Un-paid Internships or free labor?

Posted by Brooke Curran on Jul 27, 2015 12:58:00 PM

An internship is the perfect way for a college student to use the skills he/she has acquired and learn from professionals within the field of their choice. I am lucky enough to have found an internship that gives me a lot of responsibility and pays me for taking it on. But previous to landing this, I did my fair share of browsing internship postings. Optimistically, I would scroll through the postings until I reached, “This position is unpaid”. 

This poses the question: Is the experience I am getting worth digging myself deeper into debt or am I being taken advantage of?

I’ll say it straight-forward…I think the concept of un-paid internships should be demolished.

Disclaimer: I cannot speak for all companies and all internships. I know that every internship and every applicant is different. This is simply a general opinion.

  1. We can’t always get college credit: I understand that a lot of these internships will allow college credit to be given but a common problem I have seen and experienced first-hand is that students have already fulfilled their work requirement and/or the internship happens to be a little out of your field of study and will not be accepted. I understand this is not the companies fault and that it’s not something they can predict but it is something companies should take into consideration.
  1. Working hard for no return: How I see it, if you have someone in your office doing work for you and coming in full-time to do this work…that person should be paid. Believe me, I understand that money isn’t everything and experience is important but college loans are real and they are scary. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t just twiddling our thumbs either. If your intern isn’t adding value to your company, that may be your first problem. Intern’s come in hungry to learn new skills and information so if given the right tasks and trained properly, they can significantly help out your company.
  1. We need to live too: You may not realize it, but we also have tanks to fill and bills to pay.  I think I can speak for a lot of college students when I say that I am not asking to be paid a crazy amount of money, but it would be nice if I could not have to worry about whether or not I have enough money to fill up my gas tank, not ask my parents to spot me on rent, and have to live solely off cans of soup when I am low on cash.
  1. The company’s benefitEvery company needs to realize that when you post a job posting for a paid internship versus an unpaid internship, you are going to get significantly more applicants. Having a larger pool of applicants to pick from will give you a better chance at finding a higher quality intern. Along with that, we are doing work for your company and we are working hard at it. I am not going to dance around it: we are not oblivious to the fact that if you like us, you could possibly offer us a job after graduation. That being said, we want to impress you. Give me your busy work and I will get it done with a smile on my face. Maybe in the beginning it may take up some time training the intern but in the end, you will be saving time having an intern work for you because it is another person doing work. Treat your intern right and you won’t regret it.

All that being said, I can be open-minded and understand that there are exceptions to almost everything in life. I have personally met those who are in difference circumstances where they can live a summer without being paid and be fine financially, good for them. Or there is the people who are lucky enough to land their dream internship and cannot pass up the opportunity regardless of being paid or not, good for them too. I say if it is something you can work with, great but it is important to realize that not everyone can and companies should realize that. We’re not asking for much. It comes down to if you are taking time to pick the right intern and taking the time to train and treat them right, they will be a huge asset to your company. If we are spending our entire summer working hard to make your company successful, I think we deserve to be paid.


What's your opinion on un-paid internships? Let us know in the comments!

Topics: Internships