Death of the Unpaid Intern


Jobs aren’t necessarily easy to find these days. Sure, if you’re looking to break into a booming industry, there may be plenty of entry-level positions to be filled. One of the best ways to improve your chances of getting a job is through internships.

Previously, many interns fought tooth-and-nail to get the experience and prestige that comes with high-stakes corporate internships. If you haven’t seen”The Pursuit of Happyness” I suggest you see it; it’s a great movie, but also offers a good example of the vicious competition that comes with high-level, high-stakes internships. These unpaid experiences may be valuable, but to the companies hosting them, they’re becoming risky.

The Department of Labor is cracking down, according to Inc.‘s online magazine. Come to find out, the majority of these unpaid internships are actually illegal. There are laws in place to maintain a minimum wage for anyone, and the most of these unpaid internship positions directly conflict with those laws.

For years, companies have been feasting upon the necessity for one-of-a-kind experiences. They found that the youthful thirst of prospective interns outweighed the need for income. That era seems to be coming to an end. More and more, these young interns are wising up about the law. Lawsuits, both personal and public, have become fairly standard following or during unpaid internships.

Some unpaid positions are, in fact, legally unpaid. That’s a rarity, though. So, as you and I head out to start our careers, we need to be skeptical. We need to understand our rights as employees, interns, and working citizens. Some short-term internships are worth not being paid; however, be sure you defend your rights.

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4 thoughts on “Death of the Unpaid Intern

  1. I always think it's funny when people are shocked by the fact that I've had three internships and they've all been paid. I think college students also need to remember that there are lots of internships out there that recognize how valuable you are and are willing to pay you for that. Yes, experience is great–but so is a paycheck 🙂

  2. One internship position I worked in was "unpaid" but provided a stipend. Sounds great, right? Well it worked out to about $3/hour. I would never complain one bit about my experiences that summer, but just because there is compensation does not mean it will be much at all. I think the stipend route is how many companies get by with the cheap interns. But, if you were interested in the money, you would be looking for a job instead.Great point Kelly!

  3. I had one internship in college. Crop scouting for a company in western Illinois. I expected to be paid, and I was. I wouldn't have taken the position otherwise. I've never understood the unpaid internship thing.

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