Most Penn students find paid summer work

The Daily Pennsylvanian
April 8, 2010

In recent years the economy has driven up the prevalence of unpaid summer internships. However, many Penn students have still been able to land paid summer jobs.

According to the New York Times, there is no official count of unpaid internships. But a summer internship survey conducted by Career Services found that 50 percent of Penn students find full-time paid opportunities, 13 percent are part-time paid, 10 percent are part-time volunteer and 15 percent are full-time volunteer.

"This has been the case for many, many years," Director of Career Services Patricia Rose said in reference to the presence of unpaid internships. For those who can't find paid opportunities, Career Services helps students avoid or negotiate with unfair, for-profit employers.

However, more employers have recently stopped paying their interns, according to Rose.

Lack of compensation poses a number of problems. Those who accept the internships face challenges of living without a salary for the summer.

"The toughest part was having to explain to my parents why I was doing an unpaid internship because in past summers I worked in a restaurant and made pretty good money living at home," College senior Patrick Looby said. Looby worked at the Foreign Policy Research Institute last summer for two and a half months without pay.

"I had to explain to them -that references, experiences and having something to talk about in a real job interview would be worth it even if they had to finance me for the whole summer," he said.

College freshman Whitney Ash agreed that working without compensation is sometimes worthwhile.

"I'm not making money working with an Illinois senator this summer, but I'll broaden my horizons by learning more about politics and hopefully meeting people who will help me later on."

Unfortunately, students who cannot afford to live without earnings are forced to find other options.

Career Services works with these students to see if they can negotiate compensation, whether to cover transportation or lunch costs, or sometimes a small stipend. Some volunteer three or four days a week and then get another part-time job, Rose said.

Many students also find opportunities through their own contacts. According to the Career Services report, 30 percent found jobs or internships via family, friends and faculty.

Other students find internships through University programs.

For example students interested in the arts and media can apply to RealArts@Penn. Launched in 2007, RealArts helps connect applicants to internships at companies like Rolling Stone Magazine and MTV. The program usually sponsors six or seven internships per summer.

Uniquely, the employers do not fund RealArts internships. Instead, the Kelly Writers House raises funds and provides each intern with a $4000 stipend.