Internships — Free labor?

internshipA couple of weeks ago, I came across a blog based off of the book “Stuff White People Like” (thanks for the tweet Ali!).  Post #105 was unpaid internships.

Although I don’t consider myself white — I am half Japanese and consider myself mixed — I feel like this post refers to me. Perhaps this blog post in particular can be extended to any young person in college, for I feel like most of the people around me strive to find internships relating to their future career.

Anyway, this blog wrote, “Young white people… prefer internships that put them on the path for careers that will generally result in a DECREASE of the material wealth accumulated by their parents.” This means that us young people would prefer an internship that relates to our career aspirations, and not get paid, to a job where we get paid — but is unrelated to our goals.

Of course we’d like the best of both these situations, a paid internship that relates to our field of study, but those are seeming harder and harder to find.

I just got accepted at two internships, both unpaid. Right now, I feel like this is the best fit for me. I get to shape my own hours, both of which I intern for less than 10 hours a week each — something that I wouldn’t have as much control over at a paid internship. My internships are both with nonprofit organizations, places where there isn’t much money in the first place. Even though I don’t get paid, I want to work in nonprofits when I graduate so the experience I’m getting is exactly what I need.

If you look at it from the other perspective, unpaid internships are free labor to the company or organization. Is this really fair? Many internships require a lot of work and effort out of the student, as much as any employee, but they are not getting paid. Hmm, what a dilemma.

In all, internships are very important for college students. You don’t want to graduate without any experience;  it would be much tougher to find a job. Personally, I feel like it’s more important to find an internship that fits your wants and needs than to find one that pays well. Maybe that’s just me.

Perhaps my colleagues feel differently. What do other college students think about unpaid internships?


4 Responses to Internships — Free labor?

  1. Claire says:

    I’ve had unpaid internships in hospitals last year. I’m a Student Nurse, and I haven’t really thought about getting paid for those internships since I kinda feel that I don’t have the right to receive any. But, when I read this, I guess, it’s a bit unfair if you think it is. When I built my free online resume at and posted my jobs wanted ad, I’m already aiming for paid internships but that’s wishful thinking.

  2. You make a good point when you say that some internships are just as demanding as real jobs, but don’t pay. I feel that is unfair. However, the internship experiences I’ve had have been very laid-back, set-your-own-hours sort of things. In that sense, I can’t complain because internships are just expected of us now. Just a simple degree won’t cut it anymore– darn!

  3. Katie Horley says:

    Congrats on your two new internships!
    You make a valid point on the importance of having the experience of an internship. It is interesting how the popularity and the need for internships have grown over the years. The number of new college graduates are increasing, as jobs are decreasing. Just another reason why internships are so important.

  4. ninouye says:

    Thank you all for your opinions. Right now, I am satisfied in my unpaid internships. Hopefully they will give me enough experience to help me land a job when I graduate.

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