College Students: Should You Intern or Get a Paying Job?

As college student about to enter the workforce, should you focus on making money or gaining valuable skills? You may not be so lucky as to find a paid internship, so reading this blog can help you determine which option is best for you.

Advantages of Interning vs. Getting a Job

The choice between getting paid and taking a work-intensive internship can be a tough one. After all, money's great, but relevant job experience could pay higher dividends down the line. There are clearly upsides to both, so which is right for you? Review the pros of each and some questions you need to ask yourself before you decide.

Pros of an Internship

The word 'internship' sounds awfully professional, and the fact is that internships tend to be a little higher up on the job food chain. You won't be asking people if they want fries with that and you won't be gift-wrapping boxes of chocolates for waiting customers. The work is likely going to be a little more dignified, even if you'll be at the bottom of the company's ladder.

Having an internship involves doing a simple task for a company or profession that has bigger and better job opportunities. You may be groomed for a position that you may enter after your internship is through. You'll make connections and have a great boost to your resume. The catch is that while you're being trained and put through your paces, you probably won't be earning any money.

Although there are some paid internships, you should be prepared that many companies may not offer compensation. However, once you finish your internship, you're likely to qualify for a better-paying position just by having that experience on your resume. You may even get a job with the company that gave you the internship if you've proven yourself to be a reliably hard worker and an asset to the different teams you've worked with.

Pros of a Paying Job

While bagging groceries may not be a great job, it still pays the bills. Even if the money isn't big, you'll start getting it right away. As a student, you're probably very aware of that big mountain of debt you've accumulated from loans. Getting a job right away means you can begin saving up money to pay that off during your grace period before any cash is due. You also just might be able to find a low-ranking job in a field you actually like. While this is hard to do, persistently looking through wanted ads on and off the Internet sometimes pans out. If that's the case, you can already be pointing yourself down the career path you want, even if it's not exactly the highest-paying job.

Having that money right away also means that you can have some independence. You have the chance to move out and get your own apartment, buy your own groceries and decide what you do with your hard-earned cash. You can open savings accounts or learn about investing money in retirement plans or stocks. The choices are all up to you once you have your own job, though paying off debt should be high on your list of what to do first.

How to Decide

If someone has offered you an internship, you might be tempted to snatch it up right away. Then again, maybe you know of a job at the mall paying more than minimum wage that you're sure you can get. It may be hard to decide on the right option. Ask yourself the following questions about the internship and where you are in your life before you make the choice.

  • Will the internship lead directly to a paying job?
  • Is it in your field of study or career path?
  • Is it a paid position or does it offer some benefits?
  • Is your workplace less than a 30-minute drive?
  • Is it work you would enjoy doing day after day?
  • Do you have a place to stay that doesn't ask you to pay rent?
  • Do you have money already saved up to pay off debt or someone else who is paying your debt for you?
  • Can you wait awhile before you become financially independent?
  • Are you still in the grace period before you need to start paying off loans?
  • Will you make good connections at this workplace?
  • Is it difficult to find above-minimum wage jobs in your area?
  • Do you truly want to take the internship?

If you can answer yes to all or even most of those questions, then it sounds like an internship is the right path for you to take. If you have a place to live, enough money to get by and this internship is something you want or will help you follow your career path, then full speed ahead and good luck!

Worried about all that college debt? Find out if you should consolidate your student loans!

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