July 2nd, 2013
09:32 AM ET

In praise of unpaid internships

By Michael Moroney, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Michael Moroney is the director of communications at the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

Lawsuits are in vogue this summer as unpaid interns go after their former employers. HearstCondé Nast, and even Gawker are feeling the heat as disgruntled former interns take them to court.

As a recent graduate who used paid and unpaid internships to garner experience and help figure out a career path, I was taken aback by the recent slew of suits. When I was a rising sophomore I started my first unpaid internship at a government relations office Washington, DC. The experience gained and relationships made were worth far more to me than the paycheck I could have made at a normal summer job. My first internship served as a springboard to many other internships – paid and unpaid – that eventually led to the career path I'm on now. The diversity of the internships I completed helped shape my professional skill set and prepared me to compete in an over-saturated job market.

As our modern economy gets more challenging and complex, unpaid internships are an integral part of preparing for the current job market.

As Forbes recently noted, the Supreme Court established nearly six decades ago in Walling vs. Portland Terminal Co. that unpaid internships are legal and exempt from minimum wage laws as long as six conditions are met. These conditions heavily emphasize that the internship is to the benefit of the intern, not the employer. Thus, so long as the intern is aware of, and agrees to, the fact that his internship is unpaid, and the employer approaches the internship with the intention of training the intern rather than just receiving output from him or her, the internship is lawful.

The most important point is that unpaid internships are voluntary, and if an intern feels that the training isn't worth their time, they are free to leave. The inherent frivolity of these lawsuits is that these interns willingly chose to take an unpaid position to further their careers. By trying to extract damages from employers who generously provided a learning experience, they threaten a system that's created opportunities for thousands of students and recent graduates.

Internships also serve as helpful evaluative periods for employers. During a period of supervised training, an employer can evaluate an intern’s professionalism, skill set, and ability to work collaboratively. Characteristics like these are difficult to glean from a resume or interview alone. Internships, therefore, are a low-risk method of giving a potential new hire a more thorough look. Even with entry-level jobs, recruiters prefer tried and tested applicants over a fresh graduate with only a degree.

Unfortunately, in today's fragile economy, the alternative to an unpaid internship is often unemployment, and being unemployed at a young age can have reverberating costs for decades to come.

The most troubling facet of the recent lawsuits isn't the misguided complaints of a few dissatisfied interns, but rather that they could ruin this avenue of opportunity for other aspiring young professionals. Despite the legal outcomes of these cases, the media attention surrounding this issue will surely have ramifications for how companies handle their internship programs – or if they’ll even have them at all.

This probably won't be the end for unpaid internships, but they will certainly dry up in many instances – hurting the young people that need them the most.

Should companies be allowed to use unpaid interns? Are unpaid internships popular in your country? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Post by:
Topics: Economy • Youth

soundoff (106 Responses)
  1. The GOP Solution

    Turn all the Old, Sick, Poor, Non-white, Non-christian, and Gay people into slaves. Then whip them until they are Young, Healthy, Rich, White, Christian, and Straight. Or until they are dead. Then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military.

    July 2, 2013 at 9:34 am | Reply
  2. GlobalBearings

    Hey Mr. Maroney, you chump, let's hand you tens of thousands of dollars in debt, a cratering economy and then demand you work for free for a year. Thanks bro, I'll let that growling stomach of mine know that the "experience" I'm getting should be enough to feed him.

    July 2, 2013 at 10:25 am | Reply
    • Bill

      Mr. Bearings: It sounds to me like you need a paying job, not an internship. The column says it all, it's on a voluntary basis where instead of pay, you get job experience. You're not forced into it.

      July 2, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Reply
      • EPaul

        Internships are "Voluntary"??? Hahahahahaha...crawl out from under your rock old timer. Internships have become the new low-lying fruit that businesses can't have enough of. Because of this, you'll find most colleges and companies now REQUIRE so many hours of an internship. WHY? Because colleges pander to the companies that hire their graduates – the higher the employment rate, the better they look! And companies will do anything to save a buc – even if it means taking full advantage of another human being – SHOCKER!!!!

