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Toward the end of their career at UTC, many students are required to complete an internship. These can range from 120 to 300 mandatory hours of typically unpaid work, fit into one semester, depending on a student’s major.

Though mostly communication students, The Echo staff is comprised of a variety of majors and focuses, all required to complete at least one internship in our four or more years at UTC.  Some members are double majoring and must squeeze in two internships, even if one is potentially of no real use to their future career.  

A number of problems come with required internships. Some feel the experience and connections gained are worth the inconveniences, whereas some see these internships as a burden eating up their time and money. One even referred to it as slave labor.

Our thoughts on the internship process are mostly specific to the communication department, but can most likely be applied across the board.

The probability of landing an internship that’s well-paid, or paid at all, is low. This can create a huge financial burden for students, who are already notoriously broke.  When completing an internship for credit, the student must pay for the internship class itself, causing some to have to take out additional loans. Essentially, students are paying to work for free.

Since the internship can take up quite a bit of time, some find it hard to hold a paying job in addition to school, internship and other responsibilities, thus creating more of a financial strain.

Many members mentioned the general disorganization of the internship process through the communication department. Some steps seem more like unnecessary hoops to jump through, making it a more stressful process than it needs to be. Additionally, the department seems to lack connections within the city, creating a small and unvaried pool of potential internship opportunities for students.

One member feels they are gaining plenty of experience through their current job, but since this position was not gained through the internship process and does not completely line up with what the internship coordinator sees fit, they must spend more time and money on work unrelated to their career goals.

We have had some success. A couple of us have had great experiences with internships and are grateful for the work they’ve been able to do in the city. We recommend taking the initiative and reaching out to organizations you feel are best for you, instead of letting professors choose one for you.

All in all, we feel internships can be a great way to gain knowledge and experience and boost your resume, but there are some definite downsides. If you can find something you enjoy doing on a day-to-day basis, it may make going into debt a little less gut-wrenching.

6 Replies to “Editorial: The impact of required internships on students”

  1. The internship is a way for students to gain real world experience in their area of interest. I think back to my time when I was student at the University of Michigan. During my last two years, I did three internships but only got credit for one. I also had to travel for 45 minutes to an hour just to get to my internship three times a week!!

    Also, please think back to your experience in Communication 2310 Media Writing II, toward the end of the semester the students do a “mini-internship.” Setting up mini-internships for 62 students is daunting but the experience is invaluable. Without important community connections, it would be difficult to place these students.

    Lastly, no two internships are the same. I have seen internships turn into full-time jobs. The internship are what you make of it!

  2. Hi Haley,
    I was bummed to read the opinions expressed around internships in The Echo. Through these experiences, students should be able to reinforce their education by gaining real world practice, strengthen technical abilities, instill ethical and collaborative behaviors, and build confidence while developing realistic expectations about the workforce domain. I work at the College of Business at UTC and we would welcome you to visit us and learn more about our internship programs. Internships should be a wonderful opportunity for students to receive valuable experience while achieving academic outcomes. We would love to turn your opinion around!

  3. It is quite humorous when a Universtiy Professor posts a comment and uses an alma mater to tout an attempted substantiation of credibility to diminish the voices of frustration.

    It is illogical to say that an experience in a workplace is invaluable due to the fact that it is done for the purpose of gaining employment that has established value. The argument of value can only be made for pricelessness when looking in hindsight and seeing the positive or even desired outcome, which is subjected to your sole experience. It would be like receiving the gift of a broken car and spending ample time fixing it because a vehicle is needed for getting from one point to the next. It begins to run; you drive it around for a bit before deciding to sell it. It is seemingly worthless at the beginning to many, but since your experience in work was prudent and you had fun driving it, you conclude the car is priceless- even though you’re going to eventually have to sell it at a cost to get a better one. The logical fallacy comes as you derive the value of what is invaluable from an experience and personal effort and prescribe it to the whole of all internships.

  4. @ Irene Hillman,

    Unfortunately, the Communication Department is drastically different from the College of Business. The College of Business is much more professional, organized, and plugged in with the Chattanooga area. Students writing for the Echo are likely expressing their experiences with the Communication Department (which, as is shown above by a comment from the internship coordinator) is defensive rather than receptive to feedback.

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