There’s been a backlash lately against companies that hire unpaid interns. Last June, a federal district court judge found that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated minimum wage and overtime laws when it failed to pay production interns who worked on the Oscar-winning film Black Swan. Similar class action suits have been brought by interns against the Hearst Corporation, Gawker Media, and NBCUniversal. A grassroots effort to abolish the practice, the Fair Pay Campaign, is pressuring colleges to stop steering students into nonpaying internships, arguing that unpaid work can push students into debt or unfairly discriminate against lower-income students who can’t afford to take a nonpaying job.
A recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers finds that a paid internship has distinct advantages over an unpaid internship. The survey reveals that 63.1 percent of paid interns who graduated in 2013 received a job offer, compared with 37 percent of those whose internships were unpaid. Those with paid internships also had a median starting salary in postgraduation jobs of $51,930, compared to $35,721 for those who had unpaid internships.
That said, there are plenty of defenders of unpaid internships who say that such internships can provide students with invaluable experience and contacts, often in highly competitive fields.
“YouSpeak” asks: Should all student interns be paid?