Unpaid internships are unfair

Rachel Greene, Opinions Writer

Listed among the numerous degree requirements of various majors is the word “internship.” Generally, an internship can be defined as a shadowing of sorts, gaining professional experience in one’s desired field of work.

Interns do everyday tasks that seem like busy work, but they also partake in real work that is relevant to their field. Internships are nothing new, our parent’s generation had them, and the generation before that. When asked about their experiences as internships, people oftentimes reminisce on valuable lessons learned and valuable contacts met. While internships may seem to serve as priceless and useful experiences for students before beginning their actual job searches, they come at an immense price to some students. In recent years, more and more of these professional experiences have become unpaid internships. Perhaps it is fair that students with no real prior experience in the field are not being paid, but perhaps it is not. The unpaid internship is clearly designed for one type of student; the student who has a secure source of income. Sure, this works for some or even most people, but certainly not everyone.

For many students, taking on an internship means that they are forced to quit their paid job, whether it be due to lack of time or lack of energy. It is difficult to maintain two jobs at once, especially if the student is balancing any classes alongside the internship. They are forced to make a choice; struggle to make ends meet now or struggle to find an entry-level position later. Many students suffer through the months with no form of income, but many cannot afford to do the same. Students who are independent of parental income, paying for their own schooling or simply struggling to find cash for a meal are suffering immensely at the hand of unpaid internships. Even worse, some interns may take on a part-time job concurrently with their internship. This means they are working virtually all day, sleeping less and most likely performing at a lesser degree than their peers. This is not only unhealthy, but also takes away the beneficial learning aspects of the internship. If a student is starving or just drained from the exertion of holding multiple jobs, they will certainly not perform their best. This can trigger a domino effect if the employer is particularly unimpressed with the respective intern’s work ethic. Because the intern was unable to quit the part-time job, they will now have weak recommendation letters and thus weak chances with employers.

Unpaid internships are unfair and honestly could be considered unethical. If a person is required to show up to a position and do work, it seems only fair that they should be compensated. Unpaid internships force students into a position where they must either accept exploitation or accept a lesser future. Labor laws are abandoned and the idea that “time is money” is thrown out the window. While they claim to provide experience, unpaid internships lock the door to success for students without financial stability and cater to students of privileged backgrounds rather than the growing first-generation, impoverished population of college students.