each student’s career journey. An overview of independent
variables used in this project is provided in Table 1.1. Table 1.2 contains a summary table of dependent variables used
in the study.
Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes | 15
METHOD
TABLE 1.1. SUMMARY STATISTICS FOR STUDENT INVOLVEMENT AND DEMOGRAPHICS (INDEPENDENT VARIABLES)
VARIABLE
FREQUENCY
MEAN
STD. DEV
MIN
MAX
CONTROL
109
182
211
160
142
146
170
144
129
302
202
209
198
244
106
72
24
8
9
23
32
7
2
29
4
139
28
2
26
3
66
6
8
58
61
88
286
118
244
400
391
89
.313
.523
.606
.460
.408
.420
.490
.414
.371
.868
.580
.601
.569
.701
.305
.207
.069
.023
.026
.066
.092
.020
.006
.083
.011
.399
.080
.006
.075
.009
.190
.017
.023
.206
.213
.309
2.16
.177
.366
.600
.586
.133
464
.500
.489
.499
.492
.494
.501
.493
.484
.339
.494
.490
.496
.458
.461
.406
.254
.150
.159
.249
.289
.141
.076
.277
.107
.490
.272
.272
.263
.093
.393
.130
.150
.405
.410
.463
1.23
.382
.482
.490
.493
.340
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
7
1
1
1
1
1
PT_ON_PARTICIPATE
PT_OFF_PARTICIPATE
UNPAID_PARTICIPATE
PAID_PARTICIPATE
SHADOW_PARTICIPATE
RESEARCH_PARTICIPATE
IMSPORTS_PARTICIPATE
GREEK_PARTICIPATE
SERVICE_PARTICIPATE
SERVICE_ORG_PARTICIPATE
PROF_ORG_PARTICIPATE
NONGREEK_ORG_PARTICIPATE
LEADER_PARTICIPATE
STUDY_ABROAD_PARTICIPATE
SERVICE_LEARNING_PARTICIPATE
ARTS_PARTICIPATE
FIELD_PARTICIPATE
COOP_PARTICIPATE
CAES (Agriculture)
COE (Education)
CENGR (Engineering)
CED (Environmental Design)
FACS (Consumer Sciences)
PubHealth
Franklin (Arts & Sciences)
Grady (Journalism)
Odum (Ecology)
SPIA (Int’l Affairs)
SocWork
Terry (Business)
Warnell (Forestry)
Other
RACE
TRANSFER
MALE
GPA
YEAR_ONE
YEAR_TWO
YEAR_THREE
YEAR_FOUR
YEAR_FIVE
16 | Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes
METHOD
TABLE 1.2 SUMMARY STATISTICS FOR GRADUATE OUTCOMES (DEPENDENT VARIABLES)
VARIABLE
OBSERVATIONS
MEAN
STD. DEV
MIN
MAX
EMPCAT
348
108
113
33
145
348
667
667
667
667
667
667
667
667
1.86
1.194
$39,330.84
$4,587.88
1.538
.540
.747
.768
.814
.753
.889
.681
.702
.751
.892
.587
$13,881.72
$3,359.55
.764
.499
.435
.423
.389
.432
.314
.467
.458
.433
1
1
$4,430
$500
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
4
3
$74,000
$15,000
4
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
EmpType
SAL
BONUS
EMPTIME
HIGH_SATISFACTION
BENEFIT_VAR
CONFIRM_VAR
GOALS_VAR
NETWORK_VAR
PROFESSION_VAR
ACADEMICS_VAR
JOB_SEARCH_VAR
SUPPORT_VAR
While the bulk of the data collected for the study was quantitative, interviews from participants helped bring additional
context to the study. Qualitative data informed analyses of the survey data and helped situate the role of paid and
unpaid internships within the students’ career narratives. This exercise was also extremely useful from an evaluative
standpoint,46 providing information on classes, faculty members, part-time jobs, and student organizations that the
students found to be valuable. Some students cited on-campus experiences that enhanced their internship experiences
or provided useful feedback on ways to improve career services at the institution. Although most of the data shared
here are drawn from the quantitative portion of the study, the value of these conversations should not be understated.
Lastly, it is important to note the limitations of this study. The expanded survey painted a fairly detailed view of students’
career development experiences, but self-selection of participants may have resulted in a final sample that was not
wholly representative of the campus population. Positive skewness is also a concern since students were often asked (in
both the survey and the interview) to report on their most beneficial experiences. In general, students at this institution
exhibit high levels of engagement with on-campus and career development activities, which is a further consideration
when generalizing findings to the broader college student population.
Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes | 17
FINDINGS
Findings
A quantitative analysis of the survey data was conducted in StataMP v13.1 using 21 different regression models,
beginning with an exploration of which students on campus were pursuing paid and unpaid internship experiences.
