• The Impact of Unpaid Internships on Career Development


    This report was funded through a grant from the NACE Foundation


    In the world of college career development, it is certainly no secret that unpaid internships are one of the most hotly contested topics among students, employers, and society at large. A quick Google search of the term yields a number of troubling results—articles decrying the systemic unfairness of working without compensation, legal guidelines for employers (such as the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fact Sheet #71), advice for students on evaluating internship opportunities, and, of course, information on class action lawsuits.

    In 2015, the NACE Foundation issued a call for research proposals on the topic of unpaid internships. In response, the author examined student data from the University of Georgia (UGA) Career Center and conducted a mixed-methods study on the role of unpaid internships in undergraduate career outcomes.

    The study is based primarily on David Kolb’s theory of experiential learning and is framed around the following research questions:

    • Who does unpaid internships, and why?
    • Does the method of finding internships impact quality of experience?
    • Why do students find their unpaid internships to be useful to their career development? How do their perspectives differ from the perceived benefits identified by paid internship recipients?
    • What correlations exist between unpaid internships and career outcomes, particularly in comparison to similar students who complete paid internships or no internships at all?

    FREE for members and nonmembers. December 2016. 25 pages. 8 1/2 x 11.

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