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Another Reason to Skip Unpaid Internships

While internships have long been lauded as the key to securing college grads a job, only those that pay really help . / Credit: Internship image via Shutterstock

While internships have long been lauded as the key to securing college grads a job, new research shows only those that pay really help.

The study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 60 percent of 2012 college graduates who had a paid internship on their résumé received at least one job offer.

According to the survey, only 37 percent of unpaid interns received job offers — just one percentage point higher than those who had no internship experienceunder their belt.

“Students with a paid internship have a decided advantage in the job market over those who did an unpaid internship or didn’t do an internship at all," said Marilyn Mackes, executive director of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Although there are other factors that affect the job offer rate, the study suggests differences in the type of work by paid and unpaid interns contributes to the discrepancy.

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The research revealed that paid interns spent 42 percent of their time on professional duties, such as analysis and project management, and just 25 percent of their time on clerical and nonessential functions. Unpaid interns, on the other hand, spent 31 percent of their time on clerical and nonessential work and just 30 percent on professional tasks.

That suggests "real" work pays off, Mackes said.

"Employers prize that kind of hands-on experience," she said. "Conversely, unpaid interns spend more time on clerical tasks and less on the type of duties that employers value."

The research was based on surveys of more than 15,700 college seniors at the bachelor’s degree level who had applied for a job at the time of the study.

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Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.