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Weighing Paid and Unpaid Internships

April 28th, 2011 · 3 Comments

Recently, I met a college senior who had 11 internships on her resume.  When I asked how that was possible, she explained that she knocked out two or three unpaid internships a year during her first three years in college and then landed a paid internship when she was a senior.  She’ll have no difficulty landing a job next month.  Unfortunately, others don’t have the luxury of working for free.    

As the Class of 2011 joins the Class of 2010 in search of  jobs, some must settle for unpaid internships as a way to jump start their PR careers.  In a post last year, I provided a list of questions to ask before accepting an unpaid internship. 

Former intern Ross Perlin delves into issues surrounding unpaid internships in his new book entitled, “Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy.”  While the book is a quick, entertaining read, those who can’t find the book in the library and can’t spring for $22.95 ($15.29 at Amazon), Inside Higher Ed carries a detailed review covering key points of the book.

Most agencies and companies pay interns, and only use unpaid internships as a option for students who are required to have an internship as part of their undergraduate work.  These internships normally are focused on providing an inside view of organizations, and the students are not expected to do the same types of hand-on, billable work as paid interns.  Unpaid internships often are shorter in duration than the typical 3-month internship that is allowed to be extended by another three months, which is as long as the U.S. government allows interns to stay in an assignment before requiring companies to make them full-time employees.

Tags: Job Search

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Andrea Kelley // May 30, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Hello Mr. Culp,
    I am a senior at Indiana State and am currently doing two internships during the summer. It is difficult to manage my internships plus work, but organization is key! My question is, how many internships do you need to stand out? Of course, you can never have too many internships and can never do too much volunteer work, but what stands out? Two doesn’t seem to stand out that much compared to eleven. What else can I do to make my resume stand out above others? Thanks!

  • 2 Culpwrit // May 30, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Andrea: You’re right; two internships no longer stand out on a resume. I’ve seen as many as eight internships on the resume of a graduating senior; quite an accomplishment beginning with senior year in high school. You can make up for missed internships by volunteer work that is relevant to PR. Help local nonprofits with their PR needs. It’s a quick way to build your resume, plus you’ll be helping others. And it doesn’t have to take a lot of time.

  • 3 April // Jan 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    I believe you need a citation here:

    Unpaid internships often are shorter in duration than the typical 3-month internship that is allowed to be extended by another three months, which is as long as the U.S. government allows interns to stay in an assignment before requiring companies to make them full-time employees.

    Ever other article I’ve read on the subject doesn’t mention anything about the length of an internship changing its legality.

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