Minority Students Less Likely to Get Paid Internships


By Stuart Esrock, Ph.D.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is reporting that minority students are at a disadvantage when it comes to internships.   The problem particularly impacts black students.

NACE research of the graduating class of 2019 shows black students accounted for 6.6% of graduating seniors, but just 6% of paid internships.  At the same time, black students accounted for 7.3% of unpaid internships, meaning they are underrepresented as paid interns and overrepresented as unpaid interns.   NACE further reports exactly the opposite for white students; overrepresented in paid internships and underrepresented in unpaid positions.  

Disparities in internships extend to other groups.  NACE research shows Hispanic students are overrepresented in the group who has never had an internship, and multi-racial students are overrepresented as unpaid interns and also those who have never had an internship.   Likewise, first-generation students made up 22% of the research sample, but accounted for just 19% of paid internships and this group also was overrepresented with more than 25% having no internship at all.  This table shows results for various groups in the study.

The director of the UofL University Career Center, Bill Fletcher, is troubled by the research report and is working to mitigate the problems.  He has developed two proposals to assist with minority internships and stipends for unpaid, non-profit internships.  “I have always discouraged unpaid internships for this very reason; it creates a disadvantage for under-represented minorities, low income, and first-gen students who can't afford to pay tuition and work for free.”

NACE also points out that career centers can play an important role in correcting the inequities.  Executive director Shawn Van Derziel said, “NACE data show that, overall, black students use the career center more than other races/ethnicities, not only in total number of visits, but also proportionally. These results suggest that career centers can be an important campus resource for employers to use to reduce inequities that exist in their internship programs.”