Internships: To pay or not to pay?

As you interview and start to fill summer internship positions with energetic, young college students, think about how you plan on compensating their work.

To pay or not to pay? - The big internship question.

Many businesses pay interns well for their work, but unpaid internships do still exist across non-profit and for-profit organizations alike.

A new study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that college students can make a decent hourly salary if they land the right internship. The 311 employers who participated in the survey reported offering their undergraduate interns $16.33 an hour on average and almost $25 for interns with Masters’ degrees.

Many factors can impact intern salaries, including the student’s degree level, year in school, field of study and organization’s industry and location, according to NACE.

Ann Bares at the Compensation Force blog notes that students in the NACE survey report less satisfactory experiences with unpaid internships, often citing lack of pay as a major reason for dissatisfaction.

She offers some “food for thought” while you fill internship spots for this summer:

“My guess is that, while the lack of pay may indeed be a dissatisfier, there is probably an interplay of factors at work here: organizations that are not paying their interns may be less motivated to invest in creating the support and structure necessary for a worthwhile experience - for both parties.”


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