Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Are unpaid internships justifiable?

Internships are beneficial because they help students get jobs in the future. They provide great experience and can boost your resume, but they also come at a price.

Many internships that college students participate in are unpaid or for college credit. This is because most companies cannot afford to pay more employees; in the case of internships that offer college credit, they do so because of labor law and liability issues.

During a semester, doing an internship for credit is a win-win situation at schools like the University of Massachusetts, where students can easily get a credit override at no cost. At other universities, however, where students are only allowed to take a certain amount of credits per semester, it can set them back in earning their degree or cause them to have to pay for the internship, according to Madeleine Overturf’s article, “Unpaid Internships Aren’t the problem—Working For Credit Is” on Between a loaded class schedule and the pressures of an internship, the work overload could be overwhelming because most internships require a significant amount of hours worked per week— hours that could be going towards studying or paid work.

Taking part in an internship during winter or summer breaks could solve this problem, although students would have to pay to do so.

A friend of mine said that her grandmother questioned why some internships are unpaid, considering the fact that students are working for someone or a company. Although that was a comment coming from someone of a couple generations past, it is a valid point. Is that justified? Although they seem to be a lot of hassle for not much payoff, internships are still a good learning opportunity because students are being taught the necessary skills in a particular line of work. During my internship at a newspaper this summer, the editor that I worked under took time out of her day to teach me, but at the same time, I produced many articles for her to publish in her newspaper at no fiscal cost. Maybe in the future, I could get a job at a newspaper because a potential employer will know what I am capable of and know that I learned from someone who knows what they are doing. Although I now have an advantage over other applicants, I took a financial step backwards.

NBC News contributor Nona Willis Aronowitz chronicles in her article “‘No one should have to work for free’: Is this the end of the unpaid internship?” the job-searching struggles of Mikey Franklin, 24. What Franklin observed was that employers do not want full-time employees; instead, they want unpaid interns.
Does this make unpaid internships a type of volunteer work? The word “internship” makes the concept seem more official, but based on the general lack of compensation, they are essentially the same thing.

According to Aronowitz, within the past couple of years, law suits have been filed against major companies who offer unpaid interns because they go against the Fair Labor Standards Act, which “establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.”

Aronowitz quotes attorney Juno Turner, who says “some companies may decide to pay interns because they’re afraid of the law … And some may do it because the public demands it.”

The Fair Labor Standards Act would make internships in which the intern solely performs busy work illegal. At my unpaid internship, I learned a lot, set my own hours and got published, so I would consider it to be beneficial to me. I did not do busy work, so it would not be illegal. Many internship descriptions can be misleading, however. Yes, you may be working at a hospital, but what are you really doing? Answering phones and delivering things, or actually interacting with patients and learning from nurses?

Employers frequently look to see that their applicants have completed and, and many colleges require their students to complete at least one before graduation. And since many companies can get away with calling their interns “volunteers,” it will likely be a long time before interns are required to be paid.


Karen Podorefsky is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].

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