Money matters when it comes to many internships

The Huffington Post bid-for-an-intership situation is unique in requiring potential interns to bid to gain the position for the summer.

However, internships often require the students to make a number of financial investments.

Many internships are unpaid. Students may be working 20, 30, 40 or more hours a week for no pay.

I took a group of graduate students who were in our sports communications master’s program to Atlanta in 1999 for the Journalism Education Association/National Scholastic Press Association convention. As part of our trip, we had a scheduled tour of Turner Sports. The students who were eager for that kind of sports internship learned that no paying internships were offered. They would be expected to work for at least eights weeks (preferably 10 to 12 weeks) at least 40 hours a week and would be paying their own rent, transportation and meals.

When we asked about the disconnect between the millions being made by the Turner Sports programs and the zero pay for interns. The answer: Turner had a long list of applicants for the non-paying internships, so why should they pay?

Our college encourages students to explore internship opportunities in their hometowns or other locations where they have relatives or friends they could live with and wouldn’t have to pay rent.

Many internships require students to be enrolled for internship credit.

Students must pay for credit to be eligible for many internships. Because they are enrolled as students, that affects the liability in some situations. So the business doesn’t have to provide worker compensation or health benefits.

When the internship from the Miami Dolphins called me to ask about potential interns, he said their program required that a student be enrolled for credit. Otherwise, he said, the interns sometimes would leave either if the team wasn’t doing well or the interns thought they had learned all they might learn in their work. By being enrolled for credit, the students were more likely to stay with the internship for the full term of the program.

The internship may require the student to provide his/her own car.

Even though some media organizations and other businesses may have motor pools, interns may not be allowed to drive company cars. I remember one of our really talented students being told she had an internship with a major newspaper and then being told no she didn’t when the company found out she didn’t have her own car.

Students may have an internship that helps them try out their skills and abilities to learn more. They see what the job world is like. They make contacts. They work on projects and assignments that become portfolio materials.

But they also may be paying for credit, paying their rent, paying transportation, and not getting paid. That doesn’t look like a problem for the person who bid $13,000 for the Huffington Post internship. But such financial requirements can eliminate many potentially great interns — and potentially great future employees.

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