Paid Internships Work, Unpaid Internships Don’t

My last post on working for free generated an emotional response for free-workers at various schools. Work-for-free advocates usually argue that the reason you should work for free is because it can land you a paying job.

National Association of Colleges and Employers conducted a study which disagrees:

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

From the WSJ:

The group released a study this week showing that 60% of 2012 graduates who worked a paid internship got at least one job offer, while just 37% of those in unpaid gigs got any offers. That’s slightly – only slightly – better than the offer rate for graduates who skipped internships entirely, at 36%.

Soldier On.

37 Responses to Paid Internships Work, Unpaid Internships Don’t

  1. Jack says:

    cause n affectd. those getting paid worth something/skilled enough. if no one pays you the company is 2 kheep. u no slave 4 them.

    • Paul says:

      English please! do you speak it?

      • Jack says:

        lok at:

        ‘Causality (also referred to as causation[1]) is the relationship between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first.’

        use this to understand all. unpaid interns. jobs going to china. why jobs open in baton rogue and nyc. always reason for happenings. not laws of nature. not naturally going to happen.

        be trusting but critical.

  2. Comes down to not selling yourself short. If your previous place didn’t pay you, why not?

    It can give employers the idea that 1) You’re not worth paying and/or 2) You don’t think your work is worthy of being paid for and that can imply an issue with confidence in own abilities.

  3. It’s always better to go for paid internship as you will have more value in the market after completing it. Otherwise you will be considered as a Fresher only even after spending months doing hard work for free.

  4. edwardh says:

    As tempting as it would be to latch onto this because I think unpaid internships should simply not exist – I very much doubt the relevance of this study. After all, it’s not about the VFX industry. And while internships (especially unpaid ones, obviously) have become very popular in many fields, I have not heard of a field where it is more important than in ours. Because of that, I would not be confident that those numbers would look the same if the test was conducted just in the VFX industry.
    Although… at a sample size of 48,000, maybe they did break the data down by fields at some point in the study. One would just have to get access to the whole thing.

    • Jill says:

      classic descart-i-ism.

      you’re selling yourself short by discrediting it. take this data and use it to your advantage. you’re using positivism to dismiss this instead of saying ‘hey, their could be some truth in this’ use this argument and knowledge to your advantage.

      to show the mistake you and many others make. I will take one of your sentences and turn it around with one word:

      “I have not heard of a field where it is more important than in ours.”

      “I have not heard of a field where it is more destructive than in ours”
      Positivism is a philosophy of science based on the view that in the social as well as natural sciences, data derived from sensory experience, and logical and mathematical treatments of such data, are together the exclusive source of all authoritative knowledge.

      • edwardh says:

        Funny you should say that… I have only recently been reading about Descartes and I quite liked what I read. So from my current point of view, I would have to say: Thanks for the compliment 😉

        As for the rest… all of that sounds to me like a somewhat intellectualized (the fact that you wrote “their” instead of “there” undermines it a bit though) attempt of saying: Fight by whatever means necessary.

        And there is an important thing where you have misunderstood me. But that’s mostly my fault because I didn’t put it clearly. I did not mean to dismiss the study as a whole. And I did not even mean to dismiss it for our field completely. All I meant was that I don’t think it’s good to use it as an argument like it was used here.

        It’s one thing to argue that you think that unpaid internships are destructive and to argue about why that is in an abstract way. But when you talk about concrete numbers to back your arguments up with, you better make damn sure that those numbers really match your argument. Not just for basic moral reasons but also because if somebody of relevance catches you in the act and they call you out on it, that would be a major blow to the cause you allegedly support.

      • Jill says:

        @ edwardh
        re: concrete numbers. do you require 5 sigma std deviation to verify your ‘facts’? what are your standards.

        please do not degenrate an argument based on the medium of bad grammar.i.e. ‘their/there’ the message in this case is not the medium.(look up marshall mccluen) the message on vfx soldier is not to be phuked over by the industry.

        the questions you raise in your post try to dismiss vfxsoldiers argument. i try to reinforce it.
        Particle physics uses a standard of “5 sigma” for the declaration of a discovery.[4] At five-sigma there is only one chance in nearly two million that the result is wrong, i.e. the measurement seen is a random fluctuation. This level of certainty prompted the announcement that a particle consistent with the Higgs boson has been discovered in two independent experiments at CERN.[5]

      • edwardh says:

        I did not completely dismiss vfxsoldier’s argument. I was merely expressing skepticism and asked for more accuracy. And that has nothing to do with the accuracy of the study itself but with the context its findings are used in.

        I don’t have to look up Marshall MCLUHAN and I think the “medium” DOES very much matter in this case. Because if a person is unable to comprehend the most basic rules of language, why should one assume that they are able to understand more complex things? Naturally, it’s much harder to convince people in a discussion if they are skeptical of your intellectual capabilities and take extra care when looking at your arguments because of it.
        Of course, even somebody of presumably lesser intelligence (note the word “presumably”) can make valid arguments. Which is why I bothered to think about what you said and replied to it.
        And you know… knowing about intellectuals and what they have said is important. But still more important than that are both a deeper understanding and common sense to back those quotes up with. Otherwise, it just looks like an attempt to prop up an argument that was built on poor footing.

