Not All Internships Are Created Equal

More students are interning than ever before, and more employers are recognizing that internships help develop their talent pipelines. The logic seems simple: if employers want to hire and students want to be hired, then aren’t students who complete internships more likely to land a job than those who don’t?

It’s actually quite a bit more complicated – with devastating results for some young people.

The reason: Not all internships are created equal. In addition to needing strong structure and supervision to achieve maximum learning and productivity, paid internships lead to better post-graduation results than unpaid internships. Why should getting paid matter? Isn’t it about the real-world experience?

Data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers student survey shows otherwise. While overall, students who intern are more likely to have a job after graduation than students who don’t, this difference is fully related to whether the internship is paid. In fact, students who have unpaid internships are just as likely to not have a job after graduation than students who didn’t intern at all.

Further examination of the same data shows racial and gender disparities as well. White students are more likely to have a paid internship than students of color, and men are more likely to have paid internships than women. When taken together, women and students of color are more likely to complete an unpaid internship that does not increase their chances of a job (or like not interning at all). Women and students of color are sacrificing now to sacrifice again later.

How do we repair these inequities? To ensure equitable opportunities for students of color, all internships need to be paid experiences. This is why Work and Learn Indiana is matching women and students of color to paid internship opportunities through our Closing the Internship Gap program.

Not only will students gain paid work experience, employers will have the opportunity to mentor young professionals to fill the rapidly growing need for diverse talent across our state. Closing the Internship Gap will also match women candidates with women-owned businesses and students of color with minority-owned businesses.

Why is this important? So students can learn from employers who look like them, which is a high-impact practice needed to grow future women leaders and leaders of color across industries. Learn more about Closing the Internship Gap and other Work and Learn Indiana programs at

One Response to Not All Internships Are Created Equal

  1. AA says:

    Great article! Very profound and relevant.

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