Spring cleaning: Let’s get rid of unpaid internships

CARTOON: The Unpaid Intern

Internships are a potential segue into jobs after graduation, depending on how well you do, and unpaid internships are an insult to the developing professionalism a student offers a company. 

For certain majors here at UK, completing an internship is a requirement to graduate. They are a highly recommended tool that we as students can use to prepare ourselves for the workforce.

With that in mind, if internships are sometimes required to graduate and internships are basically jobs, then why are some internships unpaid? Is it because some places where people intern have limited funds to pay their interns? Is the problem that internships are supposed to be more of a learning experience and less like a job? If the latter is the case, it is not necessarily applicable. Even in the professional realm, jobs are learning experiences. Just because an intern is a student does not mean their work should be valued as lesser. 

Whatever the reason why some places do not pay their interns, the fact remains that some interns are doing work that they are not getting paid for, which is unfair to the students.

Imagine if you were working somewhere under the pretense that you are going to get paid for your work and suddenly your supervisor comes to you and says, “I am not paying you for this work. Sorry.” Chances are you would be angry.

As hard-working adults, we have bills to pay. Students living off campus typically have to pay their rent, their electric bill, their car insurance bill, gas for their car, upkeep for their car, the food they eat and more. Required internships that are unpaid only add to the stress for college students. 

Many college students work for a living besides going to class. We don’t have our parents paying our way through school and giving us money to live on, contrary to some beliefs. We are 100 percent financially responsible for our own college careers. Some people have a tough time keeping up with classes because they are often working late night shifts and don’t have much time for homework. 

We are lucky in the journalism school to have a wide array of paid internships to choose from. But unfortunately, unpaid internships are a problem many college students still face, and we need to end this and ensure that college students get paid for the work they do.