The New York Times Op-Ed columns recently have been nothing short of stupid. The one I just finished reading bashes internships and makes the bold statement that paid internships are better for the intern than unpaid internships.
The column itself is far from objective; it doesn’t even bother to give the other side of the issue (a little too common in the media these days). While there are certain disadvantages to unpaid internships (lost wages, higher debt, rewards higher income people and people with connections), overall there are clear reasons why these are preferred. It would be nice if the author found the space in her column to mention those reasons. Since she didn’t, I will take the time to do so.
The biggest reason internships are sought after is that they give job experience you cannot get in the classroom. Future employers will want to see not only that you are a hard worker, but that you have the capability to do the specific assignments they need from you. The reason these internships are often unpaid is that many of the groups giving the internship do not have the money to pay the worker for their time. For example, I had an internship with the City of Syracuse Department of Audit during graduate school. Without that experience, I might not have gotten the job I am in now. And anyone who knows about the City of Syracuse will understand that the government does not have the funds to pay me for my time.
I know from other experiences that internships can be far from perfect. They don’t always give you work that is exciting or even applicable to your career path. But anyone who isn't smart enough to know that experience in a related field will look better on a job application than one more year of waitressing shouldn’t be allowed to publish in the New York Times.