Why Unpaid Internships Should Be Banned


A recent post on Craigslist read:

“Film company has one opening for an editor. Must be creative, dependable, and have personality. Great opportunity for college student or graduate. This is an INTERNSHIP, please do not ask for or expect compensation.”

 In 2012 there appear to be three types of internship options for companies and college students:

internships for no compensation, internships for college credit in lieu of pay and Internships that provide modest compensation.

Internships for No Compensation

The first internship option is well presented in the above Craigslist post. It is well to note that more and more internship opportunities seek current students, as well as graduates who are unemployed. The logic is that this “volunteer” experience with employed professionals in your chosen field will help you grow as a person and you will ultimately become employable as a result of the internship. The average cost of a college education is over $100,000 at a public institution and closer to $200,000 for private schools. According to the New York Times, student loan debt now totals over $1 Trillion in the U.S. and is an even bigger problem for most of us than credit cards. College graduates will be saddled with debt (excluding the debts their parents incurred) ranging from $30,000 to $120,000 and be responsible for monthly payments within six months of graduation of between $300 and $1400 a month for ten years or more. The question here really becomes why an employer using no cost labor in a tight job market and tight economy would ever be in favor of rewarding a good intern with a full-time job?

Internships for College Credit

Many employers require students to receive college credit for the internship in lieu of pay, to justify that the student is receiving some type of benefit for doing the internship. The problem with this is that many students cannot afford to pay for college credit if they are not paid for the internship. Students doing internships during fall or spring semester can usually roll their internship in with their college tuition (which as we pointed out, they will pay for later); but if they do an internship during the summer, they have to pay the college a per credit hour fee. This program is of great benefit to the colleges who get paid for credits where they do not deliver any service. It also provides free labor for the employer with little motivation to provide the proper development and the same lack of incentive to make a full-time hire as the first alternative. The advantage to the student of recent grad is much harder to quantify.

Internships for Modest Pay

Paying interns assures an employer that they are not overlooking successful students who can’t afford to work for nothing or pay for college credits to complete an internship. In addition, it also is much more likely that the employer will want to invest the proper training and supervision to ensure the student will become productive and an attractive candidate to add to their permanent staff. Everybody benefits with this option. The College will have more interns move to full-time placement. The employer will develop a great candidate pool for employment. The intern will develop the skills and references required to become gainfully employed.

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