Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Stats United Kingdom IT

Unpaid Internships Lead To Lower-Paying Jobs, Study Finds ( 223

The Guardian reports: Almost every graduate taking an unpaid internship can expect to be worse off three years later than if they had gone straight into work. That is the shock finding of the first survey of its kind of the career trajectories of tens of thousands of students over a six-year period. The study, conducted by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, reveals that, three-and-a-half years after graduating, former interns face a salary penalty of approximately £3,500, compared with those who went straight into paid work, and £1,500 compared with those who went into further study... The study also found that those who took internships were less likely to go on to professional or managerial roles or be satisfied with their career compared with those who had gone straight into work.
Slashdot reader BarbaraHudson warns unpaid internships are also "a possible indicator of a large oversupply of workers to jobs available and downward pressure on pay." Anyone else want to share thoughts about the current job market for professionals -- or your own horror stories about your first job after college?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Unpaid Internships Lead To Lower-Paying Jobs, Study Finds

Comments Filter:
  • US parent here (Score:5, Informative)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Sunday July 30, 2017 @12:21PM (#54909003)
    Not sure about the UK, but in the States you use unpaid internships to help get into your 300 level courses. After 30 years of budget cuts schools don't have enough space for all the applicants in most majors (especially medical, and not just full medical doctor, think Nursing, pharmacist, physical therapist, etc, etc). Even a perfect GPA won't guarantee you a spot anymore. So you volunteer, do extracurricular stuff and finally internships. My kid got lucky and got what's more or less a paid one. But it's like winning the lottery what with the number of applicants.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I assume by 300 level you mean upper classmen junior level at university. I suppose that depends on your kid. If they enrolled as a freshman they don't need to do internships assuming they actually passed their 100/200 level courses to go on. Most 300 level courses in engineering for example have prerequisites that you pass the previous 200 level courses with a C or better.

      If they attended a junior college first, then yes I can see that it's competitive to get enrolled unless you have excellent grades an

    • Re:US parent here (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ranton ( 36917 ) on Sunday July 30, 2017 @12:50PM (#54909167)

      in the States you use unpaid internships to help get into your 300 level courses

      This story is studying graduates who take unpaid internships, not students who take unpaid internships. Those are very different things. This study is looking at people who couldn't find work after they graduated and had to settle for unpaid internships, and then seems surprised these students make less money down the line.

      For this study to have any relevance, they would have to look at graduates who had an offer for a paid position but chose to take an unpaid internship instead. Then look at their earnings 10 years later as compared to those who took the paid gig (after adjusting for the quality of the original paid job offer). I would still expect the ones who took the paid position to win out, but at least then you would have something interesting to discover.

      • my kid got lucky and got a paid one, but she would have taken an unpaid one if she hadn't just to give her one more edge when it came time to select students.

        What I'm saying is, kids aren't taking internships to make more money like they used to when I was a kid. They're taking them because college has become hyper competitive and if they don't have something besides a 4.0 they won't be allowed to proceed with their academic career. Basically, the study's implied conclusion (that kids make less money if
        • by ranton ( 36917 )

          You implied your kid got a paid internship to get into her 300 level courses, which would mean the internship was before her junior year. The article is not referring to the benefits of paid / unpaid internships before graduation, it is referring to graduates who take unpaid internships after they have a degree.

          I agree the study is pointless, but not because it is ignoring internships taken before graduation. If unpaid internships after graduation are a real thing (I had never heard of them) then it somethi

          • but she was recommended by the school, so I don't know what else to call it.

            But who in their right mind takes an unpaid internship after graduation? That's not an internship, that's being taken advantage of by a weak job market. There's nothing worth studying there. It's a blight that needs to be stamped out. A way of having an employee without paying them, which at least in my country used to be very, very illegal.
            • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

              But who in their right mind takes an unpaid internship after graduation? That's not an internship, that's being taken advantage of by a weak job market. There's nothing worth studying there. It's a blight that needs to be stamped out. A way of having an employee without paying them, which at least in my country used to be very, very illegal.

              In Canada, it's illegal to take on an employee for free - they must get something out of it. So-called "unpaid internships" do happen, but the intern MUST be getting an

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 30, 2017 @12:52PM (#54909177)

      (Interviewer): Oh, I see on your Resume` that you are willing to work for free?

