The 5 Ways INTERNSHIPS Increase Post-College Earning Power

That fancy name on your kid’s college diploma? It hardly matters. So sorry if this is hard to hear.

In the 21st century, paid internships are the crown jewel of the college education. Top college students aim to find, apply for, and work at one, two, or three paid internships during college – and they reap big benefits for doing so.


One highly regarded survey of more than 20,000 college seniors showed that of students who completed a paid internship at some point during their college careers, a whopping 61% had job offers by the time of graduation. Of seniors who did unpaid or no internships at all, though, only 33% received job offers by the time of graduation — and the job offers they did receive were at significantly lower salary levels.

Why do paid internships beat unpaid internships, hands down, every time? Here are 5 reasons:

1. The learning and work opportunities are better. The paid internship will be more advanced, better structured, more professional, and far more interesting than an unpaid one. Organizations that take on paid interns tend to put substantial thought into creating experiences that pour into, stretch, and develop student interns. In general, paid interns tend to spend “more time tackling and proving themselves on professional tasks” while unpaid interns tend to “do clerical work.”

2. Paid internships are more likely to provide committed mentors. These mentors are likely to coach and train interns in an intentional way, going out of their way to create opportunities that expand the student’s education, skill and talent. These mentors may place students on projects where they produce things they’ve never produced before. They may put students in positions to gain the most current industry knowledge and skills, and they may help students to create valuable industry contacts. It’s in paid internships that students find mentors who genuinely want to build and develop their abilities, rather than supervisors who just want them for the free clerical work.

3. Paid internships attract better-qualified, more dedicated interns. These are the top performers your kid will want to be working alongside during the time spent on an internship.

4. Paid internships may include work on exciting projects where the student can shine as a highly motivated star player. These projects can provide impressive material to note on future resumes and bring up in upcoming job interviews and grad school applications.

5. Paid interns are typically offered significantly higher salaries right out of college. According to one survey, college students who didn’t participate in paid internships received job offers with average starting salaries of $34,601. Their classmates who completed paid internships, on the other hand, received job offers with average starting salaries of $41,580. A salary bump of nearly $7000 right off the bat.

Besides paid internships being a good idea, they’re also the law in the vast majority of cases. You can see the U.S. Department of Labor mandate on this subject here.

If you’ve got kids you’d like to get through college debt-free, my book can help:

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Did you do a paid internship in college? How did you find it? How did it help you?

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Who is Jeannie Burlowski?

Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26, their parents, and the professionals who serve them. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazineand US News and World Report, and on CBS News.

Jeannie also helps students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school at her website You can follow her on Twitter @JBurlowski.