A controversial topic as of late has been whether or not students who apply for internships should be paid or not. This is because the pressure to obtain an internship is high because it is often required for students to graduate or secure a well-paying job.
Research conducted by NACE Center for Career Development and Talent Acquisition has shown that participation in multiple internships while in college helps students secure employment within six months of graduation for graduates of the liberal arts. This is a huge accomplishment as students who don’t acquire an internship usually have less of an opportunity to secure employment after graduation. In fact, according to the study, they have about the same chance of receiving a job as people who take unpaid internships. Unpaid internships appear to be less successful in gaining access to a full-time job as people believe.
The problem with internships is that many are unpaid, and students have to work to make ends meet on top of school and the internship. The reason most internships are unpaid is because it’s socially acceptable that they are as long as the intern and employer are in agreement.
Some people who favor unpaid internships do so for the following reasons. Some businesses cannot afford to pay their interns as they are in the process of developing. Dr. Daniel Awodiya is also looking for interns to help with his upcoming magazine but doesn’t have the money to pay them due to the business’s newness. He claims, “If a job requires a skill that a business can provide through an unpaid internship, it would better suit them to acquire the skill that way they could better secure a future with the business they want.” This is a valid reason to not pay your interns, but it can be hard to find students willing to work without pay. Other people believe that the experience is valuable in itself. It allows for the student to make connections and gain experience in their field alongside other employees. It may also allow them a future position at the company. The company can also fulfill a credit requirement for a class in leu of payment.
The problem with big businesses not paying their interns solely for the fact that the experience should suffice is that there are several other companies that are willing to pay students. A student is much more likely to apply for an internship that will help them pay bills while also providing valuable experience. An unpaid intern is more likely to be less motivated to do good work for a company in comparison to paid interns.
According to Mark Babbitt, founder and CEO of YouTern, “Happy Interns are excited to come to work and put forth their best efforts. They will positively compliment your company and have more time to work for you since they won’t be battling the schedule of part-time jobs.”
Choosing to not pay your interns can become illegal and unethical as well. There are six standards a company must meet to appease the United States Department of Labor. The internship has to be educational, beneficial to the intern, not displace current employees, the trainer cannot use the intern to their advantage, the intern understands they are not entitled to a job afterwards, and both the employer and intern understand they will not be paid for their work. This way the intern will not qualify for minimum wage. If a company fails to meet a standard, they are at risk of being sued by the intern. It’s bad form to take advantage of a student looking for work and will certainly make your company look cheap.