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Internships for Sale (Updated)

In Career Journal (the Wall Street Journal’s online careers supplement) last week, Sue Shellenbarger discussed an increasing trend in career-related summer jobs for students, where students or their families pay a fee to participate in the internship experience. The fees go to for-profit companies who place students in established internship programs, or to marketing consultants who promote the students’ skills to employer prospects, or to charity auctions where students or their families bid on the internship.

Parents worried about their kids’ job prospects are often the ones willing to pay.  Internship-placement services, Shellenbarger says, report a 15-25% jump in the demand for their services over a year ago. The fees mentioned in the articles range from $799 to $9,000. Shellenbarger says that middle-class families, not necessarily the rich, are paying these fees.

For science majors, there are fortunately many internship programs available that are funded by institutions, government agencies, or foundations–and that pay the students, not the other way around. In December, a Science Careers feature on internships describes and benefits of internships for undergrads, and provides a list of summer research opportunities in Europe and North America. We update that page as we learn of new opportunities.

Update: Timothy Noah in Slate gives his views on this subject. Here’s a sample: “Whoever said a summer internship was something you had to pay for? The idea of getting a job is that they’re supposed to pay you.”