Are paid internships worth the extra expense?

Hannah GhosnHannah Ghosn, an intern at Atomic 212, argues that when businesses pay interns for their work, both the company and the intern come out on top.

When you hear the word ‘intern’ you probably assume long hours, coffee runs, paper filing and other unfulfilling tasks.

For an unpaid intern that very well could be the scenario. In fact, I could think of numerous damning news articles in recent months where companies have been hauled over the coals for bringing interns on board without pay.

As my dad reminds me constantly, things used to be different.

Not so long ago, paid internships were a rare commodity, or so I’m told. But intense media scrutiny of late and an evolution of modern workplace values may have caused a shift, and ‘unpaid internship’ has become a dirty word.

My own experiences as an intern have been very different from many of the horror stories I’ve found on the internet or heard from friends.

I genuinely believe there is one key reason for this: I’m being paid. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still an intern, and I’m still studying, so I’m mainly happy to be working and improving my resume.

But, believe me, a pay-cheque sure helps me get out of bed in the morning. It doesn’t have to be a large pay-cheque, but just enough to let me know my work is appreciated.

I may not have years of experience under my belt, but I’m a hard worker and a quick learner and I still have something to offer. Plus, you can bet your bottom dollar that productivity improves when an intern is being paid.

That’s not to say that all paid interns are happy. A friend of mine was a paid intern and still referred to herself as a ‘coffee slave’ – although I’m not quite sure why a company would want to pay an employee and not get them involved in the business.

In most cases, an internship is invaluable and teaches you skills you can never pick up in the classroom.

What’s more, there are proven benefits of taking a paid internship over an unpaid one. A Forbes article I read recently said 63% of paid interns receive at least one job offer, whereas unpaid interns only had a 37% chance of receiving a job offer.

The same article revealed that people with unpaid internships tended to take lower-paying jobs than those with paid internship experience.

Could these statistics have something to do with the fact that financial incentives produce better workers?

Everybody wins – the intern is remunerated for his or her time and the company has a more productive worker.

My own internship is paid and counts towards part of my University degree, so I’m able to truly benefit from my experience.

I have been able to participate in client meetings, create and implement my own social media strategy, help on pitches alongside the CEO and other senior staff, and also complete writing projects such as opinion pieces and press releases.

This is real world experience, and I can’t help but think that if I were an unpaid intern, there would be less human resources invested into my success.

Maybe I’m biased because I’m an intern. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there saying ‘I was never paid for my internship and look how I turned out.’ But if you ask me there’s no contest. Paid all the way.


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