        July 2, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
      • Mike

        Hey Bill, It seems you missed the point. Yes it is voluntary, but it is also deseptive, abusive, and unfair. 1) To say you get job experience instead of a pay check is scrap. Because when you work and get paid.... get get job experience. 2)Most people don't have money to burn by paying rent, utilities, and food while working for a company for a year for FREE. Of the very select few that do, most are living off of a family member, of government support.

        3) A number of companies see this as unregulated free labor. Most have no intentions of hiring most of their interns, and some don't hire any at all for long periods of time. In some cases, they has one position for an intern to fill, and they filled it 3, 10, or 15 years ago. so every year they get 40 to 60 hours a week out of 15 to 20 new interns. that is 15 to 20 saleries they DONT pay, that is 15 to 20 people who are dependant on other for food, and shelter while a company profits from their work with no compensation. 20 people a year is over 40100 hours of free labor.

        Some companies use hundreds of interns. And if no one is actually hired it is an even bigger scam. Most companies do hire some one, at least one intern, but only after getting 15 to 20 YEARS of free labor. Remember, 15 people as interns for 1 year, is 15 years of labor, ect...

        And don't forget, as the company puts forward the example of the (1) or (2) interns they hired, lets not forget about the 19/20 they did not hire. Lets not forget 90 to 95% of the interns are not hired.

        What do you think that experience is worth, So you worked for XYZ campanie as an unpaid intern for a year, and they didn't make you an offer?? Now do I know if you are a good employee, if they never offered you a job?

        Businesses like these rely on the gross stupidty of a percentage of the population. That percentage can't be defined as a single group, it includes male and female, Black, White, Hispanic, Indian, Chinese, Irish, African, English, Spanish, Russian, and every other racial, cultural, and or religious affiliation. It include high school dropouts, and college graduates, it includes married, and single people, It includes all walks of life without exception.

        It's voluntary right, yeah thats it, because skill, talent, education, prior experience, and/or ability mean nothing, to a company looking to get thousands of hours or free labor each year.

        Can you imagine if the REAL world worked this way. Can you imagine a car salesman working at a dealership for a year... for free. Can you imagine a teenager flipping burgers for a year without receiving a pay check, or a baby sitter watching kids for a year. A nanny, waiting a year before the posibility of a pay check, a bank teller, a teacher, a policeman, a firefighter, our military, our scientist, our mechanics, or plumbers.

        unpaid internships are financial slavery, so what if it is voluntary, No one would do so for free for 20 or 30 years, because you would not be able to surive. So they offer an unpaid internship for the summer, some offer 3 6 or 12 month unpaid internships to highschool grads, college grads, or anyone over 18, why because it is FREE LABOR

        wake up.

        July 2, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
      • j. von hettlingen

        Although "unpaid internships are voluntary", they shouldn't be abusive neither.
        Here in Europe, interns do get paid, not much though. It is some sort of compensation, like reimbursement for travelling and other expenses etc.

        July 2, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
      • IHaveADisproportionallyLargeHead

        The article sums it up when it states "Unfortunately, in today's fragile economy, the alternative to an unpaid internship is often unemployment." Essentially when there are less jobs and more applicants people are willing to work for free or at low wages to at least get experience and are thus exploited. If the demand for applicants were to soar then applicants would actually begin to have options like actual paying permanent, non-temp (Oh we're not worthy!) positions. In the extreme case companies would take you out of high school, train you, and pay you to do a job if they need it done badly enough. Unfortunately for job seekers, its the other extreme where you need a couple advanced degrees, years of experience, the "perfect" personality and a desire to work hard for little pay in order to be able be considered for a job. Take it from a guy with a Ph.D. in chemistry, years of postdoctoral training and industry experience who was out of work for a year, applied to hundreds of jobs, and only got one because of a friend.

        July 2, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
      • avmanm

        Internships are not voluntary. Many colleges and graduate programs have internships as a requirement to graduate. This is to say nothing of the fact that it is impossible to get a job without having interned in that industry first.