      (Job Seeker): Well.. I Interned for free while in college..

      (Interviewer): Indeed. I believe we have the perfect position for you at our company, how soon can you start?

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        Is it normal for people to put their salaries for previous jobs on a resume?
        • by mikael ( 484 )

          Not usually. The employer might ask about your salary expectations.

        • by johanw ( 1001493 )

          I've never seen it. I sometimes get asked by an employer what I earned in my last job, and most recruitment agencies give you the advice to exaggerate a bit. I've once been at a place they asked for my formal salary specification but that's extremely unusual.

    • This doesn't make sense. You pay to take those courses; it isn't a free lottery. If there is so much demand they would simply hire more teachers or raise the cost of the class. Determining who can pay for the class based on merit is so ridiculous I can't even start.

      • Completely agree (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Colleges rake it in. This is due to the amazing abundance of taxpayer-backed student loan money. Also, this is due to the widespread understanding that one must have a college degree in order to succeed in business and in life.

        The very unfortunate net effect here is that our population is tremendously over-educated. Some degrees (like journalism, for example) churn out more graduates each year than there are job openings on the entire planet. These kids are being sold an utter fantasy and are facing lif

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Colleges don't "rake it in." America's public university system used to be just that--an education system paid for by the public through taxes. 30 years ago a state university typically got 80% of their budget through the state. Today a state university is lucky to get 25% of their budget through the state. That shortfall has to come from somewhere so tuition has skyrocketed.

          • the banks are raking it in with the loans and the schools have no need to cut the price.

        • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Sunday July 30, 2017 @03:36PM (#54909815)
          unless their for profit. My kid's going to a public university. The only admin folks making good money are the dean the football coach and the basketball coach. Everybody else makes jack. The professors make low six figures, but they're also tops in their fields. Most are there so they can get money to do the kinds of basic research that corporations won't fund because while both interesting & beneficial it doesn't pay off for decades.

          College is just really, really expensive. It always has been, but we funded it with tax dollars taken mostly from the upper class. We did that because post WWII folks felt they were owed a good life with an education. People seem to have lost sight of that. Or if they think they're owed something they think it's just them that's owed it and that everybody else should just pay for it themselves.
      • it's not cheap to hire more teachers. You need more facilities, more resources. The kids can't pay enough to cover that cost. College is a _lot_ more expensive then folks believe. We've been hiding that cost with massive government subsidies. Those subsidies got pulled by Clinton & Bush Jr.

        It's just like our roads. We've got the existing infrastructure that was paid for by the feds back in the day and it works, but it's not nearly enough and we're having real problems now because of it.

        And you'r
        • Then you raise the cost of the class.

          • kids can only borrow so much money. If you raise the cost of class you don't get more students, you just switch from a system where the top students get to go to school (merit) to one where money decides who gets to go. You haven't actually solved the problem and you've debatably made it worse (some argue that money should decide everything in civilization).
    • Budget cuts for universities... For the last 20 years, tuition at universities [] has greatly outstripped the inflation rate []. Assuming costs of running the university don't grow more than 1.4 times inflation, then there should be plenty of money to serve students. Of course, the growth in the cost of a college degree has doubled that of inflation, so...
    • Even a perfect GPA won't guarantee you a spot anymore.

      If this is the case there's something broken with the University entrance process or the GPA grading process.

      • there's not enough funding to run a big enough program for all the qualified applicants. They could raise tuition but that wouldn't really help. College is already at the limits of affordability even accounting for the loans. Raising prices would just mean fewer students could afford to enter. So all that does is change the system from one where only the top kids get to finish school (merit based) to one where only the well to do kids get to finish.

        Basically, this isn't a problem we can solve with suppl
        • there's not enough funding to run a big enough program for all the qualified applicants.

          You missed the point. Even if there's only funding for one applicant, if you can't select that applicant reliably on GPA alone then something is wrong with the process.

  • Alternatively .... it could be the ones who couldn't land paying gigs right away suck more than the ones who did go straight to work.
    • Alternatively .... it could be the ones who couldn't land paying gigs right away suck more than the ones who did go straight to work.

      This is definitely something students should consider. If they can't land a paid internship, either there's an over-supply of interns in that field, or they're targeting the wrong field. Either way, time to set themselves a more realistic target/goal.

