Summer's Almost Over. Was That Internship Worth The Effort?

The summer interns will soon head back to school. Did they learn anything? Did they get paid? A new study aims to shine a light on a corporate practice under fresh scrutiny following the controversial death of German college student and intern Moritz Erhardt.

Earlier this week, the idea of internships was hotly debated, following the death of 21-year-old Moritz Erhardt, a German college student and summer intern with Bank of America. Moritz was found dead in his shower just weeks before the end of his internship and many of his friends and coworkers blame his death on the extreme working hours placed upon interns.

One fellow intern described Moritz as "very focused" and said it was not uncommon for him to work 15-hour days.

As the debate and fury over Moritz's death rages on, InternMatch, an online database of college internships and internship-related resources, released a new study on college students and their summer internship experiences. Some of the key data points taken from the responses of 3,425 students are here:

The Perks:

Flexible hours (43.8%)
Access to executives and mentorship (47%)
Free food (7.9%)
Pet-friendly offices (1.4%)

The Wants (besides money):

More real work (30.2%)
Additional training (13.9%)

Paid vs. Unpaid:

Paid (57.5%)
Stipend of college credit (14.2%)
Unpaid: (28.3%)

The Impact:

The internship changed what they want to do with their career (14.9%)
The internship somewhat changed their career goals (42.5%)

According to Nathan Parcells, CMO of InternMatch, the results of the study show a positive trend but leave much to be desired.

"The data we found shows a promising trend amongst our users achieving paid internships," he says. "That said, there is still a large number of employers offering illegal and unethical unpaid roles."

Many of the world's biggest internship programs (at recognizable organizations like Microsoft, Google, or Facebook) tend to compensate their interns. Unpaid internships, which have dominated headlines since earlier this year, usually stem from a handful of select industries.

"The high volume of unpaid roles come predominantly from a few select industries, namely entertainment, journalism (as you know), and political roles," Parcells says. "So while there are a lot of unpaid positions, they tend to be concentrated in certain fields."

Parcells, though pleased by the apparent increase in paid positions, urges employers to take more strident action to ensure that their interns are duly compensated for their work:

"With the precedent of the Black Swan lawsuit now set and a slew of new lawsuits under way, we advise all employers to follow the best practices laid out in our [InternMatch] Intern Bill of Rights, and we welcome the opportunity to work with any employers interested in converting their program from unpaid to paid."

It remains to be seen how many companies will take Parcells up on the offer.

[Image: Flickr user Alessandro Prada]

Add New Comment

2 Comments

  • Jared T Mortensen

    Supply and demand. There are more students wishing to enter these industries than there are positions by a long shot. It is an additional cost of entry into these fields.

  • lindalorra

    I've had an interest in the values of internship opportunities for a while. The dynamics I've seen have led me to feel this is a 'mostly' unfair schooling/business practice against emerging professionals. I imagine a 160 hour requirement in 6 months time is an average? This was a recent requirement I was reviewing if entering the medical field within I.T.

    My immediate thoughts: financial strain, time strain, childcare strain, already working FOR money somewhere else, the non-paying employer gains free labor at a minimum of $15/hour x 160 = $2,400.

    How did this all start in the first place, if not a collusion between business and educational institutions at the further expense of the lowly, struggling undergrad student? Enlighten me, please.