Required internships give students real-world experiences

Eric Wirth

Student debt is on the rise and degree programs with required internships integrated into their curriculum have some students wondering why they should pay the university for credit hours in order to work for an outside company, possibly without pay.

Majors that currently have this requirement include, but are not limited to, journalism and mass communication, advertising, public relations, criminal justice and events management.

Juli Probasco-Sowers, academic adviser and internship coordinator for the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, said the question regarding the internship requirement comes up frequently.

“They’re not paying for the internship, they’re paying for the credits,” Probasco-Sowers said.

The distinction is important. The reason that programs such as those housed in the Greenlee School have stringent internship requirements is partially to achieve greater standing among other schools, but also to help prepare students for the outside world.

“They’re going to be more marketable,” Probasco-Sowers said, noting that the internship requirement makes sure that students have participated in a professional internship, and hence have professional work experience.

Ann Thye, academic adviser in the apparel, events and hospitality management department, shared a similar stance with Probasco-Sowers, saying supervised internships that are part of the curriculum have great benefits for students after they graduate.

“We have found that internships serve as a career springboard for students,” Thye said, adding that internships are becoming more and more expected by employers for students coming out of college.

The difference between a professional internship and simple work experience is the degree of responsibility that is held, Thye said. The reason internships are a required part of select curriculam is in part to assure students get experience on a professional level that may not be provided from an internship they find on their own.

“It’s a way of showing yes, indeed they did it,” Probasco-Sowers said.

The requirement does put a burden on students, making them pay for the credit hours required. In attempts to counteract this expense and others that are accrued during an internship scholarship programs have been created. Probasco-Sowers said the Greenlee School gives out $30,000 per year in scholarships solely to help those in internships pay for expenses.

Some internship providers have already conquered that task, paying for the expenses their interns deal with, including housing and food. Hence, some unpaid internships are misleading in that they may not pay a salary or hourly wage, but they do pay for a person’s day-to-day needs, Probasco-Sowers said. That doesn’t mean all internships are unpaid, rather they seem to be on the rise. Last year was the first time the number of paid internships coordinated through the Greenlee School outnumbered the number of unpaid internships.

At the heart of the matter, regardless of the expenses that come from an internship, is the value of a student’s education.

“There are things about being in an office that you can’t teach in the classroom,” Probasco-Sowers said.