Summer Internships: Are They Worth It?

There’s a lot of pressure for university students to spend their summers furthering their career goals with an internship. Our generation is entering a job market that is harder than ever to crack. A degree isn’t enough, employers expect much more experience for potential hires than in previous decades, and because of that internships seem to be unavoidable for a lot of fields.

 

In theory, the short-term, likely lower hour workload of internships sound ideal for students. Through a good summer internship you should be able to test out a career path you’re interested in without the pressures of a long-term contract. Internships can be a great way to gain connections too, if you make a good impression on your boss in the limited time you have, they can become a great reference for you down the line.

 

Additionally, internships can be a great way to gain real world experience you might not get in the classroom. You can see how the concepts you’ve learned over the years actually combine into working knowledge.

 

Yet, as good as internships can be for some, they aren’t exactly feasible for a lot of people. For one, almost half of the internships on the market are unpaid. Working unpaid is a luxury few people can afford. For example, if you’re paying for your own tuition during the school year, summers are likely focussed on working full-time for pay. The idea of a good letter of recommendation isn’t as important as paying rent and other basic expenses.

 

Also, you can easily get caught in a bad internship. Some businesses hire interns for the wrong reason. There places will either saddle interns with menial tasks like grabbing coffee or cleaning the breakroom, or they’ll hire interns to do the same amount of work as a hired professional, without the pay.

 

I had a great experience over the summer at an editorial internship. It worked because they gave the interns real, interesting work that made us feel useful and like we were part of the team. We were given areas of projects to see through so we had the satisfaction of completing a task, not just doing busywork.

 

Yet, I am lucky that I could afford to do this internship. By choosing to work part-time unpaid, I did sacrifice some of the hours I could have been working at my paying job. For me, I’m happy I spent those hours at my internship because it gave me more clarity into the career future path I’m looking for and helped me hone some of my editing skills.

 

With that being said, internships, especially unpaid ones, should not remain a baseline necessity to get into the job market. Employers requiring internship experience is inherently classist and bars people with less disposable money from getting career opportunities they might be qualified for. Internships can be helpful on the individual level, but it is important to know what they mean for society at large.