Unpaid internships are often inaccessible

By Meredith Howard | Staff Writer

Employers love to see internships on applications, but many job-seekers don’t have time to dedicate to unpaid work.

I had the means to quit my part-time job to pursue an internship this summer, and I really enjoyed it. However, not everyone has the opportunity to have the same experience.

I was actually offered paid freelance work when I finished my internship with a business journal in my hometown, but I likely wouldn’t have gotten an offer to get paid if I hadn’t completed the internship.

The problem with this system is that unpaid internships are only available to students who can afford to take time out of their week to do free work instead of getting a fast-food or other entry-level student jobs.

Students who can’t afford to take unpaid internships are therefore put at a disadvantage in the job-seeking process because they may not have the same connections or resume as former unpaid interns. This employment system is a class-based gateway, and it has a domino effect on students who can’t afford to take time off their paid jobs.

For instance, I was only able to sacrifice my paid job for the internship because my parents plan to pay off my student loans for me. Because of my economic privilege, this didn’t cause me to suffer from a significant impact on my finances.

Unfortunately, many students aren’t in the same situation, so they would have passed up the internship to continue working their regular jobs.

When students aren’t able to take unpaid internships, they don’t get the same job experience that others do.

This causes lower-income students to have a harder time entering into their career field, because they may not have the same connections or resume as former unpaid interns.

As a result, the professionals from larger companies that rely on networking to find their employees are likely from higher income families, and students who couldn’t do unpaid internships may be stuck in entry-level jobs.

The problem with unpaid internships is that many companies, especially in the news world, can’t afford to pay interns, but they require experience to achieve even a lower-level position. These requirements perpetuate a system that segregates positions based off class.

Companies don’t generally exclude lower-income applicants on purpose, and I don’t think people who offer unpaid internships do so with any ill-will. But nevertheless, the consequences still exist, and it’s unfortunate that not everyone is able to experience working in their field as a student.

I understand that it would take valuable resources from a company to pay interns, but I still believe a solution should be worked toward to give students equal opportunity regardless of their financial standing.

Internships for college credit are great, but they should still be paid, because they take much more time out of a student’s schedule than the average three or four-hour class.

Despite my opinion that internships should be paid, I recognize that there are benefits to the other side. One positive factor would be that companies save money. Students may also feel less stressed in completing their work knowing that they don’t have a financial stake involved.

Some companies can’t afford to pay interns, and don’t want to open unpaid internships for just a more financially privileged demographic. They may decide not to offer internships as a solution to this.

Even though it’s not always the most cost-effective, I believe internships should be paid whenever possible.