First and foremost, I would like to lay a few key pieces of information about myself (that are very important to understanding my viewpoint) on the table: (1)I am and education major during the school year. (2) I am a camp counselor during the summer. When I think about both of those crucial parts of my personality, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about stepping-stones towards my future career as a teacher is not “internships.”
It can be argued that student teaching-a required step to becoming a teacher-is like an internship. Or, even, that it is an internship. But when people are discussing this particular career development experience, they do not tend to categorize it as an internship. So, in my head, and I’m sure many other education majors’ heads, it is not primarily considered an internship.
With that being said, internships are a key part of many other majors/future jobs and/or careers. It seems to be all anyone talks about between the months of September and February. They give college students good “life experience” of living and eating on a non-existent to barely existent salary while gaining practice in their desired future career. That is, if practice in their desired field includes sitting behind a desk all day waiting for someone to tell them what to do or getting their superiors a coffee or sandwich. Of course, these stereotypes are not everyone’s experience with internships, but it seems to be a trend for many people I know.
Lately, I have heard whisperings that it would be a good idea to implement a requirement for every student to do an internship before they graduate. This is a good idea in theory, but would likely be problematic in action. Using myself as an example: if the powers that be decide that student teaching does not count as the right kind of internship, or an internship at all, then I would have to truly scrounge to find an internship even remotely related to education. And from what I have read, internships done for school credit are typically not paid, so that rules out counseling at a camp-the one true “internship” for future educators.
Secondly, most internships take place during the summers, in the evenings, or during college breaks. The one thing that all of these things have in common is that this is when college students most frequently try to earn money to pay for college or to merely survive. If they were to be forced, essentially, to take an unpaid internship in order to graduate it would likely set people, including myself, back in their loan payment goals, the amount of food they have, and their living comfort in general. Let’s be real, people: college is expensive.
The cost of college tuition has gone through the roof, and the salary a majority of college students are paid (you guessed it-minimum wage) has not. Gone are the days of working part-time four days a week and being able to pay off your student loans or debt. In are the days of working during the hours you aren’t engaging in school or extracurriculars and during any break possible. Long story short: college students need money, and they need to work to get it. And if they are giving up an entire summer, semester, or break to take unpaid internships while still paying loans and other college bills, the amount of student debt in this country will continue to rise steadily, as it has been.
Yes, internships are great and provide valuable life experiences, but they do not work for every person and every major. Perhaps a way to address the desire certain majors/fields have for an internship requirement is to have them decide it amongst themselves whether or not it will be a requirement. They could also work hand-in-hand with students while they figure out where they will go and what they will do. Moreover, it could be an option to get credit for an internship rather than a requirement. This gives students an option to get credit or money rather than sacrificing one for the other because they have absolutely no choice.
I mean, you might as well have the option get more out of an internship than moving back into your parent’s basement, I suppose.