        July 17, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • gnomeenthusiast

      Companies don't have to hire interns. In fact, if I had any complain about not getting paid to me I would tell every one of them to leave.

      Either way, you liberal arts goofballs could take this as a lesson in economics and get a functional degree. I was paid over $20/hour as an engineering intern. If they aren't willing to pay you as an intern, why do you think they would pay you as a graduate?

      July 2, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Reply
      • jheron

        You realize that many of the world's largest investment firms also have unpaid interns that work for a year. Also, its not really voluntary when most companies won't look at you if you have no experience at all.

        July 2, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
      • IHaveADisproportionallyLargeHead

        You said it! And, barring brain surgery and rocket science, if you are in a field where there are an excessive amount of hoops to jump through (i.e non- or low paying "jobs" with unrealistic expectations on the part of the "employer") before you can actually begin your career then there probably isn't much real demand for your skill set to begin with.

        July 2, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
      • Laura

        God what a novel idea. Why don't people in liberal arts fields just stop and go into science? That way they can completely flood certain industries creating mountains of unemployment. Who needs lawyers, charity organizers, campaign managers, communications directors, authors, artists, journalists, English teachers, professors, historians....etc. James Madison said something along the lines of "I study war and politics so that my children will be able to study math and science in order to allow their children to one day have the option to study the arts". Besides, trust me, you DO NOT want me building bridges!

        July 3, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • DavidinCorpus

      We did away with our unpaid interns from the local university. You get what you pay for and these kids were useless and in the way. Most of them couldn't keep their faces out theirfknphones long enough to do anything anyway. If you aren't worth paying, you aren't worth having around and as far as apprenticing goes, this aint the fkn15thcentury.

      July 2, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Reply
  3. David Meyer

    Unpaid internships favour candidates who can afford to take them, reducing the breadth of experience and insight brought to the employer. So, as a means of perpetuating the dominance of the middle-to-upper class in the media, and as a way to reduce diversity of opinion in the media, yeah, unpaid internships are awesome.

    July 2, 2013 at 10:25 am | Reply
    • John S.

      David, you miss the point. There are very few ways for someone with no experience to make themselves attractive to an employer, and many of the smart young people trying to break out of a low-income background cycle need that chance.

      The minimum wage encourages employers to hire the best-trained, most experienced person they can for that hourly rate. Why hire the inexperienced when you can get the experienced for the same cost?

      Offering to work for less- in this case, as an unpaid intern- offers a *voluntary* means to get experience that might never be available otherwise. By temporarily living small and taking the tough route of being an unpaid intern, someone can get experience that then allows them to get a better job, starting a virtuous cycle.

      Or, we can do away with unpaid internships, which would mean that only the few with the very best backgrounds- the ones you consider privileged- get hired for the small number of paid internship and entry-level jobs.

      More openings equals more chances to get a foot in the door. Unpaid internships create more openings than if they did not exist. So the more a few people make unpaid internships look like a bad deal for employers, the fewer employers will bother, and the fewer the chance for those who do not already have either experience or conenctions.

      July 3, 2013 at 9:26 am | Reply
      • Jimmy

        I'm from a low income background, working in a field dominated with unpaid interns, and I have never had to take free work. Here is my perspective.

        The experience one gets on an unpaid gig is debatable because (and I've seen this happen to friends) if you aren't getting paid, then you likely aren't being managed properly. How can you grow your skills if you aren't even being utilized correctly? We value the resource we have to pay for over the one we get for free. I get feedback, and have a good deal of oversight on my work. I've seen my buddies with internships do absolutely nothing, not due to laziness, but due to poor management (something that is less likely to happen if you got paid).

        Another thing. All of these unpaid internships represent real demand and they won't just disappear. They might condense a bit from say 10 unpaid internships to 6 minimum wage jobs, but overall we would see a gain in real employment since the work still has to get done. The work, contrary to many apocalyptic thinkers, won't just vanish.

