Avoid The Unpaid Internship

Sep 16 2013 @ 10:31am

In one list, Alex Mayyasi rounds up the ways unpaid internships are terrible:

Internships are a gender equity issue. Seventy seven percent of unpaid interns are women. The reason may be that unpaid internships are prevalent in women dominated fields like fashion, health care, and nonprofits, but it certainly contributes to the pay gap.

Internships are not a good way to land a job. One survey found that graduating seniors with unpaid internship experience did no better than seniors without internship experience at finding a job. Another concluded that a measly 17% of surveyed students received a job offer after their internship. The exception is paid internships, which did lead to job offers.

Internships are a free revenue source for colleges and universities, which pocket thousands of dollars for each student that interns for academic credit. Instead of paying professors to teach their students, they can receive the same tuition money for sanctioning unpaid work under the guise of an educational opportunity.

Previous Dish on internships and their discontents here, here and here. Dish Publishing LLC’s own approach to internships is detailed here and here (short version: paid with health insurance). Update from a reader:

One reason I felt comfortable subscribing to the Dish, content aside, was that you provide health insurance for your team, including the paid interns. Had you not, there’s a reasonable chance I would have had to give up my Dish addiction; I feel that strongly about it.

I would be happy if insurance didn’t have to come through employers. I have very manageable yet annoying health issues like allergies that keep me tied to a job with health insurance. I was lucky enough in college to get a paid internship with health insurance – I would not have been able to take an unpaid internship anywhere – and honestly, it costs large companies a comparative pittance even to give interns a really good wage.

I’ve seen lots of internship programs cut in this recession. My engineering group was meeting at a local company that has a wall of photo proudly documenting their interns for the last 30 years, and they all looked ghastly as they explained how their longstanding program had been gutted for short term “cost savings”. Internships are a big deal. Unpaid internships are a crock.

I’m happy to support your efforts to pay real wages and real benefits.

If you share her feelings and have not subscribed yet, you can do so here for just $1.99/month.