Internship: Valuable Experience or Exploitation?

Flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

For better or worse, internship has received a lot of coverage this year. Few people would disagree that on the job training is one of the most effective ways for new entrants into the job market to gain much needed experience. On the other hand, companies that take advantage of a revolving door of unpaid interns, never intending to extend an offer for paid employment, are doing both the interns and their organizations a disservice.

When a perpetual state of unpaid internship appears to be the available job option, the damage to an intern is obvious. Perhaps not so obviously, a company’s reputation can be mangled and its ability to attract talent in the future greatly compromised, when it’s found to be using unethical or illegal practices with respect to interns (not to mention being subject to potential litigation).

Much like cooperative education programs and apprenticeship programs, well-run internships provide valuable workplace experience and help forge professional and industry connections. Some recent graduates may consider the lack of pay acceptable, as long as the experience and future potential is sufficient. In the end, only an internship program that provides value to both the intern and the employer is sustainable.

The infographic below, compiled by InternMatch, provides some interesting insights into the prevalence and distribution of internships in the United States; which industries are more inclined to provide paid internships; and what interns are looking for when they accept an intern position.   

Here are some key points to note:

  • 37.8% of interns want better pay
  • 47.3% of interns are interested in access to executives and mentorship
  • 30.2% of interns want opportunities to do real work
  • New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are the top cities for internship opportunities


For more tips on working with new GenY job entrants, read this article by our co-founder, Joseph Fung, or sign Up to be notified by email when we’ve got great new content.

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