Do you want an internship? It’ll cost you

The mainstream media (liberal, remember!) has one more priceless – or rather costly – story about unfair internships. The Wall Street Journal praises programs that ask for money in return for placements in unpaid internships.

But parents say the fees are a small price for giving their children a toehold in a treacherous job market.

How much more do we need to understand that we have a collective action problem? A parent that gives a “toehold” to his kid has just put every other kid behind and other parents will be pushed to do the same until everybody is paying to get a job and we’re back at square one. What do you do then to get ahead? You pay more. That’s how you go from accepting a lower pay, to accepting something below the minimum wage, to accepting an unpaid job and now to paying to get one.

But Megan, then 20, had already applied for 25 summer internships and hadn’t received any replies.

Do we need any more proof? Maybe this.

The program they used (…) is one of a handful of for-profit internship companies that have sprung up in the past few years.


Gina Philips, Los Angeles, a consultant to the Alzheimer’s Association, says demand from wealthy parents has led employers in the entertainment industry to create internships that otherwise wouldn’t exist, just to help raise money.

And I spared you all the justifications that finally, these pay-to-work schemes are making the job market more fair to the less fortunate. Lucky you.


4 Responses to Do you want an internship? It’ll cost you

  1. Melinda says:

    Thanks so much for this site. After graduating from journalism school, I learned that you absolutely cannot get a job without an internship. Unfortunately, another student and I were working our ways through and couldn’t afford to take an internship that was unpaid or paid half what the average work-study job paid. Neither of us got a job after school. She went home to Bulgaria. I went to work at grueling full-time “day jobs” and freelanced on the side, often un(der)paid.

    I was so excited when I got my first post-graduation interview with a major science magazine, Seed. What did they have to offer? A 2-month unpaid internship where you had to work 40 hours PLUS overtime and sign a contract guaranteeing you would not work for anyone else during the internship. They said they absolutely did not hire anyone who didn’t go through their internship program or have previous internship experience. Sadly, lacking a trust fund or wealthy/generous parents, I had no choice but to decline.

    Six years after graduation, I’ve never had a full-time journalism job except a brief low-paid stint at an independent publication where I had to do a “trial period.” When the job offer came, accepting it would have meant that my hourly wage would be about 60% of minimum wage. I declined, moved on and ultimately left journalism altogether.

  2. JaredW says:

    I had an unpaid gig at a financial firm. They worked me like a dog and looking back it was so unfair. is a site where interns can review their experiences, I know what I’m gonna say!

  3. exintern says:

    Thanks a lot Melinda for your testimony. It’s too bad that you abandoned journalism. Your case is a good example of how unfair internships are to the disadvantage of the interns. They compete against each other and those who accept to be exploited by unfair internships get a leg up. Thankfully, this practice is illegal; sadly, the law is not enforced.

  4. […] that selling jobs isn’t fair game. Timothy Noah, at Slate, picked on an article from the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago. Interesting tidbit: according to Noah, the first report on internships sales was […]

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