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As the hefty price tag of a college education continues to rise and the job market continues to be less than promising, many college students are searching for a paid internship to improve their financial situation and receive the skills needed to land a job in their chosen field. Unfortunately, many college students and recent graduates are faced with what has been termed the “ moral bankruptcy of the internship economy .”

More and more young adults are being expected to work for free or discouraged from career advancement due to a significant lack of funding to work for free from being suffocated by student debt. The following is a detailed look into the internship scam, its impact on the lives of individuals under 30, and the reasons to overcome the obstacles to be one of the lucky students to earn paid internship experience.

Current Unsettling Outlook for Paid Internships

With universities continuing to ramp up tuition with the knowledge that students have little choice but to fork over the money to gain career success, students are given just one exorbitantly costly path towards their professional dreams. In our current  prestige economy , young adults are saddled with loads of debt that holds them back from achieving even the most basic of human needs, including healthcare insurance and owning a home. As the job market continues to shift to replace entry-level positions with unpaid internships and annihilate the opportunity for mobility, graduates have no other option besides falling into the trap of desperation and being exploited with the more common unpaid internship.

The internship scam is perpetuated in collaboration between higher education and the corporate world, sending completely mixed signals to students. While young adults are told they have no skills without specific corporate contributions, internships are the sole path to experience to gain these so-called skills that are no longer taught with on-the-job training. Yet, more and more internships are unpaid to exclude all but the privileged. As a result, the wealthy continue to grow their empires on a professional career path, since the middle and lower classes are stuck in the lowly service jobs to cover the costs of their academic debt.

How Paid Internships Really Pay Off

Despite the growing exploitation of unpaid interns nationwide, students who participate in paid internships enjoy a distinct advantage over their fellow peers in the job market. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 63.1 percent of paid interns received at least one job offer. In comparison, just 37 percent of unpaid interns got an offer, which is not much better than for those who had no internship experience whatsoever at 35.2 percent. Even more importantly, paid interns do significantly better than other job applicants in terms of a promising starting salary. While graduates with paid internship experience start out making $51,930, those that landed an unpaid internship earned just $35,721 annually in their first job.

Therefore, all college students are strongly encouraged to search for paid internship experience instead of settling for the illegal unpaid internships that lack educational value and displace entry-level employees. College students can search for paid internships by visiting their school’s Career Services office and networking with professionals on LinkedIn or other Internet sources. Along with helping to cover the costs of rising tuition rates and breaking the cycle of a morally bankrupt internship economy, research shows that paid internships will provide real-world experience to land a high-paying first job in a shorter span after graduation.

Additional Resource:  The Ultimate Guide to Affording College

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