Social Question

lilikoi's avatar

Would you ever agree to do an unpaid internship?

Asked by lilikoi (10031 points ) February 14th, 2010

In some fields, it looks like unpaid internships are the norm. Some people call them golden opportunities, others slave labor. What’s your position?

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42 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

If it is in your target field of interest especially hard to break into fields, it is a golden opportunity.

drhat77's avatar

It also is an opportunity to see if you want to work in the field prior to committing yourself to all the time and education to get there.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I did an internship during uni for credit. It was definitely worth my while. I learned a great deal about the inner working of the business I wanted to go into.

j3fr0's avatar

If you enjoy it too.. Yeah it would probably be worth it plus think of the experience…

Judi's avatar

If you can afford it . My niece is doing an unpaid internship right now and my MIL who paid for her college is griping because she is still paying her living expenses. I tried to explain to her that this IS continuing education, even if she doesn’t get a piece of paper to show for it.

Pretty_Lilly's avatar

If it is a top company/firm ! Also It is a good way to get your foot in the door.

holiwi's avatar

Definitely take it. It’s the best way to gain experience.

sevenfourteen's avatar

I’ve got 3 of them to do – and I’m paying for them!! It’s called fieldwork, welcome to the wonderful world of health science students.

wilma's avatar

Many people do unpaid work, for their own benefit as well as for the benefit of others. I don’t see why it would be considered “slave labor”. No one is forced to do it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

There is nothing wrong with unpaid internships – many of us take ‘em up throughout high school and college – I even did one in grad school – all have been well worth it and have paid back through recommendations, job opportunities, etc.

LunaChick's avatar

I’ve done an unpaid internship, at a radio station. It was a lot of fun, for the most part. Of course you do the jobs nobody else wants to do, like putting stickers on CDs, etc… but there were also perks, like working concerts.

wundayatta's avatar

Unpaid work often leads to paid work.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

I would do it for the experience.

gasman's avatar

My son did an unpaid internship for 6 months as a web designer at a graphic arts studio. It worked out great—they hired him full-time & then he went to better jobs. So I guess it’s not always a losing proposition. You make a sacrifice in the name of early education & experience, then hope it pays off.

I did a medical internship in the 1970s, taking home $650 / month. That was considered ‘paid’ !

ChaosCross's avatar

If it is what you want to do, sure!

Just make sure you research the colledge.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

It’s cheap labor not slave labor.
Interns get paid in work experience. It’s very hard to find a good job with no prior experience in the field.

babaji's avatar

If it is deeply felt that this is what you want to do or be, and you see a secure future after the internship with this situation, then why not.
of course there are some criteria that must be met,
like can i pay the rent during this time,
and will i have food and situational money for the time of the internship.
good luck.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I would love to be able to afford to do this in order to learn about different interests of mine. For most, it’s cheap labor and an opportunity to get to know the people and “scene” of particular fields.

davidbetterman's avatar

No. If they want me, they gotta pay dearly.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

If you have no experience in a field, this is a great way to put demonstratable experience on your resume, as well as picking up credible references in your field. However, a company who is offering an unpaid internship has an obligation to the students they take onboard as an unpaid intern to provide them with project work that translates to employable skills that they otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to acquire on their own.

drhat77's avatar

@pandoraboxx precisely remember kramerica?

PandoraBoxx's avatar

University of Dreams is a program several friends have bitten the bullet and paid for in order to give their college student experience. No one I personally know has remarked that it was a bad experience.

Frankie's avatar

I’m doing an unpaid internship right now. I’m not even getting credit for it with my university. I’m doing it because it is with an organization I love, because I have the experience they needed for this particular project, and because it looks good to have more experience on my resume. I already have a part time job, so it’s not like I really need more money, so I don’t mind that it’s unpaid. I just like that I’m a part of a huge project archiving the history of this organization that happens to be very important to me. It’s a very rewarding experience.

mass_pike4's avatar

I am at this stage in my life right now. As a Senior, I have to find an internship which will most likely be unpaid. I do not mind either way. I just want to find one asap for the summer!

seldomseenkid's avatar

I did two during university and I don’t think I would have got the job I got after graduating without having done them. But I was lucky enough to be able to afford to do that; I think it is an insidious form of class privilege (here in the UK anyway) that ultimately means greater inequality in the job market.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@seldomseenkid, that’s an interesting point you raise about class privilege and unpaid internships. You cannot do an unpaid internship unless you are willing to go into debt for living expenses, or your parents are willing to pony up and cover your bills, making the gulf between haves and have-nots wider, in a way that has nothing to do with performance abilitiy.

A 2006 NYT piece speaks to the detrimental effect that having unpaid interns has on paid employees. Having people who are willing to come work for a company for free means that the value of paid employees decreases.

YARNLADY's avatar

As discussed above, many people are not only eagerly seeking them, some actually pay for the privilege. Many of the professions in the building industry have apprentices who pay for the lessons and experience they gain while working toward earning their certificate or license, and the trucking industry calls it trucking school.