        Unpaid internships are like a hallway with 100 false doors and two real ones. We celebrate the two people who open the real door, and ignore the countless others whose hard work and dedication was never going to lead to gainful employment. 100 false dreams are nothing to celebrate.

        July 3, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
  4. ironwolf56

    Unpaid internships...work for the upper middle class and better. It's almost like a screening tactic to make sure the "commoners" don't get a chance at the big leagues. Myself and so many of my friends were from lower middle and working class backgrounds in college. We were supporting ourselves, our parents didn't have the money to take care of us, and we couldn't take a whole summer to live in NY or DC and work an unpaid internship, we had to have a normal job to pay the bills and stay afloat. And now we suffer...

    July 2, 2013 at 11:40 am | Reply
    • Matthew

      I agree 100%. Is the learning experience more valuable than food, water, and shelter? Some people have to make that choice. The alternative to an unpaid internship is underemployment, not unemployment. (Although it is much more difficult to find a paying job for 4 months than volunteering.) Also BS on the 'learning experience' thing. Companies would not be wasting their time with volunteers if it did not benefit them now or later.

      Kudos to those who made it work by working at night. Personally I can't stay awake for more than 16 hours a day.

      July 2, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Reply
  5. SuperTurtle

    Unpaid internships are nothing but free labor that companies abuse. Don't tell me that my learning experience is payment enough. Internships aren't a one way street, the intern is also providing a service to these companies. If interns weren't monetary benificial then the company wouldn't be hiring them. These companies are not in the business of teaching, that is secondary. They are only interested in helping their bottom line, and nothing does that better than someone who works for free.

    July 2, 2013 at 11:41 am | Reply
    • Patricia

      If you don't want an internship, don't take one. Our company offers two different programs. Summer interns are students working on the MBA that want experience for their resumes. Then we select a few of them to offer 1 year rotational development programs. The 'roadies' spend 3 months each in four departments and they are paid positions. When the year is over, they usually are offered permanent positions in one of the four departments and very good candidates are offered more than one position. The salaries are often higher than we would offer someone with a year of experience. Don't want to participate, then by all means don't. Find your a permanent job but good luck with that with no experience.

      July 2, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Reply
      • EPaul

        Cut the Patricia, Patricia...and tell the truth. the ONLY reason your company has developed such a program is because you're saving a full year of salary. It's a lot easy to have someone work for you for free on a trial basis before actually having to cough up the benefits. So put your forked tongue back in your mouth and go back to taking advantage of the poor schmucks dumb enough to participate in your scam!

        July 2, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
      • Patricia

        EPAUL, Wow, you don't really think this is a profitable venture do you? Our roadies take up far more time from our experienced employees than they ever give back in work. You spend the entire three months getting them up to speed. This is why we limit our roadies and do not ask back all our interns. It is not a scam but a way to find outstanding candidates. Many of them go on to enter our accelerated leadership program and on their way on the fast track. Our interns are often given a project, one that usually doesn't get completed and isn't a real world project. It is to evaluate them for the roadie program. We don't bring in undergrads to copy or file. We bring in qualified people and challenge them. Not every company's intern program is just a glorified errand boy position.

        July 2, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
      • EPaul

        SATAN – I can pretty much guarantee what you're doing is illegal. What is the name of your company?

        July 2, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
      • Patricia

        Clearly you can't read and that is understandable considering your posts. Our roadies are PAID moron. Our summer interns are not and do not work on a real project but a simulation. Moron.

        July 2, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
      • avmanm

        "our roadies are PAID moron. Our summer interns are not".

        But if you have to be a summer intern in order to be considered for the paid position, you are negating your assertion that unpaid internships are voluntary.

