As a college student, good internships are at the front of your mind as you draw closer to summertime. Internships and summer jobs can provide you with your first taste of the “real world” while giving you a chance to travel, learn new skills, and make lifelong connections. But what should you prioritize when finding a summer internship? Doing something you’re interested in is important, but it’s also a good idea to make sure you’re being adequately compensated for your work.
The Truth About Unpaid Internships
No matter how exciting an internship can be, it can also be stressful. There’s a lot of pressure to get an internship every summer. Seeing LinkedIn announcements rolling in before you’ve even begun your search can lead you down a rabbit hole of comparison.
This leads many students to do anything to get an offer — even if that means accepting an unpaid internship. According to a recent National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey of college students, more than 40% of interns surveyed said they were not paid.
Some part of you might think that’s justified. Even though you’re not being paid, you’re still gaining skills that you can put on a resume, right?
While there’s some truth to this, money doesn’t grow on trees. An unpaid internship is likely to put a significant strain on your ability to manage money and handle adulthood. Let’s take a closer look at why finding a paid internship is often a key step in gaining financial independence in college and beyond.
1. It helps pay your college expenses
The money you earn from paid internships can directly pay for your costly college tuition, room and board, and other major expenses. Once your basic needs are taken care of, you can figure out what you want to do with your leftover money. Investing? Saving? Spending? Charitable giving? It’s up to you to figure out what makes the most sense for you.
Internship paychecks aren’t merely chump change either. According to a recent survey of 267 employers by NACE, the average hourly wage for paid interns in the summer of 2020 was $20.76.
2. They reduce opportunity cost
With so many paid internships out there, there are limitless opportunities to work on something you’re passionate about while earning a good buck.
Though the pressure to secure an internship may be great, the cost of securing an unpaid internship can be pretty high. You’ll have to pay for things like meals and transportation by yourself, and you’ll be spending hours doing something entirely for free. Time is money, and you’ve only got a limited number of hours to spend.
3. They help you practice budgeting skills
Having a constant flow of money from a paid internship can teach you how to budget. As you track your expenses and follow methods like the 50/30/20 rule, you’ll slowly develop good spending habits.
Budgeting may be one of the most important skills you’ll ever learn as a college student, and it can benefit you far into your future as an adult. College is often a time when you can make money mistakes without major repercussions, and using your internship money to practice these skills for financial independence can be hugely beneficial.
4. They help prepare you for a career
There’s nothing wrong with working in a restaurant or as part-time store cashier, but it’s important to recognize that those jobs aren’t necessarily the best way to prepare you for many full-time careers. They might pay you a fine dime, but it’s important to recognize that college is a good time to take risks and get paid to learn new skills. Finding paid internships can help you accomplish both of those goals while getting you one step closer to a financially independent life after college.
5. They help you secure the bag (a full-time job offer)
Did you know that the majority of paid internships lead directly to full-time job offers straight out of college? In fact, 66 percent of students who had completed paid internships secured job offers after graduation in 2019, compared to only 43.7 percent of those who had worked unpaid internships. On top of that, paid interns are also likely to make even more money than their unpaid counterparts at their next jobs.
6. They help you earn year-round
Even though summer is usually the most popular time for internships to occur, plenty of them also take place during the semester. These part-time internships tend to be less competitive, and they still come with many of the benefits of full-time internships. They can also help you learn to manage your budget while you’re still in school. If you're near a major city or go to a big school, you can intern part time in person, but many companies offer term-time internships that are fully remote, so be on the lookout.
Paid internships are one of the best opportunities you can take advantage of as a college student. They’ll set you up for success in more ways than one by preparing you for a fulfilling career, teaching you how to manage your money, and giving you a head start on life of financial independence. The best things you can do are to start networking and applying. Don’t hesitate to shoot your shot!
Once you start earning from your paid internship, one of the best ways you can spend the money is through Fizz’s student card. Fizz is a debit card specially designed for college students that can help you build your credit score and help you enjoy cash back on and off campus. If you’re ready to make your earnings work for you, then join Fizz. In just 3 minutes, you’ll be well on your way towards financial independence.
Plus, Stay Tuned For More...
There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to internships during college, and we’re not finished just yet. Give us a follow on social media to stay updated with more content that will help you take control of your finances during college and beyond.
Sam is a Kenyon College alum and is head of content at Fizz. He's been a go to personal finance resource among his peers since getting his first credit card during his sophomore year of college. He hails from Washington, DC, loves all things aviation, and currently lives in Los Angeles.