      • Nicely done alternative to my alternative. I agree, more than one thing can be true at once here. The article's apparent conclusion doesn't (to me) seem to be the most plausible on its face.
    • Nice round of victim shaming from the boomers, as expected. Clearly the fault must all lie with the applicant, if they were turned down from a job, there must be something wrong with them, right? Nevermind that hiring for companies has become more stringent, automatic resume scanning can remove legitimate candidates from the process, and some companies go months without filling a role due to changes at the top creating uncertainty about the job description and who to look for.

      The simple fact is, the job m
      • All I hear is a bunch of crying. Toughen up buttercup, life's always been hard.
        • Then that's the lesson you should have taught the Millenials in their childhood. Instead, the boomers encouraged (read: demanded) their children get participation trophies, were told they can do anything they want to, to pursue their dreams, etc. You made your bed.
      • Oh, also - not a boomer. But nice try.
  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Sunday July 30, 2017 @12:24PM (#54909021)

    Shouldn't unpaid internships in a field be an indication of the saturation of the job market in addition to job prospects after graduation? We have highschool dropouts making $20+/hr where I live and companies still have a shortage of good workers. You can make a very good living working in those fields.

    Even if you just use it as a stepping stone to another career. These people made the personal decision to go into a field that was saturated with people wanting to be in it and unpaid internships are a very easy filter.

    Hell if you can pass a drug test and show up on time you can make pretty good money driving trucks right now. I wouldn't bank on that long term but it should be more than enough money to save some, take night courses at a community college and leverage it into another career.

    • Re:Invisible Hand. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday July 30, 2017 @12:36PM (#54909097) Journal
      Exactly. In a high-demand field, a paid internship is a cheap way of hiring: you get to spend three months finding out if your prospective employee is competent and they get to spend three months deciding if they want to work for you (and, if they are competent, you get to spend three months persuading them that they do). In comparison with pretty much any other hiring mechanism, a paid internship is very cheap, in a field where there's a skills shortage. If companies in a field can easily hire competent people without this, then that's a good indication that there's a glut of talent.
    • Yup, no drugs, no criminal record and there are a lot of jobs out there at limited skill levels like a welder at a Navy shipyard. If you have to go unpaid, you really need to re-think your field.

      • at limited skill levels like a welder at a Navy shipyard

        You do not know what you're talking about.

        • I have tried to weld and am useless; I agree that the term "limited skill" would be better stated as "limited education." My meaning of "skill" was "intellectual."

          However, I do know very well what I am talking about.

          • A high end welder has motor skills as developed as a surgeon or a pilot. While the intellectual chops for that aren't quite as demanding, they're not all that far behind. The *really* good welders here in rural Alaska, the ones that do pipeline or marine construction have spent nearly as much time learning their trade as a surgeon or pilot and make nearly as much money.

            A better analogy might be the various stages of electricians. At the low end you don't need to know much, don't need much of an education

            • by dgatwood ( 11270 )
              And yet, a dozen robots can do the welds more quickly, more accurately, and without collecting a salary. I think that was the point. Those are dead-end careers in the short-to-medium term. Nobody in his/her right mind should be trying to achieve great skills in that area, because by the time you reach that level, the skill won't be needed anymore.
              • Robots work in large factories. Not in the field repairing broken equipment or building one-offs. It is just not the act of welding and following a set of engineered drawings. It is applying experience to the situation and "Just making it work". Time is money and the welder/fabricator is the defacto engineer. Clearly you have never worked a day in your life.

                • Re:Invisible Hand. (Score:4, Informative)

                  by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Sunday July 30, 2017 @06:43PM (#54910643)

                  Clearly you have never worked a day in your life.

                  Well, not outside an office anyhow. I see this from slashdotters all the time. They have no practical experience outside an office, and so *vastly* overestimate the capabilities of robots and automation, largely because they don't understand industrial or light industrial work sites. There are a LOT of types of work where automation can only go so far, or in bits and pieces, and requires the dexterity and flexibility of human workers to put these products together.

                  My father ran a light manufacturing operation for many years, and most of his products were one-offs. His business used a lot of high-tech tools, but skilled people were still required to put it all together - certified welders included. Until a robotic welder has both the dexterity of a human AND the intellectual capacity to cope with changing projects and requirements, we're still going to need humans to do the job.

