(Potentially) Frequently Asked Questions
What’s an “unfair internship”?
It’s an entry-level position with normal responsibilities that benefit the employer but called an “internship” so as to avoid paying an entry-level salary or any salary at all.
What’s a “fair internship”?
It’s an internship that should be called an apprenticeship: the intern receives a lot of coaching (more than a regular new staff), his presence is more of a burden than a benefit for the organization. If the intern receives an entry-level salary, with normal responsibilities, it’s a job by another name.
Does a stipend make an internship “fair”?
No. A normal salary covers more than housing and food costs.
And college credits?
It might not be enough either.
Economics will tell you that new employees represent a higher risk and hence a lower value
Are they worth nothing? New employees are usually at the bottom of the pay-scale – but they’re not at zero. A normal pay-scale already recognizes this “lower value”.
If they’re not happy with it, interns shouldn’t take the internship!
In many fields, competition is so fierce that students are forced to accept any internship conditions because they need the experience to get a real job. Employers take advantage of this weakness. It has very little to do with having the choice or not.
Unfair internships will always be there
Slavery is gone, child labour is on the way out, apartheid was crushed. Why would unfair internships survive?
Do you think all internships are bad?
No. I even think that internships as they were meant to be are good: short-term learning positions.
Interns are not paid because they need to learn
Doesn’t anybody in a new job learn a lot? Why is it that “interns” shouldn’t be paid for it? The need of a new employee to learn is compensated by lower wages and his learning is rewarded with pay raises (at least in theory).
Unpaid exploitative internships are forbidden in the US
That must be why there are none… It is true however that the Fair Labour Standards Act bans unfair internships. So, let’s use the age-old strategy of activism: hold them accountable by their own standards.
Will you also outlaw volunteering?
No. If you help a not-for-profit organization, then it’s volunteering. If you work for a for-profit organization, it’s an internship and it should be paid, unless it’s educational.
Similar issues are covered in this post.
How can I know if my internship is legal?
See the Resources page.
Oh my, I now see that my internship is illegal! What can I do?
See the Resources page.
Where can I rant against my internship?
In the right-hand side column of this blog, there’s a section about internship reviews. Fire away.