        July 17, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
  6. Laura

    Lets be clear, unpaid internships CAN be a great opportunity for those who can afford it. Although I had better grades and more experience then many of my classmates I was unable to accept ANY of the unpaid internships offered to me in D.C and N.Y. How can a company offer an unpaid internship to an out of the area kid and expect them to pay for housing and transportation? Simply because some kid will have the parents willing to pay for it. That is what bothers me. I have to turn down opportunities and watch them go to less/equally qualified students who can afford to pay for their internship. For a lot of students an unpaid internship costs them thousands of dollars. So I'm sorry but the valuable experience I can gain doesn't mean anything to me if it means I won't be able to afford housing and books for my next year at school. Employers should be pressured to give out of the area students transportation and housing stipends. I have no problem being an unpaid intern, but how can you expect a kid to basically pay you to work for your company?

    July 2, 2013 at 11:42 am | Reply
    • JulieMS

      Best case made for having to pay for interns.

      July 2, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Reply
      • DavidinCorpus

        or... here is a novel idea, apply for the job and compete (fairly, unless you are hot) with everyone else. Oh, that is right, rich kids like to skip all the hard work and head straight to the front of the line. fkabunchofthat.

        July 2, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • John S.

      Laura, if the firms are required to pay for things like housing and transportation, then they will offer fewer internships at best, and at worst simply not offer internships at all. The program wouldn't be worth the cost to them.

      The way it is right now, you couldn't take those unpaid internships, but someone did, and they benefited, then they had more experience that would eventually make them more useful to society. Doing it the way you propose would mean that fewer people, if any at all, benefited.

      So, because you didn't get to do it, no one should get to do it? Why make society better by having some people get that experience if you can't get it? I don't think that's what you're going for here, but that would be what happened if things went the way you propose.

      Please, people, think about the effects of what you recommend. You recommend that firms ought to have to pay interns, then stop there. Don't stop there- think about what firms would do then. Consider that firms, just like people, change what they do based on what the government incentivizes or requires. Assuming that the government can pass a law and then everyone will still do the same thing afterwards is short-sighted.

      July 3, 2013 at 9:34 am | Reply
  7. tekctrl

    The author appears to have made the assumption that, since his internships were valuable and educational, that ALL internships are valuable and educational. I'm sorry to announce that this simply isn't the case. Some, but not all, employers use interns as 'cheap labor', present simply to free up the regular/FT employees to do other things. Those interns receive no training beyond the basics required to perform their assigned (menial) duties. It would be pleasant if ALL employers followed the cited guidelines, but just like telemarketers, some don't feel that need. Those employers are the targets of the referenced lawsuits. Maybe the lawsuits will have a salutary affect, or maybe not, but the employers who abuse the internship programs deserve to be brought up short.

    July 2, 2013 at 11:47 am | Reply
  8. Mickey Bronco

    First, usually employers hold out these internships as pathways to jobs when often there is never a job at the end. Second, sometime students are doing this for class credit and thus it is in fact not voluntary as they must stay to complete the class credit. This is even more absurd when you consider the student is actually paying the school tuition to be able to work for free.

    Third, the point you are missing is that these lawsuit are being brought because employers are NOT meeting the requirements laid out by the Supreme Court. Many of these internships are not teaching tools but mere free menial labor for cash strapped employers. We have minimum wages laws in this country. If employers want help they should at least pay the 7 or 8 dollars an hour for minimum wage.

    July 2, 2013 at 11:47 am | Reply
  9. Jobu

    Hey Maroney – this is AMERICA!
    Silly....no one works for free!

    July 2, 2013 at 11:50 am | Reply
  10. Jimbo

    $1 / hour = illegal
    $0 / hour = legal

    Makes perfect sense......

    July 2, 2013 at 11:53 am | Reply
  11. Lulu

    I agree that unpaid internships would seem to favor the wealthy, but I also agree with the author that these experiences can help students to build their resumes and make connections that can get them additional opportunities and excellent entry level jobs. I work with students on a college campus, and there aren't many who will do this; but often times if students REALLY want to gain experience they will take these unpaid experiences and then supplement their income with an evening job waiting tables or doing something else unrelated that can help pay the bills. Are they working a lot? Yes, but it doesn't really last all that long, and if they really want to learn and connect with employers it can definitely be worth it. The sad thing now, is that these experiences will not even be an option for students in the future. By bringing these lawsuits, the students have helped themselves out, but not the future generation. Instead of future students getting paid internships, the organizations that used to hire unpaid interns just won't be offering internships at all.

