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Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Unpaid internships are hit or miss with cougars

The treatment of unpaid interns has recently come under fire, but UH students are continuing to apply for and accept these positions with the hope they will gain experience in their anticipated field of work.

Marketing junior Colleen Seitz currently has an internship with UH’s Athletics and Marketing Department. She finds the environment comfortable and easy to work in.

“There’s no sort of, ‘You have to do the grunt work and I’m your boss.’ That mentality is not there at all. It’s very much, ‘If you need help, I’ll help you,’” Seitz said. “It’s kind of like a big family in a sense because I spend so much time with them.”

Seitz says she has gained valuable insight into the inner workings of a sports marketing position and is receiving hands-on experience with the types of projects she could face in her future career.

“They respect that we’re there to work and to learn,” Seitz said. “Anytime we express an interest in something, they’ll try to make an opportunity for us to learn if we haven’t been given that yet.”

For journalism junior Jennifer Pearson, her experience with the Houston Chronicle is much different. She has done photo galleries, but she has not received direct credit for her work.

“I’m stuck in a position where I’m kind of doing menial tasks,” Pearson said. “I know other students who have really good supervisors and are getting the work they need to show for their portfolio. It depends on the people that you begin with.”

She is obtaining credit through UH for the internship, but Pearson is not sure whether the experience is helpful.

“I paid for the college credit and if I get that credit, it’s fine. But the experience along the way to obtain that credit is not wholesome,” Pearson said. “While I’m not wasting money, I don’t think I’m wasting time.”

Anthropology senior Jene Harper believes the chance to gain experience outweighs the monetary expenses. He holds an internship at Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and helps veterans adjust to civilian life.

“I’ve gotten life lessons and experiences that are much more valuable in the long run than financial compensation,” Harper said.

“The trade-off in spending that time and having the chance to gain the currency of human experience is far more valuable than getting $10 an hour.”

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  • ritzcoog

    Not surprising that Colleen's experience has been so positive because of the leadership in our athletic department. Also not surprising about Jennifer's bad experiences at the Chronicle since the paper is run by UT people. And it sounds like Jene certainly has a great attitude and will be very succesful in her field

  • Bauer Alum

    The Daily Cougar should run an article featuring a sampling of UH student's interships by industry and student's major, along with pay. The article could display results similar to this:
    Industry: Print Media – Student's Major: Journalism – Pay: $0
    Industry: University Athletics – Student's Major: Marketing – Pay: $0
    Industry: Public Accounting – Student's Major: Accounting – Pay: $25/hr
    Industry: Energy – Student's Major: Chemical Eng. – Pay: $XX/hr
    While money certainly isn't everything, information like this could help undecided undecided underclassmen make informed decisions regarding choice of major, projected debt levels vs income potential, and other financial matters. College is expensive, and student loan debt is painful, so income potential is a necessary consideration when considering what to study. Good luck to all the Students mentioned in the article above.

    • law grad

      In case the username isn't enough, I laughed at some of the assumptions you made – particularly the assumption that the marketing intern isn't getting paid.

      But your very premise is flawed. Self reported numbers tend to result in wide gulfs, because the only people who report are either very satisfied with their paychecks or are doing free work that they have a passion for. There's no way a student-run paper would have the resources to give any sort of a scientific range that students ought to even consider when making a life decision. And that's not even adding in differentials in personality that can lead to different pay rates. It's simply not the DC's job to provide salary range info for students – let's let advisers do their jobs and get that info to undecided undergrads.

      • Bauer Alum

        In an artcle talking about unpaid internships, if mentions, "Marketing junior Colleen Seitz" who is working for the UH Athletics department. It's not a leap to infer that this an unpaid position. The accounting salary is current market and what I got as an accounting intern (the market has been flat since I graduated).

        You'll also notice that I didn't say statistical, scientific, comprehensive, or representative with respect to the sampling suggested. I was merely advocating for anecdotal accounts and reports that could serve as a starting point for deeper thought and conversation. Additionally, with respect to advisors advising students about career options, aren't schools (law schools in particular) getting publicly shamed for providing their students with inaccurate and misleading salary and employment statistics? Accurate anecdotal reports can, in some cases, have more value than inaccurate information that is being represented as being comprehensive.

  • Although unpaid internships are often very beneficial in the long run because the intern gains experience, I still believe that there should be some sort of compensation, whether it be credit for class or monetary. Someone who does not struggle to makes ends meet financially would have very little problems with an unpaid internship. Someone with kids to feed and bills to pay needs a paying job/internship. Although it will be more beneficial in the long run, they simply have to have a source of income to support those children and pay that rent. Sure, that's what student loans are for, but that just digs a deeper hole for people without a stable source of income. I am a firm believe that if someone is working, they should get some sort of compensation. Plus, a paid internship would increase competition which would benefit the employer in the long run as well.

  • Celia

    While it is unfair for students to do work for free, internships come down to what the student makes of it. It's about building relationships with supervisors and other full-time staff so you can use them as reference for a job that does pay.

    When discussing unpaid internships, it shouldn't just focus on the type of work students have to do but who has access to them. Low income students and those with other jobs are really the ones who lose out on much needed job experience. If you need an income to pay for school, kids, whatever, obviously working for free isn't going to cut it. It would have been nice to see a figure of how many UH students work unpaid internships.

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