How Internships Have Changed Over the Years

Young Rae Kim  |

The majority of current college students go through at least one internship before they graduate. Whether it be for course credit or experience, students often feel the need to have an internship under their belt before entering the real world. While this is considered normal and even necessary in today’s world, the life of an intern has drastically changed since the beginning of the internship system.  

Tracing back the exact origins of internships can be tricky, but most experts agree that it derived from the apprenticeships of the trade guilds in Europe. Professional craftsmen took on young students who had interest in learning the job. The master would hand over to his apprentice only the most basic tasks, similar to the coffee delivering and copy making modern interns are used to, before passing on the tools of the trade.

In the past the word "intern" was used exclusively to describe a person in the medical field with a degree but no license to practice during the years of World War I. With the industrial revolution and the rise of people attending colleges, the modern day concept of internships as we know them began to arise. Time Magazine reported that during 1970 to 1983 the number of internships being offered at colleges rose from 200 to 1000.

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The expectations of these first internships was clear: they led to a job. However, there is a large contrast between the internships of then and now. The benefits of an internship today are often a lot more vague and unclear. People sometimes agree to internships out of obligation, without actually knowing what they are going to get out of it. In fact, some studies say that chances are internships do not help college students at all

On the other hand, it appears that students are not the only ones misinformed about internships. Companies also seem to be confused about the proper use of interns. Stories about unpaid interns suing their employers have been surfacing more frequently.  Recently, the death of an intern at Bank of America has sparked conversations about whether interns arepossibly even being criminally mistreated in the work place.

While the rewards of internships remain uncertain, their popularity continues to rise. Before they graduate, nearly 48 percent of college students will do at least one unpaid internship.

(image of Wikimedia Foundation Office courtesy of - you guessed it - Wikimedia Commons)

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