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Should You Pay for Internship Experience?

internship cost
Meredith Whye
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Published on October 6, 2014

Let me just say right off the bat, I’m a little biased on this. I don’t believe in paying for job experience. However, I realize this is an issue that someone might be debating and need to see both sides of it.

Recently, the Sydney Morning Herald ran an article (I currently live in Sydney, Australia) about the young and jobless paying for internship experience. The article stated:

“Young job seekers are paying up to $2,000 to get work experience as unpaid interns, raising concerns about the potential for exploitation and an unfair playing field for those unable to afford the opportunities… An internship can be a fantastic opportunity for an individual to get experience, gain new skills and form new networks, but it cannot be an excuse for an employer to get what amounts to free and cheap labour.”

Before I moved to Sydney, I considered doing an international internship. Researching lead me to discover that most of the 3-month internships were going to cost each participant at least $2,000-$5,000…not including airfare. Many of the internships were marketed to my demographic– new graduates with bachelors’ degrees. Several of my college friends were doing these kind of internships, paying to live & work in Washington, D.C. for the summer.

While I was debating about the merits of such an experience, an advisor from one of the internship companies I expressed interest in called me. She proceeded to tell me that even she thought the $5,000 marketing internship in China was too expensive for a newly graduated university student.

There’s a large variety of internship companies out there. Companies like Dream Careers, which guarantees internships in cities such as New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco, estimates that a summer internship in New York would cost roughly $9,500. Their website states: “ You have invested in your education. Now invest in yourself. Give yourself an opportunity to achieve your dream career.  Over 70% of Dream Careers alumni received a job offer from the company they interned after their successful summer internship experience.”

With my previous experience and an example internship company explained, let’s break down the benefits and drawbacks of paying for internship experiences.

Pros

  • Paying basically guarantees a legit internship with a beginning, middle and end.

  • There might be more closure than with a regular internship where you don’t pay a fee– i.e. established agreements about references and closing meetings.

  • The structure and tasks should be outlined and meticulous, as many other people may be are doing this internship as well.

  • Paying for an internship may be the easiest way to gain experience in an economy of few jobs and fewer internships.

Cons

  • Paying for an internship is sort of a rung below an unpaid internship.

  • You’re paying a company to do work for them.

  • Some international internship prices are more than some students’ yearly university tuition, which is crazy.

In the end, some might disagree with me but when I looked at the pros and cons of paying for an internship, I see the cons outweighing the pros and think paying for an internship is not worth it.

Meredith Whye

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