Do unpaid internships damage long-term graduate pay prospects?

According to a study conducted by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, former interns who graduated three and a half years ago face a salary penalty of approximately £3,500.

Those who studied at private schools or had parents in professional occupations found themselves worse off. The study revealed that graduates from advantaged backgrounds were more likely to find the sought-after internships. On the other hand, those from disadvantaged background took on unpaid work because of limited job offers.

According to the study, those who took internships were less likely to go on to professional or managerial roles, or be satisfied with their career compared to those who went straight into work. In comparison to graduates who went onto further study, an internship reduced the probability of a graduate working in a professional or managerial role or being very satisfied with their career, by 15 and 8.8 percentage points.

According to Dr Angus Holford who carried out the study, many graduates who took on internships would end of disappointed if they thought it would put them on the path to success in a favoured career.

“I expect some people will find an internship that enables them to do the job they really want to do and that will have the big labour-market return but, on average, an internship you take won’t lead directly to a job in the profession you really wanted or the profession you did the internship in”.

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