                  • Robot welding machines typically have all their movements manually programmed by someone. So you will typically need a professional welder to program one and then it just replicates those movements.

            • I know a guy that did welding on submarines in Connecticut.

              He was trained right out of high school, on the job, and eventually became the trainer of new welders at Electric Boat.

              So its pretty clear to me that some people here do not know what they are talking about. For instance someone that might move the goalpost from "welder in a shipyard" to "high end welder"

              ....oh... thats you.... you did that... you moved the goalpost... you didnt want to talk about what is... you want to talk about a very speci
  • by FunkSoulBrother ( 140893 ) on Sunday July 30, 2017 @12:26PM (#54909041)

    ..and you shouldn't squander it away by demonstrating that you're willing to provide it for free.

    See also:

    -Programming contests where the hosting corp gives $100K as a Grand Prize but retains rights to all of the contestants code (and doesn't even pay any FICA tax)

    -The NCAA making billions off of 'student-athletes' with lucrative television contracts

    • ..and you shouldn't squander it away by demonstrating that you're willing to provide it for free.

      The deeper issue is that companies should not be permitted to "hire" unpaid interns, period, so long as being broke is effectively a crime. That's taking work away from people who need to get paid to just go on existing. It is essentially a kind of slavery (indenturement anyway) and the expectation that they will be able to get unpaid interns only leads companies to hire inadequate numbers of employees. If a business can't function without paying people for their time, then it doesn't deserve a business li

    • To me taking an unpaid internship after graduating indicates the field you studied has very poor job prospects. I think the article has the whole causation thing bass-ackwards.
  • I have never been an intern but I have worked at lower-paying jobs during a period where I was in transition and didn't expect to be there long. Just to keep from depleting savings during that time.

    The problem is that in a job interview where they review your employment history they will consider your past pay to determine what to offer you. (We aren't going to bump you up 200%). They will actually pay more to another candidate with less skills but higher past earnings for the exact same position. It i

    • This comes down to negotiating tactics. I am guilty of doing it to new hires, but my primary reason to ask about salary history is to filter out the top end. I might feel like I have more negotiating power with someone who is underpaid at their current position, but I also think I am offering something in terms of training that a higher salary would not include.

      • by johanw ( 1001493 )

        And how do you check if the candidate isn't exaggerating his past earnings? You want access to his bank account or what?

        • Employers know how to use Glassdoor too you know. Plus sometimes there are informal contacts and they can find it out this way.

          Since they hire people more often than you seek jobs it means they know the market values better. It doesn't mean they usually do a check or that they can do it but they might be willing to investigate if something looks suspicious.

    • the quality of the school she graduates from will determine her base salary, which will in turn determine how much she makes for pretty much the rest of her life. Raises are a percentage of your current pay and your next job will consider your current salary when bargaining.

      It's amazing, and more than a little terrifying, how decisions you make as a dumb kid completely shape every aspect of your adult life...
  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Sunday July 30, 2017 @12:37PM (#54909101) Homepage

    A local college has offered my company students who must complete an internship to get their degrees (in software engineering). There is no requirement for payment as this is a requirement to graduate and we were told by the college the best the students could hope for was a letter of recommendation. We are unusual in that we are paying the students and are working through a contract with the college to take on paid interns - this is in line with our B-Corp certification and general company philosophy.

    So, for the majority of students from this college (and others), who have unpaid internships in order to get the piece of paper saying that they graduated from the program, what does this mean for their future salary prospects?

  • News flash: Students who can't get paid internships often later can't get the best-paying jobs, either. Correlation is not causation.
    • Except that kids whose parents have higher incomes get a disproportionate percentage of the paid internships. Has nothing to do with ability, everything to do with connections. It's actually right there in the article.

      • You're implying that they have advantages due to income related connections. I don't buy that.

        You have to look at the whole person. You can't limit your thoughts to grades, degrees, and book smarts. Instincts and comfort in your environment are usually more important as long as you're at least average in the other stuff.

        Kids whose parents have higher incomes are probably more likely to have grown up in an environment in which their parents discussed problems and used reasoning skills to solve them. They had

    • We had a paid intern, who accepted a job after graduating. And shows no sign of trying to advance. Could get a 10k raise by going anywhere, and has the skills.

