Summer Interns: Few Jobs, Modest Pay, Less Partying
By Ruchika Tulshyan Saturday, Jun. 26, 2010
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1999354,00.html?xid=thepage_newsletter#ixzz0s57TI5Pe
For summer interns (and intern hopefuls) it's another season of hard knocks. Yes, the recession is over and summer opportunities are up, but barely. For those who do get jobs, many say the work is menial and the pay meager. And as for those company-sponsored intern parties, sailing excursions and class trips, they're mostly history.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) finds a 2.9% increase in the number of interns taken on since last year. This might sound upbeat, but with almost a 20% drop in 2009 it's far from a real recovery in the number of positions offered. "More firms are taking in summer interns again. But not to the same levels we saw in 2006, '07 and '08," says Barbara Berliner, director of Sponsors for Educational Opportunities, a diverse summer internship program coordinator that counts Goldman Sachs, UBS and law firm Weil, Gotshal and Manges among its clients.
Pay is another sore spot. The NACE survey finds that interns with a bachelor's degree average $17 per hour in their summer stints, down slightly from last year. That average covers a wide range: A marketing internship at a finance or real estate firm pays an average of $13.62 hourly for college seniors, according to a 2010 survey on college graduate and intern pay by Compensation Resources. By contrast, the average college senior doing an engineering internship is paid $20.60, the same report finds.
What's more, the pay statistics exclude the growing legion of interns who are paid nothing at all. Take one intern at a New York firm that raises capital for hedge funds. Not only is the Ivy League college student doing an unpaid internship, but assigned tasks include things like data entry work. "It was advertised as a great opportunity to learn about hedge funds but in reality I'm doing grunt work," says the intern. An unpaid intern at a New York auction house makes a similar complaint: "We do go on museum field trips and there are lectures about the [art] industry. But I would say 80% of what I do is clerical," he says.
The Department of Labor states that unpaid internships should be "educational" to be legal. But a rise in the number of interns doing clerical work, completely unrelated to their degree, suggests that this law may be ignored as companies face pressure to keep costs down in a sluggish economy.
Then there's the case of more work, less play.
A lawyer with a New York law firm, who cited anonymity according to firm policy, started off as a summer associate in 2007. At that time, her class of 114 summer associates (or "summers" as they're referred to by their firms), enjoyed a Central Park Zoo party and a day out at a Country Club. This year, they've taken only 60 'summers' — and scrapped the events that law firms used to be legendary for. "I worked longer hours [in 2007] than the 'summers' work now, but we had more events than this year's class," she says.
A partner at another international law firm says that although the firm is spending between $35,000 and $50,000 on events for their New York summer associates this year, this is down by more than $45,000 from the heydays of 2005-2007.
The fall in event spending is bad news for the hospitality industry. Save The Date, a New York City events company, used to arrange sunset boat cruises and scavenger hunts for summer interns at investment banks and law firms. Founder Jennifer Gilbert says the average budget her clients had for a summer of 8 to 12 events has fallen by two-thirds. "It has decimated business for events companies," says Gilbert, who has been in the industry for 16 years.
This year, she's planning an elaborate dinner prepared by a well-known chef and wine-tasting event for a major law firm. The summer party will host about 65 people at a cost of roughly $25,000, but this is the only large-scale event the firm will host this summer. Banks, in contrast, are sticking to small barbecues and smaller events.
"There's no more renting out a whole restaurant or club. Now banks will rent a private room or VIP area...for their summer interns." Eighteen months ago interns were wined and dined, with "tens of thousands of dollars" spent on them, she says. "Now there's nothing even close to that."
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1999354,00.html?xid=thepage_newsletter#ixzz0s57F4300