    July 2, 2013 at 11:53 am | Reply
    • DavidinCorpus

      We cut off our internships program (not our idea anyway). The local university talked us into it and it was a bad idea. The young people they sent us didn't know how to dress right, didn't now how to interact with the citizens properly, needed constant supervision, goofed off on their phones constantly and resented it when you told them to stop, etc. etc.
      Lazy, stupid, unethical, and uninspiring. In one word, USELESS.

      July 2, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Reply
      • Chris

        Seriously, create a pool of trained applicants? A caste system, its not the applicants problem you hired someone who failed as an employee, its you and your management. The Army takes almost anyone, and can turn most of them into soldiers. It turns them into Nurses, Dentist, Paralegals, Clerks, Supply experts, etc. Residency is paid for Physicians, what makes your position that much harder than Health Care? No, hubris and failures of management, but you can keep telling yourself its lazy employees, because you gotta throw someone under the bus.

        Lazy interns? Your not paying them, why should they work hard? Pay them, its incentive, its part of the capitalist system, what incentive do they have to work hard for you? Sorry, people won't sweat for free, your awfully full of yourself that you think they are going to learn an amazing amount from you. Your job is not that hard, get over it.

        College to blame? No. Colleges teach what is needed for a employee, employers are to blame. But whine enough, and get free or almost free labor, its a valid business plan.

        July 2, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  12. Bobleg

    The problems occur when companies often hire unpaid interns and give them false promises to keep them around. Interns can easily be taken advantage of, losing a lot of time and money. They often have to go through significant travel expense to get to their internship and give up other opportunities. There's good reasons for minimum wage laws. Its not to say that some can be invaluable. My advise would be is always pursue internships that pay something, and be very fussy about accepting unpaid internships.

    July 2, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Reply
    • Bill

      That's why you have to caefully select which internship you select. No company is going to make a promise of employment, and even if they do, don't count on it. But, if you select the right one, you can use it to land a job with another company. Heck, the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court all hire unpaid interns and if you can say "I was an intern at the White House", you'll have no trouble finding a job in your chosen field.

      July 2, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Reply
      • DavidinCorpus

        "I was an intern at the White House"
        yeah, that will get you agood job, givin' blowgobs.

        July 2, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  13. Mark

    While I agree with the authors assertion that the lawsuits may or may not have merit, he errors in presuming that employers play by the conditions set down by the high court. I did my unpaid internships and articling; one firm was remarkable and truly embraced the spirit of internship, the other was nothing more than veiled slave labor (whom we eventually had delisted from the school).

    The inherent problem with the unpaid internship, while I agree it has value, is the reality of having to pay rent and put food on the table – these things do not just magically appear and it leaves many students out of the loop. In law, many students cannot afford to be without a paycheck for 10 months. Can any of us?

    July 2, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Reply
  14. Ro

    While I agree that this will if anything just decrease the amount of unpaid internships (nowadays, even those are surprisingly difficult to get), which are the best shot at building some experience early on, some people simply do not get it. Yes, internships are an opportunity to build your resume and skill set and launch your career, but here's the rub: Interns require food and must pay rent. Even living as modestly as possible, you cannot live on $0/hour, unless your parents sponsor you...

    July 2, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Reply
  15. CJ

    I'm reminded of when Cosmo Kramer had an unpaid intern... Not all internships bring the experience you desire, and when you're doing it for free, you're losing twice.

    July 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Reply
    • Bill

      That's why you have to be careful which internship you select.

      July 2, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  16. BT

    While I agree that unpaid internships can provide valuable and meaningful work experiences for students, expecting a college graduate to be willing to work for 6-12 months for free in hopes of getting offered a paying job is just taking advantage of the current (crappy) economic/job situation. Not everybody has a mommy and daddy able to foot the bill so Skippy can work an unpaid internship 'in the city'.

