Internships bridge the gap between college and the real world, professor explains

Nathan Turoff, Features Editor

Often a required part of the college experience, students frequently have many questions about the intended purpose of internships. Why get an unpaid internship when you can get a paid job? Is it worth it?

The idea of potentially working without pay—on top of juggling a full schedule of courses— obviously does not appeal to many students. However, internships have the potential to pay off in ways beyond financial.   

Professor Roberta Doggett, the Internship Coordinator for the University of North Florida (UNF) School of Communication (SOC), helped clear up the stigma behind internships and why students should look into them. 

The main difference between an internship and a typical job is their specialty. Doggett explained that many students have generic jobs before, after and during their college journeys but that they frequently don’t relate to the students’ preferred future careers. Jobs like food service and retail are often used to make money, but that’s it.

On the other hand, internships offer experience in the field that students attend college for in the first place. They allow students to learn more about their career paths in a more hands-on fashion and “take what you’ve learned in your classes and actually put it in a real-world situation,” Doggett explained.

Internships allow students to get more knowledge and experience in their field than is available in their college courses.

While finding internships can differ by college, Doggett explained how the process works in the SOC. Once specific qualifications are met, such as being a senior, completing all prerequisites and more, students can apply. 

credit cards
FILE – This Aug. 11, 2019 file photo shows credit cards in New Orleans. Unpaid internships have become an unfortunate necessity for many students looking to launch their careers, but not everyone can depend on family for support. Some take on credit card debt to make ends meet. However, there are ways you can lessen the financial burden, including applying for grants and scholarships. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

Students don’t have to wait until senior year to have an internship, but it generally wouldn’t be counted as a course if that were the case. Once the qualifications are met, the SOC approves the application and it is counted as a class for the student. The SOC also offers pre-approved internship websites available here.

That’s just for SOC, though. All the colleges at UNF have their own internship programs, coordinators and application processes. Some, like medicine and education, require internships. Students seeking internships should reach out to resources available in their college programs.

Of course, there are also plenty of internships outside of UNF and Doggett strongly recommends students explore opportunities outside of the UNF bubble. Whereas UNF internships will likely have you interning with several other UNF students at once, independent internships can offer a completely different work environment.

“The more experience you have outside of your university setting, the better,” she said.

As for the internships themselves, they are usually either paid or unpaid. Doggett admitted that while being paid is objectively better for obvious reasons, it shouldn’t be the deciding factor when choosing an internship.  

The experience offered by the internship should be prioritized over whether it’s paid or not, according to Doggett.

“We’ve had unpaid internships where the students have learned so so much,” she said. 

Many students often saw internships as burdensome in the past, but, according to Doggett, many who were initially hesitant to take internships were often thankful in hindsight. 

Internships are a way to explore fields that interest students even more than they can during college. They help students meet professionals in these environments, and many internships lead to actual jobs after graduation.


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].