I’ve read that some unscrupulous business owners are now asking prospective employees to work up to 90 days unpaid to see if they “qualify” for the job. This is against the law.

anartist's avatar

If you really want in to this field AND you can afford it, it makes perfect sense. Even late in life. It is a relatively easy choice when parents are paying the bills and doable with the support of an income-earning spouse. It is a much harder proposition when you really need a job to pay bills. Then you really have to weigh risks and benefits.

aprilsimnel's avatar

But the most important aspect of any internship is to maintain those contacts, be they the people you work with directly or just nice people you run into during the course of your duties. Be someone that they remember as someone they would want to work with again. Even if their place is full up, a person they like will get referrals for paying work down the road.

Nullo's avatar

My first and only internship was unpaid. sorta. I worked at the school newspaper writing for Arts and Entertainment, and arranging the announcements, in exchange for credit hours.

Crazy thing is, I’m good at A&E writing, and I loathe art culture.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

It just depends upon the internship development plan and the people who are overseeing the internship.

I was a hotel administrative assistant nominated for the internship program (yes, it was at pay, but nominal) and spent 6 months working in the various departments. It was all manual labor for the most part, but everything learned was used in the 24 years with the company.

On the other hand, several co-workers that were at other hotels and went through the same program were tasked doing things like tarring the roof, repainting a couple of miles of wrought-iron fencing, and stripping/resealing an atrium floor.

Just do the homework and make sure the company has an internship development plan and the managers will stick to it. Otherwise, you might be better off working at McDonalds for beer or gas money.

Pandora's avatar

Volunteer slave labor. My daughter did something similar to slave labor. She started an intership at minimum wage only her hours weren’t 8 hours a day. They were more like 12 to 15 hour days, but only got paid for 8. There was an understanding that if she didn’t work those long hours that she would be let go. She wanted the opportunity a lot and they kept promising to hire her permanatly with salary but kept procratinating. Why make her a real employee with benefits if they can milk her for chump change. After a year of working those hours for 6 days a week and no vacation time, she was exhausted and she quit. She had to share an apartment with 3 other people to make ends meet.
There are no real laws that protect interships workers from being exploited.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Pandora In which country did your daughter participate in this internship?

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

Yes. Employers like when you have experience

Da1flash's avatar

Hands on experiance is important. One would rather not not get paid and get the maximum pay later on than getting the minimum pay for not having experiance because they thought it would be a waste of time. Employers look for people who are familar in the business or in the field that one may be innterested in doing as a career.

Sayd_Whater's avatar

I’ve done unpaid work because I enjoy it, and because I was a volunteer for an unprofit organization.
However in my area the unpaid interships are the rule and it requires almost 3 years after the degree before getting professional…
Now… I was really lucky to get a paid internship, however most of my collegues didn’t had that chance…The truth is that they only do it, because they have to… And they’re always complaining about it.
I say that this kind of slavery only exists while there’s people who accept it…So in ultimate view, they have some guilt in the process. Of course we should blame the companies that have direct profits from the work. It’s true that you have to learn, but no one should have to pay to work…and that’s really what’s happening since they have several costs just to go to work dispite a 5 year degree…
So If an 18 years old girl show up in a store, with no degree or experience, she will most certainly get paid, or else, no one will take that job.
The problem with societies in some areas where there’s an unpaid internship kind of rule, is that, if you don’t take the job, there will be 20 guys at the door to take it…
The only way to change this, is if EVERYONE rejects such proposal and start to ask for minimum rage salary…at the same time!!!
It’s a RIGHT that no one should ever forget!!! (remember just like the right to vote, many people died for it)

klutzaroo's avatar

Up to three at a time, if it gets me where I want to be. It didn’t, but it was valuable experience anyway that has been helpful.

spykenij's avatar

HA! After getting sick, losing my job and having to move in with my 78 year old mother-in-law? **YES**

nicobanks's avatar

Yes, if I strongly believed that it would be lead to something great – give me the right experience and contacts, etc.

What people have pointed out about class privilege is true but also exaggerated. It’s not as black and white as only rich people being able to do these things or else going into debt.

For instance, my wife has been able to attend full-time studies at college without taking a loan or using credit or borrowing from family, and we aren’t sitting on any wealth whatsoever. For us, it’s been possible by her working part-time (8 hours/wk), me working full-time, us keeping our expenses low, and us having planned ahead so that we saved the tuition and books money, and built up a savings fund to help with our regular expenses in light of her lack of income. And we don’t live in an area known to have low living expenses.

But morally, I don’t think it’s right. It is slave labour.

But I don’t believe that people who take these jobs share in the guilt. If a system requires you to do something, to get what you want, is it your fault you do that thing? That’s blaming the victim.

Ron_C's avatar

I have nothing against volunteer work but unpaid internship are worth the money you’re paid. Unless you intend to be a missionary, member of the clergy, or are independently wealthy, I would stay away from unpaid internships. If you want to do good and at least make a little money, join the Peace Corps.

If you intend to work in industry, my experience is that paid internships lead to jobs. Unpaid internships lead to more volunteer work but no money.

chelle21689's avatar

It’s what help me landed my first job. It was a very boring internship but looked good on my resume.

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