    July 2, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Reply
  17. Trent

    Moroney, let me ask you something. When you held your first internship who paid for your food, your housing, your wardrobe? Were you already swimming in $40,000 of debt after your first year, or did mommy and daddy take care of all of that? Yeah I thought so. For those who don't have an executive in the family and the financial cushion to work for free for a year, an unpaid internship is a slap in the face. It means shelling out gas money and even worse, paying the school for tuition credit to work for free. So not only does an unpaid internship instill heavy financial burdens on students already impoverished by the ridiculous rise in the cost of education, it often requires payment, what the hell kind of logic is that? Unpaid internships is slave labor under the guise of education, and blatant age discrimination. Its only a viable option for the wealthiest of students, who can already coast off of their parent's success.

    July 2, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Reply
    • David

      If you can't afford to take on an unpaid internship, why are you going to a school that costs you $40,000 a year? My ex girlfriend paid her own way through a 4 year college, got 2 degrees and took an unpaid intern, because she planned for it and went to a school she could afford!

      July 2, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Reply
      • Patricia

        Exactly David! My parents paid for none of my college and I graduated debt free. And I worked as an intern and had a full time night job. I went to a two year school first to save money. I lvied in a small dumpy place and ate at home all the time to save money. It's all about what you are willing to do. I have no doubt my internship landed me my first real job.

        July 2, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
  18. Justin

    Mike, as one recent grad to another, let me make it clear that you don't speak for me or most people I know. Unpaid internships are one of the biggest jokes the Boomer generation has handed down to ours. Take on a mountain of debt, graduate into the worst economy in generations, and then work for free so you can get some "valuable experiences." It is a joke, and it is ILLEGAL.

    July 2, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Reply
    • Brett

      I don't get the hostility. Where's the anger for the colleges where you study for for years, graduate with a mountain of debt, and still don't have the skills to land a job? Or to land a paid internship during the last two years of college? Paying for college is optional. "Paying" for an unpaid internship (in the form of living expenses/housing) is also optional. Both may or may not lead to paid employment. For one you are investing four years and well north of $80k. For the other you are investing three-six months and living expenses. Personally, I think it should be up to the individual to decide what learning experiences they wish to invest in. If you don't want to work for free, it's certainly not mandatory.

      July 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Reply
  19. GrogInOhio

    So forget that fact that MANY students are struggling to make ends meet, or even to survive, and force them to work free as a rite of passage? Is this guy a Republican?

    July 2, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Reply
    • David

      Force them to work for free? that's a joke right? Nobody is "forced" to work at all, much less for free.

      July 2, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Reply
  20. Walter

    Yes, it would be nice if they paid people for internships, but the reality is they companies were forced to, they'd pay experienced workers rather than inexperienced ones.

    July 2, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Reply
  21. Jack

    It must be nice to have rich parents. This author is in the clouds.

    July 2, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Reply
  22. angelahoy

    Internships are modern-day slavery. Claiming to "train" someone while having them run for coffee and donuts is not an internship. It's slavery, plain and simple. If you look at the job descriptions for interns on Craigslist, you can see how abused the term is. If your company in any way whatsoever profits from one thing done by someone in your office (even if that someone is supporting other employees), they should be a paid employee. Every employee must be trained to some extent but they are assisting your firm at the same time. It's only fair to pay them for their service.

    July 2, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Reply
    • Brett

      IIt's slavery? Come on. It's offensive to even say that. If you land an unpaid internship and the first three days involve solely running for coffee and filing. QUIT! Go get a paid job at McDonalds or wherever – – the experience will be equivalent. But some people do find unpaid internships are a good way to check out a field for which they would never be hired yet because they don't have the requisite experience or education (yet).