        As for the message of not getting fucked over by the industry… you may do well to read more of my comments. Because I think that I am usually one of the people commenting here who are most aggressive when it comes to fighting for rights in our field. I have drawn analogies to child labor (which I still think were fine in the context I made them in), called for people to refuse to work at big companies they know are exploitative (and am planning my own career according to that) and so on.
        BUT I still will simply not support arguments that seem unsound to me for any sort of reason.

      • edwardh says:

        And… please don’t take what I said too personal. Those are really more suggestions/suspicions if you will, not really judgements.

      • Jill says:

        @ edwardh
        you first argument tried to find how valid the point was and you specifically said this industry has to have unpaid interns. i disagree.

        you say language is important.i disagree as the vfx industry is global and english is not the first language of everyone and everyone voice should be heard.

      • edwardh says:

        “you specifically said this industry has to have unpaid interns.”

        What? At NO point did I ever say that!
        In fact, I don’t think there should be unpaid internships in ANY industry! In fact, I think even very low pay for internships is awful. I believe that interns should get at least half of what a regular employee for the according position gets.

      • edwardh says:

        “everyone voice should be heard.”

        Of course. And if one knows that somebody’s first language isn’t English, one should of course be more tolerant of mistakes. And there are many other aspects, like whether they are just typos and so on.

        But as I said… if you CHOOSE to discuss a topic on a high intellectual level, then it would serve you well to make sure that what you say is also of adequate quality on a basic intellectual level (meaning basic rules of language – few are going to hold it against you if you put a comma in the wrong place…). Since because of the dominant position of the English language (in the context of international communication), it is only natural to assume that a person who has dealt with advanced intellectual things also knows English very well. It doesn’t make much sense to study all kinds of intellectual theories but to not even know basic grammatical rules of the language that is most commonly used to exchange thoughts between all cultures worldwide.

      • went up the hill says:

        @ edwardh.
        you’re too funny. high intellectual level. this is the basics.
        you must have died when the Higgs was announced with the Comic Sans font. I guess horses for course. and yes I edit accademic papers so i do know how to write.

      • edwardh says:

        “this is the basics.”

        Not for about 75% of the population.
        And personally, I had about ten years of English at school before I ever heard about McLuhan. But I guess you went to a school for the gifted, where it was the opposite. And I guess secretly, the majority of the population goes there, since what was mentioned here are the “basics”? (Yes, it is very basic if you speak about academic discourse but if you think that I meant that… well… again, it would just show that common sense really has to come before anything else)

      • edwardh says:

        And actually – even at a school for the gifted, it simply does not make sense to teach all kinds of intellectual theories BEFORE making sure their students have proper English skills.

      • Three Blind Mice says:

        @ edwardh
        the whole point in vfx soldier is that the basics are missing.

        At its core its a Industrial Relations issue that everyone covers up; teacher, schools, workers, leadership. people act as if this industry is still a small scale boutique workshop and mis-directed energy is used to argue over small points i.e. proper english! (we agree to disagree ok) Obfuscations are also used such as – ‘it’s a complex issue’. its not really as this has been done and fought over time and again in many industries.

        At the scale of hollywood vfx its an industrial enterprise. If you substitute ‘vfx facility’ for ‘vfx factory’ you start to frame the core issues; nb this is only possible as there is a very fluid workforce of highly skilled key people that can be bought with a subsidized high-salary.

        The main points I gather:

        1. interns need to be paid
        2. lunch breaks, away from the computer, need to be allowed
        3 working hours need to 8 or 10 hours
        4. weekends need to be freed up

        5. Subsidy
        This is something that no one-individual can solve. Vfx soldier is talking to lawyers. ((In the macro view you would have to change the entire chinese economy to get rid of subsidies as the nature of its economy is one big subsidy-neo-mercanalist- but lets keep it simple for now)

        If you accept my arguments then you can start understand that the whole industry rests on capital allocation, that is why subsidies accelerate Creative Destruction that everyone experiences and why producers and owners of companies push their staff so hard; to try to stay profitable.

        Its pretty simple to understand with these tools.

  5. Dave says:

    If you are working for free, how hard are you actually going to work? You’ll most likely have another job unless you’re a spoiled rich kid. Your lack of motivation will cause you to seem uninterested, thus resulting in no job offer. Money talks.

    • Ashes says:

      I did an unpaid internship for about 3 months. I worked my ass off and was hired on with pay. I had worked 3 jobs prior to my internship to save money since I knew I wasn’t going to bring in a paycheck for 3 months. I didn’t expect a major vfx house to hire on an inexperienced student with a student demo reel right out of school and guess what most house won’t. They gave me an opportunity to prove myself and I did. You should not be doing an unpaid internship if you are already a professional. You should also not be doing an unpaid intership for more than 6 months and even that’s a bit long.

