The Debate Over Paid vs. Unpaid Internships

The debate over paid versus unpaid internships has been raging for many years now. It might seem obvious; you are doing work and using your time for the advancement of a company. You should be compensated in some manner. But what is the correct form of compensation? College credit? Money? Nothing at all save the experience itself? There are two sides to the argument: 


Internships should be paid.


Most people cannot afford to not be paid for their time. People have bills to pay and need to be making money. Oftentimes, students use their earned money to pay for school. Or perhaps they cannot afford to live on campus and are paying rent on an apartment. Whatever the case may be, most people simply cannot afford to not receive a paycheck. Students need to pay for their expenses and a paid internship is a good solution.


It’s important for someone to make money to pay their bills, but earning a paycheck also helps to give students real-life experience (both in the job they work and in handling their money from their paychecks). It is important to have good financial sense; however, if someone never makes money, how will they learn how to handle it correctly? It’s great for a student to experience both having a job and making a paycheck.


The argument here is that an intern should be paid for their work if their skills are just as valuable as someone who’s been hired as a paid employee and should be treated accordingly.


Internships should be unpaid/for credit only.


Interning with a company is a great way to gain experience and learn marketable skills for the future. This is a huge deal since many jobs require at least 2-3 years of experience, even for an entry-level position. This is especially a good opportunity for freshman and sophomore level students who are just beginning to enter the workforce. An unpaid internship is also a good opportunity for a full-time student who may only have a few hours week to devote to a job.


In addition to gaining experience, many colleges require students to hold an internship in order to graduate. Some colleges focus on getting their students jobs and part of their curriculum is to hold an internship for credits. This can be very useful for college students who are still learning how to network and navigate the professional world. Students can even find future work or full time jobs through connections at their internships, which can be equally valuable (or more valuable) to getting paid. 


It is a company’s right to choose whether or not they offer monetary compensation for a position, and it is every student/job seeker’s right to choose what kind of job they take.


So when does someone deserve to be compensated?


Both sides to the argument have their pros and cons, and there is a time and a place for each type of internship. One needs to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each type of position before accepting an internship. What adds to this dilemma is that there aren’t as many opportunities available. While it varies by location, there is an overall decline in internships offered now, especially fewer unpaid internships. Either a company will just pay someone as a temporary employee, or they won’t offer internships/seasonal positions at all to avoid the hassle of rehiring. You can read up some more on that at this link.


That being said, it is important that companies continue to offer seasonal positions and internships (both paid and unpaid) for those seeking employment during or between semesters. The topic of debate (whether internships should be paid or unpaid) is important, but not as important as the opportunities being made available. Here’s some more reasons as to why temporary positions can be beneficial. Companies realizing the value in these temporary positions and continue to provide opportunities for people what needs to happen is. What many hiring managers don’t realize is that these temporary positions offer valuable insight for those companies and provide students with the opportunity to gain the experience they need to enter the professional world.