Male students and business or agriculture majors were significantly more likely to pursue paid internships (using the
College of Education as a reference category), while journalism majors and students in the College of Family and
Consumer Science (including diverse programs such as consumer economics, financial planning, nutrition, human
development, and fashion merchandising) proved more likely to pursue unpaid experiences. Students majoring in
political science and international affairs were also more likely to report high levels of engagement with unpaid
internships. Lower grade point averages were correlated to lower participation rates for both types of internships.
In general, these statistics seem to align with earlier findings by Intern Bridge. It should be noted that the logistic
regression models for this initial question seemed to do a better job of explaining paid internship participation
(with higher R-squared values). Altogether, students in the survey sample (n=348) reported participating in unpaid
internships at higher levels than paid internships.
Models gauging the impact of unpaid internship participation on job-search success showed that unpaid internship
participation was negatively correlated to student salary and employment outcomes. One model showed that
participants in unpaid internships were 11 percent less likely to report high levels of satisfaction with their first job.
Another calculation assessing time-to-hire found unpaid internship participation to be one of the most significant factors
among 24 independent variables, exhibiting a strong negative influence on student acceptance of a job offer prior to
graduation. Table 2 provides statistical output data for this latter model, explaining the relationship of various on- and
off-campus activities to landing a job prior to graduation. This regression model provided an adjusted R-squared value
of 0.25. Using rough estimates for timeline to full-time job offer acceptance of 0, 3, 6, or 9 months after graduation,
this analysis demonstrates the correlation between unpaid internship participation and early employment, showing that
such activities appear somehow connected to a longer job-search process. Participation in research and study abroad
had a similar effect, which may be helpful in beginning to frame unpaid internship experiences as something of an
academic exercise. Part-time, off-campus work was also negatively correlated to early employment, but interestingly,
intramural sports participation showed a positive relationship to early employment that was statistically significant.
These findings point to the complexity involved with understanding the meanings behind such correlations (i.e. perhaps
intramural participation is merely a marker for high levels of campus engagement) and the need for additional
research comparing these activities.
Another portion of the analysis gauged the impact of reported experiences on specific developmental outcomes
drawn from the study’s theoretical framework. These models included dependent variables gauging whether
experiences helped students confirm or reject career interests, set and attain career goals, develop their network,
enhance professional skills, succeed in the job search, experience quality supervision, or better understand academic
coursework. Students were also asked whether experiences were beneficial to their overall career development. In total,
645 individual activities were reported in the survey (students were asked to share up to three beneficial experiences).
Unpaid internships were correlated to positive outcomes in the areas of confirming or rejecting career interests, setting
and attaining career goals, quality of supervision, and networking. In the latter two categories, unpaid internships
proved to be slightly more impactful than paid internship experiences (although both were significant). Notably, unpaid
internships were rated as being significantly beneficial to gains in understanding academic coursework, while paid
internships were not rated as significant in this area.
Likewise, paid internships were rated as significant to professional skill development, while unpaid internships were not
significant in this area. Participation in paid and unpaid internships was fairly evenly split within the sample (103 paid,
101 unpaid).
Not only do these results help to demonstrate an empirical distinction in outcomes between paid and unpaid
experiences, but the pattern of results demonstrated in the survey data aligns closely with key concepts of the learning
18 | Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Internships on College Student Career Development and Employment Outcomes
FINDINGS
TABLE 2 VARIABLES INFLUENCING UNDERGRADUATE TIMELINE FOR ACCEPTING A JOB OFFER
VARIABLE
COEFF.
CONTROL
PT_ON_PARTICIPATE
PT_OFF_PARTICIPATE
UNPAID_PARTICIPATE
PAID_PARTICIPATE
SHADOW_PARTICIPATE
RESEARCH_PARTICIPATE
IMSPORTS_PARTICIPATE
GREEK_PARTICIPATE
SERVICE_PARTICIPATE
SERVICE_ORG_PARTICIPATE
0.00660
(0.864)
0.00941
(0.471)
0.958*
(0.471)
1.244*
(0.597)
0.534
(0.678)
0.267
(0.483)
1.063*
(0.493)
-1.376**
(0.491)
-0.271
(0.518)
-0.501
(0.762)
-0.809
(0.504)
VARIABLE
PROF_ORG_PARTICIPATE
NONGREEK_ORG_PARTICIPATE
LEADER_PARTICIPATE
STUDY_ABROAD_PARTICIPATE
SERVICE_LEARNING_PARTICIPATE
ARTS_PARTICIPATE
FIELD_PARTICIPATE
COOP_PARTICIPATE
Constant
Observations
R-squared
COEFF.
0.00624
(0.521)
0.117
(0.506)
-0.371
(0.573)
0.962*
(0.472)
-0.650
(0.549)
-1.355
(0.980)
-1.120
(1.246)
-0.257
(1.253)
0.383
(1.312)
118
0.458
Standard errors in parentheses, *** p
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