A Look at Student Internships

Following the New York Times article "The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not," there has been a lot of talk about student internships.
Are internships necessary? Should they be required? How long should they last? These are just some of the questions being asked by students, professors, employers and companies’ across the country. However, one of the more heated questions being discussed lately is - should they be paid?

As in any debate, there are two (if not more) sides to the argument. There are folks who argue that internships should always be paid, and folks who argue that payment is not necessary when valuable work experience is being attained.

In 2008, 50 percent of graduating students had held internships, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. That's a lot of students - thousands of students. Many experts estimate that up to one half of these interns are unpaid.

This means thousands of college students in the United States are working for free. In fact, if students decide to take internships in other states, away from their college, they actually und up paying to work. Plane tickets, food, housing - all of this money spent for an opportunity to work...for free.

Luke Sullivan, author of "Hey Whipple, Squeeze This" (a book I read a few semesters ago in an Advertising course - I highly recommend it), argues that "Interns should be paid. With money." In response to the argument no payment necessary if valuable work experience is gained, Sullivan responds,
Oh, bite me. If you really believe that, how about you and me, we’ll go out to the street right now, flag down a cab, and see if he’ll take us to the airport in exchange for some valuable on-the-job training.
There are, however, those who indeed believe that the experience, the skills learned, and the opportunity to network are enough of a payment for student interns.

In the case of unpaid internships, according to federal legal criteria, there are six requirements which must be met in order for an internship to be unpaid.

Students, do your internships meet these requirements?

As a student who has completed several internships and plans to complete several more, I will remain neutral in this debate for now.

What do you think, should all internships be paid?

A post about a heated debate would not be complete without a Colbert clip.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Unpaid Internship Crackdown
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News


  1. Ally, this is a great post. I have also done many internships and most of them have been unpaid. I have never felt that I should get paid because I am actually there to learn from them and gain experience. Yes, I am helping the company out and doing work for them but that is so I can grow and learn from them so when I do get a great paying job I will have, hopefully, already made all my mistake and be an excellent employee!

  2. Of Course Internships are necessary. I do believe that they should be required. I think that Internships are necessary for students to gain professional experience. I think it is important that students graduate with some experience under their belt so that they are not just walking into the 'real world' blindly. It makes sense. I'm glad that St. Edward's requires internships. I think it gives students incentive to try to get out there. St, Edward's doesn't just throw you out there and say 'go find an internship'. they provide students with resume help, internship and career help, and they provide students a web site dedicated to helping students find a fit internship. I have used this web site multiple times. I don't know what I would have done without it or the career planning office. I personally want at least two internships before graduation. I feel like I need that foundation before I graduate.

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