      July 2, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  23. Joshua

    What Mr. Moroney takes for granted is that employers are actually abiding by the laws of the unpaid internship. Fox Searchlight, a court ruled, did not, therefore it is a legitimate lawsuit. And Mr. Moroney should also educate himself a bit on how law works–just because two people agree to something doesn't actually make that agreement binding if there is legislation that prohibits such an agreement. As someone who works in the advertising industry, let me tell you that there's plenty of money to go around. A single executive could take an $80K raise instead of $100K (because some of them really are that high) and afford a paid intern at $20K. That intern would then gain greater experience from doing actual hands-on work that requires independence and responsibility, and become an asset to the industry much more quickly than through an unpaid internship. (If you want to talk about what hurts recent grads, let's talk about student loans and interest rates. Neither unpaid internships nor unemployment help those.)

    July 2, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Reply
  24. Jeff

    Here's my take: if you don't want an unpaid internship, don't take one. It never ceases to amaze me what people will do, then have remorse and sue over later. I was offered an unpaid internship multiple times in college, I laughed at them and told them to F off, and ended up with a decent paying co-op instead (in all fairness, I've got an engineering degree, an unpaid internship is a joke in that field)

    If these suits keep going through, all I see happening is businesses not offering them at all, and not replacing them with paid positions.

    July 2, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Reply
    • David

      You mean, take responsibility for your own choices? what kind of world would that lead to if people started owning their career paths? 🙂

      July 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Reply
  25. Zag

    So there is actual data on his claim that unpaid internships lead to jobs. From theAtlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/06/do-unpaid-internships-lead-to-jobs-not-for-college-students/276959/

    July 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Reply
  26. Me

    Doesn't matter if they work, they're illegal.

    Selling drugs is also a great way to earn money.

    July 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Reply
    • Bill

      No, selling drugs is specifically illegal. An unpaid internship is legal if certain conditions are met. Where I disagree with the author is the characterization that these lawsuits are frivolous. If the intern doesn't feel that the internship is "for the benefit of the intern and not the company", then they should sue and let a court decide whether or not the law is being met.

      July 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Reply
      • Patricia

        To sue is a risk. If a hiring company finds the suit in their research of you, bang, there goes your job offer.

        July 2, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  27. Brandon

    Claim: This author is clueless.
    Source: 90% of the other comments on this thread.

    July 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Reply
  28. MK

    Unpaid internships are nothing new – had those in journalism school back in the 80s. And I could not take advantage of them because I worked to pay, in part, for my education. An unpaid internship that does not offer educational/ skills training, doesn't necessarily open doors to employment, and may actually require tuition payment to a college or university – this does not sound like a win on any level for the student. "Connections and networking" are poor payment if there is nothing that results from them. It does indeed sound like a rich kid's game or a means to increase student loan debt which is anticipated to devastate students' future prospects (and, consequently, the nation's future prospects). Extremely tired of hearing from short-sighted or "when I was young" perspectives – see the reality of now and the potential reality of a bleaker, less positive future as we short-circuit education and opportunity for temporary gains!

    July 2, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Reply
  29. Joan Buchanan

    Having a recent graduated daughter with a BA and a son a junior at nother PUBLIC university, I can say without a double unpaid internships are BS. My daughter was REQUIRED to do 750 hours of UNPAID internships for her degree in Social Work. The school was paid for 12 credit hours (4K). The employer received 500 and the other employer 250 free labor hours, and my daughter paid for gas to and from, and then had to work nights for six months to pay her bills and borrow from family to make ends meet. Everybody made out except my daugher. My son is currently in his 2nd summer internship (required) for a degree in Psychology. The school once again gets their money, the employer free labor, and my son is paying about 100 dollars per week for gas, 360 for rent per month. So in the long-run, I am covering these expenses and I make less than 35K a year. Its a ripoff.

    July 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Reply
    • David

      They could always skip college and go work at a Home Depot pushing carts...or maybe choose a degree that doesn't require unpaid internships to graduate?

      July 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Reply
    • Brett

      I support unpaid internships, but not if they are "forced" upon students . . .that is a whole different ballgame. It should be by the choice of the person doing the internship whether or not to take an unpaid opportunity. I don't believe in the oxymoronic "mandatory community service" either.

      July 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Reply
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