      I suspect taking an unpaid internship attracts a certain type of person who is happy with the job and not concerned about the pay. I know I had to leave the company (or have a legit offer) to get my pay where it should be, but lots of people don't do that unless their hand is forced.

      And that is likely what this survey found, not the conclusion stated

  • by j-beda ( 85386 ) on Sunday July 30, 2017 @12:41PM (#54909119) Homepage

    "This is That" is a statire news show: []

    Meet the man who went unpaid as an intern for 35 years

    After being offered an unpaid position as CEO of his company, Bill Marshall has had enough and is blowing the whistle on unpaid internships.

    "For 35 years they just kept telling me I was getting on the job experience ... now I know I was being taken advantage of." ....

  • ... that it were only The Grauniad that would pretend to be shocked that employees starting paid work later tend to earn less after a given time.

    But sadly it's the entire Western mainstream media. When not peddling lies about Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela - well, foreigners in general - they resort to "shocking" stories like this.

  • You volunteer your services for free, and get a slap in the face in return. Well, if they don't want to pay, maybe you can get a direct job with your new experience at some other place that appreciates you?
  • How is it a shock that someone with more experience makes more money?

  • by itwasgreektome ( 785639 ) on Sunday July 30, 2017 @01:20PM (#54909291)
    There is a great danger in inferring causation here, as this was a survey and not an experiment (with people randomly assigned to either group). The article wrongly states there is causation at play- that going into an internship caused them to be paid less later, rather than a real possibility that those that couldn't get jobs (or well paying jobs) decided to go the intern route instead. And those that got accepted into well paying jobs took them. So the cause might well be that the lesser paid or non-existent jobs caused the internship rather than the reverse.
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      The same thing occurred to me. The graduates may end up where they do for a reason. A thorough test would randomly place half the group into unpaid internships and the other half in paid positions. But that would short-circuit the interview process, and interview ability affects ones career in general (longer term).

      For example, if you are a poor interviewer, you would be less likely to get a job out of school and have to settle for unpaid internships etc. But the process mentioned above would put poor inter

  • Getting people used to working for no money at all makes those very same people appreciate low wages more than people who demand fair pay?

    Le shock!

  • You guys are getting paid?!

  • The federal regulations on them include provisions that the company receive "no immediate advantage" from the activities of the intern... in other words, they can't do real, profitable work for free.

    Not that the law is actually enforced.

    But if the company is willing to skirt employment law in order to get something for nothing, they are going to fuck you once you get hired there too.
  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Sunday July 30, 2017 @02:51PM (#54909661)
    My paid internship came about because my roommate's work needed an extra QA tester but didn't have any money in the budget for a full time staff member. For six months I regressed 600+ old bugs, organized the storage closet, and wrote a 250-page manual. That started my technical career 20+ years ago.
  • I don't understand why this is shocking.

    These people end up taking unpaid internships because its their last hope to get in the industry. As a student, you should actively be trying to figure out how you can apply the things you've learned to real world issues. Employers pick up on the students that ask questions about real issues during visits, networking events, what-have-you, not the ones who ask if the company has an employee lounge with nice comfy chairs for break time.

    I'm sure there are the unfortunat

  • Any employee that is dumb enough to work for free would also tend to be the one that a potential employer could slaughter in a job interview. I doubt that many of the top students in computer training in universities go for intern positions. I see it as a sort of admission that the potential employee is not strong enough in their standing in college. If one can do it it is far better to have potential employers begging to hire you at top dollar. Being first in class at a major university is not
  • by p51d007 ( 656414 ) on Sunday July 30, 2017 @04:43PM (#54910159)
    I've been gainfully employed for almost 40 years. Right out of college. If I'm not worth paying for my labor, then it's not worth working for a company.
  • I HATE HR like most of us. First off I think this study is full a crap.

    HR wants:
    1. Experience only at work (not at school or as a hobby) as Taleo or talent acquisition software will delete it off their shitty ATS application software where your application is deleted if you do not have this
    2. In interviews again experience only in work in an office or you == McDonalds worker in terms of knowledge for the job. It is impossible to learn at home or a university where we are exposed to PC troubleshooting in Com

  • Those accepting unpaid internships are not greedy enough to find higher paying jobs

Genius is ten percent inspiration and fifty percent capital gains.