October 3, 2017
During my internship last spring, I spent some time fact-checking.
As a journalist, I’m used to doing this; it’s a vital part of my job. But it can be tedious when you have to do it for someone else.
After making some spelling and grammatical errors in an article I had written, my editor gave me an exercise in using a color-coded system to check names, addresses, dates and basic facts in a few articles.
I wasn’t happy to do such a tedious task, but in the end it was worth it.
I took what I learned to be more accurate in my own writing, and I was able to pass this skill to my staff at The Scribe.
Luckily, I received class credit for my time, but I wouldn’t have been able to be an intern if I didn’t have another job to pay my expenses. However, not all students have the time or money to devote to an internship, especially one that is unpaid.
Internships are a privilege and in some industries, like journalism, they are an important element to a student’s success in their career field. For those companies who are not able to pay or offer class credit, those same students won’t gain that experience outside of the classroom.
This is why companies should be cognizant of how they can compensate students either by class credit or an hourly wage.
The opportunity cost of taking an unpaid internship is high in comparison to taking one that is paid.
Consider students who pay their own rent, gas, car expenses, living expenses – you name it. Money is a necessity to get by, and an unpaid internship won’t pay the bills.
Even a minimum wage salary would help alleviate this; according to CNBC, the typical summer intern who works 40 hours a week for 12 weeks would earn $3,480 before taxes. This type of compensation may be small, but for some, it can go a long way.
A couple arguments should be considered when it comes to whether or not companies should pay their interns.
Those who support unpaid internships argue that the experience is valuable to put on a resume and advance in one’s career. However, according to a 2014 article by Forbes Magazine, opponents of unpaid internships say that companies are able to exploit students, take entry-level jobs away from qualified applicants and favor those who don’t need to make money to survive.
To me, it seems that the ladder is true.
Data on how many paid and unpaid interns there are in the U.S. doesn’t exist, according to ProPublica, so it’s hard to compare how many students take these opportunities.
But it’s important to know that internships are regulated depending upon where you want to work, but these rules differ.
Non-profits at times pay a “stipend” for “volunteer work,” according to the National Council of Nonprofits.
And according to the U.S. Department of Labor, those who want to work in the public sector, unpaid internships are permissible, and students volunteer without the expectation to get paid.
For students who look to intern in the private sector, their internship must be educational, must not directly benefit their employer and does not replace existing workers, according to U.S. News & World Report in 2016.
That should mean you aren’t going on a Starbucks run for the whole office and taking out the trash. But it sometimes doesn’t.
These rules can be ignored by companies like Conde Nast, the media company responsible for magazines like Teen Vogue, Allure and The New Yorker, which came under fire in 2015 after a group of interns accused the conglomerate of underpaying them. Ultimately, the company won $5.85 million.
The point is that if students, who are juggling a variety of responsibilities on top of interning, dedicate their time to working for your company, you should find a way to compensate them.
The experience is invaluable if you can afford it. But it’s a privilege that many can’t.