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Why you should pay your marketing interns

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Why you should pay your marketing interns


What internship did you complete while studying at university? Is it too long ago to remember? Did your time as an intern open the door to your first full-time role, or give you certainty that this was the right path – or, at least, show you what you did not want to do with your life?

Real-world work experience is vital to students for all these reasons. But it’s particularly important when it comes to the subject of marketing in 2024. Internships with a business will give students a window – three months, six months, a year – into the realities of the professional path they’re about to start once their last exam is behind them. Even while working in the weeds of administration duties, students are exposed to the nuances of different industries, shop talk and a long list of potential career paths to model. 

Becoming a marketer is a popular career path in Australia with over 80,000 currently employed. This number is expected to grow a further 11.4 percent in the next two years. For whatever reason, students are drawn to marketing in a big way. And while most ‘marketers’ will graduate with a relatively similar credential, they will be judged differently on one key factor: work experience. Internships can be the deciding factor between being invited to interview for a job. Intracurricular internships have been found to increase your chances by 11.4 percent, while extracurricular internships can bump up your chances by 14.3 percent. 

Money and time

Internships improve the chances of getting a seat at the table and a shot at that dream role (or, at a minimum, a stepping stone towards it). Imagine that two freshly minted graduates with the exact same grades apply for a marketing coordinator role at Qantas. One student gained three internships while studying, spanning diverse industries and job functions, including work experience with a competitor. The other has no internship experience. 

In my anecdotal experience as a university marketing tutor, many more students fall into the latter category. Some will put this down to laziness and/or lack of direction. After speaking with hundreds of students, I put the problem down to money and time. 

Earning a degree in Australia is sending thousands of students into poverty. The people most heavily hit by rising inflation are vulnerable groups, including students. This ABC report says 75 percent of Australian universities have acknowledged rising costs of living is impacting students, while a third reported increased demand for financial assistance. Students juggle commitments to study, part-time work, rent, family and extracurricular activities. Yet a history of unpaid work experience in Australia seems to continue – just look at the majority of brands offering marketing internships on LinkedIn today. 

Why paying interns is worth it

The biggest push back for businesses paying interns even the lowest wage possible ($23.23 per hour) is their lack of experience and time spent training on the job. But this belief discards any value interns bring to the business and shows a lack of understanding in using interns effectively (a topic for another time). Here are three key reasons for why it’s worth paying marketing interns today. 

1. It will increase engagement of interns

There are many stories of bad experiences with poorly performing, unengaged interns. Paying interns helps to increase engagement and productive output. It also empowers your staff to reduce any bias and hold higher professional standards for their work, a win-win for business productivity and student learning. 

2. You widen the talent pool 

Internships are known to be one of the best sources of attracting and retaining good talent. By paying interns, you give more students access to this opportunity that they otherwise couldn’t afford. This will see a more diverse range of student applications, instead of only those with the right means and network.

3. You support a fairer intern marketplace 

While this may be more of a nice-to-have and low on the priority list for SMBs, it’s dubious that large, multibillion-dollar, multinational businesses that stand for world peace can expect free labor in return for a reference. Paying students for their time contributes to our economy and supports the next generation. 

We need to change the business perception around interns. For $176.56 you can provide a paid internship for one full business day and get access to a wider range of young marketing leaders. What business problems could they solve in this time? What projects can you outsource to them instead of owning yourself? How can you start bringing fresh thinking, new ideas and the next group of leaders into your business?

Tom van Leeuwen is the founder of Corner Marketing.


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Tom van Leeuwen

Tom van Leeuwen is founder of Corner Marketing, providing in-house marketing support to small and medium business owners. He tutors marketing subjects to the next generation at Macquarie University.

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