Ask any college student what two things they need more of, and I guarantee the top answers would be time and money. That’s why, among many reasons, it’s unfair for companies to use college students as unpaid interns.
Companies are exploiting college students by hiring and often misclassifying them as interns so that they don’t have to pay them for their work. Many college students willingly take these positions because they are in desperate need of resume-building experiences and are unable to find paying positions.
One of the requirements for an unpaid internship is that it should be for educational purposes. Companies should give the intern the same amount of experience a classroom would, and students should not have to pay the university to complete their internship.
Paying the university for credits places an unfair financial burden on the student, and it dilutes the overall experience.
However, many would argue that the experience gained at a company in your field outweighs the disadvantages of working for free and doing hands-on work for a company may be more beneficial than learning in a classroom.
But students who are not financially independent and receive extra help from their parents may be at an advantage. Many students are expected to pay tuition, monthly bills, rent and other expenses on their own while attending school. If you don’t have the responsibility of paying for these things on your own, you can afford to take an unpaid position.
I chose to take an unpaid internship last fall because I thought it would give me valuable experience in a field I hope to go into someday. I didn’t receive credit for this internship because I wasn’t financially stable enough to pay St. Thomas for the credit. However, many companies state that they make receiving credit for internships mandatory because they fear violating labor laws.
Though I don’t exactly regret the experience, I feel that I was exploited for my work and never received the recognition I deserved. However, because this was an unpaid position, I was still working three other jobs at the same time to help pay monthly bills and personal expenses.
I had to work more than 50 hours a week some weeks while being a full-time student, and there were times when I got home late at night from a long day and would choose sleep over schoolwork.
Internships are an excellent way to gain work experience and build resumes, but when the internship is unpaid, not everyone has the same opportunity to gain from this experience.
Employers are often misclassifying employees as interns in order to get free labor from well-educated students. Internships are supposed to be for the benefit of the student, but it seems unfair that companies are exploiting college students by benefiting from their free labor.
Josie Oliver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.