Summer Job or Internship—What's Best for Your College Student?

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Summer, for college students, is an opportunity to do a lot of things to help or enhance their educations. Using the few months of time available in the most productive and responsible way is something every parent should be encouraging - if not insisting - their young adult in college plan for.

Getting Ready for Summer

Looking for a job or internship should begin as early as winter break, with networking and list making to start. If the student doesn't have an updated LinkedIn profile, that should be taken care of immediately.

Most employers will take a look at a student on LinkedIn to get an idea of who they are and what experience they have, as well as see any recommendations for the student from former employers. Also, be sure to clean up all social media profiles.

Whether returning home, staying at school or going to a completely different city, living arrangements need to be considered. If the young adult plans to return home, house rules and expectations need to be discussed. If the student is staying at school or moving to another city for a job or internship, financial agreements between the parent and student need to be in place. 

Summer Jobs and Income

For many students, summer job income is a big component of their budget for college. Lining up a summer job while at home for a few months is the most economical way to add to the bank account for college expenses. It's a good idea to start looking for a summer job around mid-March, and if the student can make a trip home for spring break that would be a good time to do some in-person interviews and applications.

Ideally, a summer job will be something that looks good on a resume or is in the student's area of study—but just working hard at any job is a good enhancement to any job history. If the young adult is especially good at core subjects like math or English, tutoring middle school and high school students is an excellent way to earn money and be able to have another job at the same time. Students can sign up with online sites such as,, or several others to tutor in any subject.

Internships—Paid and Unpaid

The best way to get started looking for an internship is to contact anyone and everyone you know who works in the field or fields that are of interest. Start looking a few months before the school year is over to get the most options and available positions on the radar.

If it's financially feasible to do an unpaid internship, the choices and opportunities will be much wider, as some companies will make room for an unpaid intern if the person is a good fit. Some schools will offer class credit for internships, which makes the lack of income easier to accept.

It's important to convey to a prospective employer eagerness, enthusiasm and commitment to an internship, especially in highly competitive fields. What an unpaid internship lacks in financial reward it can more than make up for in connections, references, and recommendations.

On the flip side, graduates who worked paid internships are more likely to get job offers after graduation than students with unpaid internships. Consider all the possible benefits of an internship before deciding if forgoing income in an unpaid position is worth it.

For further research, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) publishes statistics on internships, such as the impact of paid vs. unpaid internships on job offers. It also provides other statistics, such as the average hourly wage for interns, which sits at $19.05 in 2019. also publishes an annual list of companies with the highest-paid internships, and Facebook tops the list at $8,000 per month, with Amazon in second place at $7,725 monthly.

Unpaid internships can be a risky proposition for employers. The laws for whether an unpaid internship is beneficial to the intern, are as follows:

  1. The internship, even though it includes the actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees but works under the close supervision of existing staff.
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and on occasion, its operations may actually be impeded.
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
  1. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship. (source:

Whether it's a paid internship, unpaid internship, part-time job or full-time work, showing initiative and motivation to continue to learn and improve skills during the summer break will help college students expand their resumes and broaden their knowledge, while also aiding in their search for the right career.