Summer Internship vs. Part-Time Job – Making the Most of Your Summer Break

The following post is written by Brian Willett from UNC-Chapel Hill, one of our many friends at Uloop, a student powered marketplace. Read more great posts in their blog.
Ask any student what the best part about school is, and you’ll most likely get the same answer – summer vacation. The carefree days of summer make all of the homework and pop quizzes bearable and give students something to look forward to during April showers.
Because summer is so precious to students, making the most of every moment of the two or three month respite is crucial. So when it comes to filling the time between fun and games, a fierce debate rages over which is better – a summer internship or a part-time job. Though many assume the only point of contention is filling one’s resume versus filling one’s wallet, there’s more to the question than that.
A Matter of Time
Both internships and jobs can be time-consuming, but both leave plenty of time to have fun. In most cases, unpaid internships tend to be the least time-consuming – the lack of monetary compensation results in fewer hours and responsibilities. Even paid internships don’t often demand more than 10 or 20 hours per week, because a lot of companies might rather hire a part-time associate once the hours begin to add up. Jobs offer more in terms of flexibility, though. Internship hours tend to fall during normal work hours (8 to 5, Monday through Friday), so you’re likely to always have weekends free. However, you may not have time to hit the beach during the day, because unlike at a part-time job, you can’t pick up any evening hours. Part-time jobs also can allow you to dictate your schedule, allowing or as many or few hours as you’d like, whereas internship hours are dictated by your employer or your school (if credit is being given).
Skills to Pay the Bills
One aspect of internships that tends to turn off students is that many are unpaid. This can lead to the sense that an internship is a waste of time that could be spent earning money. Some internships are paid, though, and the pay can be fairly high because of the mental challenges. In addition, internships often lead to future employment opportunities, which can pay off handsomely when the time comes to earn a real paycheck. In this sense, an internship is sort of like an investment in your future. Part-time jobs can sometimes lead to promotions, though, and can look good on a resume, though internships appear more attractive.
It’s All About the Experience
Internships are often touted as more beneficial than jobs because they offer a sense of “real world experience.” But summer jobs can provide valuable experiences as well – students can learn the value of hard work and gain a perspective on what kind of jobs they might be stuck doing without a college degree. Sadly, some interns may only experience a discouraging side of the working world, such as fetching coffee or making copies. And summer jobs often involve a lot of personal interaction, which can be beneficial. Communication, customer service and general people skills are things that can’t really be taught.
Obviously, there are many factors to consider when one is deciding on whether to pursue a summer job or an internship. In order to make the best decision, you must carefully weigh your priorities and figure out which is a better fit for you.

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