      You should do a good job because you have pride in your work regardless of pay. When I was in high school I was paid $6 an hour at a job I hated. I still gave 100% because I do not put out crap work.

      Hacks, and unprofessional and immature people put out bad work because they aren’t happy with their pay. They then bitch and moan when no one wants to give them a raise or work with them again.

      If you work hard either you get the recognition with a raise or promotion or you don’t and you leave to go to a place that will. You should NEVER slack off because you don’t like your pay. Leave instead or else your reputation is going to take a hit.

      • Dave says:

        Well said, but not everyone thinks that way.

      • Jill says:

        this should not be misread as work all night and weekend to get the best job done. each person values their time differently and there is pressure applied within the working group to stay back at work and work hard if others do.

        that is one of the aforementioned problems in the industry, that one works back because others do.

  6. vfxguy says:

    Whoa, talk about cherry-picking evidence to suit your argument.

    1) You’re assuming that the only factor in whether these kids got offered a job or not was down to whether they took a paid or unpaid internship. Obvious BS.

    2) You’re assuming that the only differentiation between the graduates who responded was whether they chose to take a paid or unpaid internship.

    3) Even if the survey you quote had any statistical validity when applied to the the job market as a whole, let alone the VFX job market (hint: it doesn’t count for shit), it is purely concerned with whether graduates in one particular year got employment after doing an internship (or not), it doesn’t pay any attention whatsoever to long-term career prospects. I guess because that woulda, uh, required like a long-term study or something that would have taken some actual effort beyond sending a bunch of students a questionnaire.

    For the love of god soldier, I know you don’t try to pretend you’re clever, but if you’re going to try and be a professional troll please extend your research methods beyond a quick google search.

  7. Ivan says:

    why are we reading this blog? vfx is a doomed job, time to learn other crafts bro

    • Jill says:

      almost everyone i know that learns another craft comes back to vfx. vfx is higher paying and the other crafts have big problems themselves. i always laugh when people say they have a restuarant somewhere they will open up. restuarants/cafe business are incrediabel hard and competitive and you will work way harder than vfx for less money.

      if you have invested significant time in vfx it is very hard to get enough skills to move onto something similiar. whilst you study in another discipline can you accept a lower standard of living?

      the grass is always greener tings very true.

  8. Dave says:

    Most of the people i know that did internships didn’t learn anything. They organized data, watched renders, made mattes, or some other shitty monkey task. Internships are nothing more than cheap, or in this case, free labor.

    I’ve worked shitty jobs, and I’ve been in the military. I also worked in the medical field for 13 years. I’ve been in VFX for 10 years now. I’ve worked on movies and now VFX for advertising. I wouldn’t work for a company that has unpaid interns, nor would I ever had considered doing an unpaid internship. Even when I had no experience.

    I’d did other jobs while building up my reel on my own time and I found my first job within 1 year of graduating college. I don’t work salary and I don’t work flat rate. My time is too important to me.

    There are many people out there that will take what they can get, just to get their foot in the door. Kiss asses, and throw their integrity in the trash. Yes, management may be impressed but your willingness to prove yourself, and sit there all night for free. But your fellow artists will only know you as a suck up, and a phoney… and THAT my friend, will follow you…as your reputation.

  9. indy44 says:

    I’ve done both paid and non paying internships before finally ending up in VFX and Animation. My paid one was at ILM which I ended up working for 9 years. I think it depends on what the internship is. If it’s an unpaid internship I think that you should not be working on deliverables. If you are then you should be compensated at least minimum wages. Just don’t take advantage of students and don’t get taken advantage of as a student. If the employer is willing to over work you that company is not worthy of your efforts. If you do this as an employer to students (shame on you) then your business model (DD?) is not working.

    • aidemmedia says:

      Internships, legally in PA are ONLY for students. At my company we do not accept interns that are college graduates, it is against the law to have an “intern” that isn’t a high school or college student. I do not believe that interns (students still in school) should be paid. An internship is a part of your education and learning experience… you will learn a lot of things about the business that you can not get in a classroom or doing online tutorials(and you paid to be in the classroom and write papers and take tests without pay). If you are a college graduate and working for free, than you are being taken advantage of, and the company that is calling you an “intern” and not paying you for your time is ripping you off. Step your game up, make a good reel and start networking, get in contact with people working on independent projects and build your references and resume. Qualify yourself as a top candidate for a good paying job… Good help is hard to find, people are looking for the best talent. Id rather pay one all star editor 60k yr than pay two bad editors 25k each. If you are having trouble finding a full time position and you think you think you have what it takes, start your own company…. If you are good, people will hire you….

  10. […] VFX Soldier – Paid Internships Work, Unpaid Internships Don’t […]

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    Paid Internships Work, Unpaid Internships Don’t | VFX Soldier

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