Unpaid internships great for students

By Ashley Altus

As the season for students beginning to look for summer internships is in full swing, unpaid internships have become more common.
Heather Wheeler, the assistant director of internships, said the majority of internships are unpaid but are good for networking.

“There’s nothing to suggest that there is a difference in how people perceive paid or unpaid internships,” Wheeler said.

According to “Internships Survey and 2014 Internship Trends” on internships.com, students chose to intern to gain work experience, add skills to their resume, network, potentially find full-time employment and for compensation.

El Paso junior Andy Davila worked as an unpaid intern at Keathley Law Offices last semester. He said he feels some internships are unpaid so students focus more on the learning experience and less on the money.

“Some employers might look at an unpaid internship in a more positive matter, only because it shows you still did it knowing that you didn’t get money,” Davila said. “If I was an employer, to me, that would look like someone who really wanted that experience and really cared about it.”

A 2013 student survey by The National Association of Colleges and Employers found there is a difference between students who have participated in paid internships compared to unpaid internships.
According to the survey, 63.1 percent of students who had completed paid internships had at least one job offer by graduation compared to only 37 percent of students who had completed unpaid internships.

Wheeler said for students and employers to get the most out of their internship experience, students and their supervisors should have an honest discussion about what their expectations are during the internship.

If students feel concerned that they are being taken advantage of in their unpaid internship, Wheeler said she suggests talking to family, friends, Baylor administration and professors and to trust their gut instinct.

“That way they go into it knowing this is what I can expect,” Wheeler said. “You’re just making sure you are clearly communicating all of that.”

The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division have six criteria to determine whether or not an unpaid internship is legal that students and employers can use.

“At the end of the day, students always have the option to walk out, just like a regular employee,” Wheeler said.

Atlanta junior Laura Beth Hooper is an unpaid intern at the Waco district attorney’s office in the misdemeanor department.

“I am definitely banking on the hope that this will help me at a later point in my life,” Hooper said. “I think that employers look for experience, whether it’s paid or not. They want to see that you’re able to carry out certain tasks you weren’t able to do if you were never worked at all, paid or not paid.”

She said she still feels valued for her work even though the position if unpaid.