Blog Post

Job or Internship?

Date Published: Mar 11, 2021

Forest hiking path that splits into two different paths

As you enter the college ranks and pursue your degree, you, along with every other college student, may be presented with an intriguing dilemma. The dilemma being to either get an entry level or part-time job to help you earn some money or snag an internship, which could help you during college as well as after you graduate.

An entry-level job will supply you with cash to help you pay bills and other expenses such as nights out with friends, but at the same time it may not be the best option to help you advance in your career and/or field of study.

An internship though, can help you in the future with your field of study by giving you awesome experiences that can potentially open the door for great opportunities later on in life. The tricky thing about internships is that while both paid and un-paid internships exist, the majority are un-paid.

As you can probably tell, both have their pros and cons, but which one is the best route for you to take?

When Deciding, Think About the Long-Term Game

A lot of college students understandably decide between the two based on which one is best for their current situation, but you also want to think about your future and your future goals. If you are someone that has ambitious future career and field of study goals than a part-time or entry level job, outside of your field of study, might not be the best route to take to help you reach them.

Majority of businesses hire employees for new or open positions by selecting from their group of interns, which makes sense. It is logical for an employer to hire someone who is already familiar with the company and has been trained with the company. Often times, companies that you are interning with will have job openings that relate to your degree and area of study.

When deciding between a job or an internship, be sure to think about both the future and your current situation. The big thing is getting a position that relates to your degree and academic pursuits. As long as you pick a position, whether it be an internship or part-time job, that relates to your field of study, you will build quite the resume for after you graduate.

Affording a Non-Paying Internship is Possible

An increasing number of companies and businesses are offering paid internships for college students, but there are still companies that do not offer pay for their interns. If you happen to discover a great internship opportunity, but there is no pay, you shouldn’t turn it down solely for that reason.

Aside from whether an internship pays or not and if it lines up with your career and academic goals, you also want to look at the company and its employees. You want to consider aspects such as:

  • Is this company well-know and well respected?
  • Is it a company I would want to continue to work for in the future?
  • What are the odds I could land a job with them after I graduate?
  • Is it a rare and unique opportunity I shouldn’t pass up?
  • Could I make great connections through it?

Basically, you want to look for aspects that could pay you in other ways that outweigh cash payments. You also might need an internship to fill a class requirement, but you want to try to avoid companies that are not well established that may just use internships for free work.

Another way an internship can pay you is through school credit. For example, you may have to take a class for your degree that requires you to complete an internship. Along with class credit, if you take on an internship it is a good idea to check to make sure you are receiving maximum school credit for it. If an internship does not pay you, it may be able to save you thousands of dollars on class costs, depending on the school's policy.

However, if taking on an unpaid internship while on a limited budget means that you will be stuck with an extra $10,000 in debt when you graduate, you may want to think twice. You can always use student loans to help you pay for expenses, but that is not the most ideal thing to do.

Doing Both

Getting a paid internship would be the optimal scenario, but another good route to take if you cannot get a paid internship, is to balance a non-paid internship with a part-time job.

One way to go about doing this is to look for internships that are flexible and allow you to work one or two full days instead of a couple of hours each day during the week.  Another option is to consider a part-time job that offers odd hours. Better yet, if you already have a part-time job, see if they can work around your internship schedule, or vice versa.

Use Your Opportunities to Your Advantage

Whichever route you decide to go with, just make sure that you take up opportunities that help you chase your academic and career goals. A job, internship, or both can all benefit your future goals.

The big thing is make sure you make the most out of your classes, jobs, and/or internships by dedicating yourself and making the right connections.  Getting to know your professors and meeting employers and fellow employees can help you in a big way with your job search after graduation. Heck, even a position at a local restaurant can help you meet people such as successful business persons that call your community home.

Having a resume loaded up with work, class, and internship experience is a big plus, but a great addition is making connections with the right people and people in your field of study. So, take advantage of the opportunities you have and make the most of them, and do not overlook them as a chance to make a connection (Eneriz, Investopedia).

As you pursue your degree, continue to look for opportunities that relate to your career aspirations, will help build your resume, and/or supply you with a valuable experience.