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Would an internship be right for you?

November 8, 2011

There has been much recent debate about the potential value of conducting an “internship”. The controversy is fuelled by the apparent rise in unemployed graduates who have decided to work for a company for free to bolster their chances of subsequently securing a job (see, for example, this BBC video Alvin Hall: Are graduate interns being exploited?).

There is no doubt that some firms are taking advantage of the current economic climate to secure the services of talented and enthusiastic young workers without having to pay them even the minimum wage. It is, however, important not to be unduly jaundiced about the whole notion of “internships”.

The New Scientist list of internships includes paid appointments.

The top definition of Intern at an online dictionary is “A student or a recent graduate undergoing supervised practical training“.

Notice that the definition does not include “for free”. Many of the summer vacation awards on offer from Learned Societies would classify as internships (indeed, some have started to rebrand them as such). The same is true of the University of Leicester’s own graduate internship programme.

In addition to this, New Scientist magazine recently compiled a very helpful list of other science-related internships, many of which are paid positions. The list includes several opportunities to work within areas of science writing and journalism including for Nature, the British Medical Journal and New Scientist itself.

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