Internships are an important stepping stone into the professional world for many college students. However, unpaid internships are exploitative and should be illegal.
In a world where time is valuable and students have to work through college, they may not be in the position to take on unpaid work. In 2018, 43% of all full-time undergraduates were employed and 81% of part-time undergraduates were employed, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. With the increasing cost of attending a four year university, it is no surprise why many students need to work during their academic career.
Any employee of a for-profit company must be paid for their time under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, however interns are not considered employees according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This means that interns are not required to be compensated for their work. However, interns do need to be the main party benefiting from the work arrangement for the internship to be legal.
Interns typically work 10 to 40 hours a week. If an internship is unpaid, people will be losing those hours when they could be working a part-time job with benefits and financial compensation. These are valuable hours that not everyone can waste on an unpaid internship.
Because interns are not considered employees, this means that they are not entitled to benefits, including disability and health insurance. With an unpaid internship, this would mean that the intern will not be receiving financial compensation or benefits at all. Working a part-time job could allow people to get those benefits.
The knowledge and career experience gained through internships are incredibly valuable. But not everyone can afford to work for free while in college, and our schools do not accept “knowledge and career experience” as payment for tuition bills. Companies need to take into account the increasing cost of college and living and start offering financial compensation to their interns.