Unpaid internships are unfair
April 7, 2008 —
As summer approaches, so do internships that many college students will pursue. While I'm not one of those students, I have friends who are. What's unfortunate is that many of these internships are not paid.
Internships are fast becoming a necessary pursuit in the college student's life. My friend in graduate school in South Carolina says her program requires her to do at least two internships during her studies. Vault, a Web site focusing on career information, did a national survey last April that found that 84 percent of college students planned to complete at least one internship before they graduate.
Internships are something employers are now looking for on college graduate resumes. Internships have a tendency to become more as well. A study in 2003 suggested that 38 percent of interns turn into full-time hires. When you consider that many students are interning with school still left - meaning 38 percent only accounts for post-graduate students, interns stand a great chance of profiting.
Many businesses, however, take advantage of students' needs, as there are many internships that are unpaid or only worth college credit (which student's pay for). I looked through a portion of the listings on the SVSU Career Planning and Placements's searchable database and found roughly a fourth of the internships listed as unpaid. Many of the internships did not define the pay, so perhaps the figure is higher.
I can't speak for all college students, but I'm fairly certain a good portion of them can't exactly afford to work 20 or more hours a week for no pay. Many students have to pay rent, phone bills, car insurance, etc. An unpaid job, even if it offers extremely applicable work experience, is itself not applicable.
What is worse is that these unpaid internships are further supporting the unfair economic class system that already exists in our capitalist nation. Ten years ago, a study done on internships found that 60 percent of the mostly unpaid internships were attained by students coming form households that made over $100,000, which was about 20 percent of college students at the time. This results in the upper or upper-middle class college graduate with a prestigious internship more likely to get the job than the lower or middle class graduate who doesn't.
This is an issue purely on the ethical level of not paying someone for the work they're doing. I feel that those with more opportunities shouldn't be given more opportunities. I'm not blaming the students who have less financial burdens than myself; I'm blaming the businesses that offer unpaid internships. They don't have to be paying interns well, but the last time I checked, this country did have a minimum wage. You'd think these businesses would, at minimum, offer their interns that.