Internships more important than ever, says new study

For many students, internships are a vital part of the academic experience. According to a new report by consulting firm Intern Bridge, more students than ever before are trying to improve their prospects and gain experience by interning. However, many students who accept internship roles don't get paid, and this can place extra pressure on them.

According to the report, wages paid to interns increased by more than 6 percent in 2011. Despite this, almost half of all reported internships are unpaid, and 77 percent of students had to work an additional job if they took an unpaid intern position. Some advocacy groups have been campaigning for companies to start paying their interns.

"College students need internship experience to be competitive in the job market when they graduate," Robert Shindell, director of content and resource development for Intern Bridge, said in a statement. "Yet companies that don’t pay interns are creating a host of recruitment and potential legal challenges that in the long run could cost much more than the relatively small price of paying interns a fair hourly wage."

Although internships can be a great way to gain hands-on experience with an employer, if you're thinking of doing an unpaid internship, be sure you can handle it. Taking another job on top of an internship can be tough, and getting by on a low hourly wage can be stressful. When you're filling out a college application, start thinking about whether you can afford to take on an unpaid internship.

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