Beyond the books

Importance of real life experience prior to graduation

Angie Roman, director of Career Services, said any internship would set a student apart from their competition when it comes time to find a full-time career position.  Whether getting paid or not, all internships are highly beneficial when it comes to students and their careers.

According to Intern in Michigan Employers Internship Toolkit developed by the West Michigan Strategic Alliance and Detroit Regional Area Chamber of Commerce, an internship helps students validate their career choice or helps them determine a specialization in their career field.

Although, the pharmacy program does not require an internship, Paige Dant, a Ferris junior in pharmacy, took advantage of the opportunity when the College of Pharmacy announced companies coming to Ferris to interview students for internships.Currently a pharmacy intern at the CVS in Waterford, for about eight months prior she felt she needed an internship to gain more experience than what she could learn in a classroom in regards to working as a pharmacist.

“In pharmacy school they don’t teach you how to work in a pharmacy. You can know ‘everything’ about drugs, but if you don’t know where things are located, how to use the computer system or how to work efficiently in a pharmacy, you are a burden as a new hire until you learn,” Dant said.

Mike Beier, a Ferris junior in the professional golf management program, had the opportunity to go out of state for a six-month internship at Reynolds Plantation in Eatonton, Ga. He received four credit hours for interning.

Beier said both paid or unpaid internships are beneficial because you create contacts or you get the experience for a career down the road. Also, when in need of a reference or someone to help you, having those previous employers is beneficial. Getting ready for another six-month internship in September, Beier feels his previous experiences helped him out in a great way for the future.

“Graduating is scary enough as it is, and having the extra confidence from working in the field helps give an interviewee a competitive edge over someone who graduated with just textbook experience,” Beier said.

There are some industries that have little money to pay an intern–industries like social services, education and most non-profit organizations. In order for a student in these fields to get an internship, it will probably be unpaid and considered community service experience.

Christina Delgado, a Ferris junior in social work, completed an internship at Andre Bosse Center in Hart for the summer in addition to volunteering there. Although the position was unpaid because it is a nonprofit organization, this was required experience for Delgado’s social work degree. The social work program requires two internships, one the first year and one the last year.

“I think unpaid internships are beneficial for students because it’s teaching us how to learn and really understand the dynamics of our field that we are going in,” Delgado said. “It also gives us a feel of what we are interested in and what we aren’t so we have a basic feel of what we want to pursue once we get our degrees.”

Roman explained there will always be employers who take advantage of the opportunity to offer unpaid internships. These are the employers who have been most recently criticized in the media and causing a debate about the legal issues involving labor laws.

Delgado said she would have taken it more seriously if she were paid because it would have been a real life job. She said she took it seriously to begin with and learned as much as possible, but if she were to be getting paid would have had more of an incentive to work longer and harder at what she did there.


Employers are encouraged to contact their legal council when considering unpaid internships.  

Roman said, “We want paid internships but also realize there are times when an unpaid internship is advantageous.”

“I feel we need to educate students on the pros and cons of unpaid vs. paid internships so they aren’t taken advantage of,” Roman said. “This is a unique conversation with each student because of the student’s industry, experience, and career goals, but this is also a topic to work with employers on.”

For more information, contact Career Services or visit