Should Interns Be Paid? The Debate Rages On
By Justin Bariso, Founder, Insight
The opinions are polarizing. What do you think?
Ah yes, the internship.
It’s where many of us fine-tuned our coffee brewing skills, and got our first taste of work in the real world.
A few days ago, American businesswoman Ivanka Trump shared an article on Twitter that implied she doesn’t pay her interns. I thought it raised an interesting question:
Should interns be paid?
I posed the question to my followers on LinkedIn, and that piece quickly went viral. To date, almost 700 commenters have shared their opinion. (And to be clear, the question and my opinion aren’t politically motivated; as many have correctly pointed out, plenty of business owners refuse to pay interns, regardless of political affiliation.)
What did the internet have to say?
Here I’ve collected some of the most interesting arguments, from both sides. (Comments have been edited for grammar and brevity.)
Work equals pay
“I would rarely take any business advice from someone born into billions and who has never had to work, with all the intrinsic responsibilities that that includes. I don’t have a problem with people inheriting money, being wealthy, or enjoying privilege. I don’t doubt that she has had challenges, and I am not judging her. But in this conversation, she is wrong. People deserve to be paid for their work–not told to work a second job to fund a first that doesn’t pay.”
“A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work–that’s an exchange that’s mutually beneficial. If an employer wishes to forgo pay, deeming the experience they provide specifically for interns is over and above the experience of the other employees (also at entry-level positions), then maybe pay may be waived. But I would say this needs to be an actual program of professional development, where the ‘student intern’ walks away with some new skills, credentials, or certification as part of their experience at that job.”
“An honest day’s wages for an honest day’s work. I always pay interns. They may not be making the same salary as a full-time hire, but it seems unconscionable to take advantage of a kid looking to get some experience.”
“Companies should not be forced to pay interns. The fact that people still compete for unpaid internships shows that they are still relevant. If a person wants an internship bad enough and it’s not paid, they will make it work. They will work a night shift to pay rent while they gain experience in the day. Want experience in your field? Go work your tail off like the rest of us and quit asking for a handout. Entitlement mentality is loser mentality.”
“Are we forgetting how economics works? We exchange value for value. When an intern starts getting paid, they have effectively become an apprentice. Even as an entrepreneur, I am willing to do a reasonable amount of work upfront, unpaid, to build trust and win the sale. Very typical of a socialist, victimhood, safe space generation to want paid internships. Bring value, demonstrate your worth, and learn to negotiate your payment. Welcome to the real world.”
—Bala C. McLay
Companies are missing out
“Those people who cannot afford to be without a paycheck can’t accept an unpaid internship. Unpaid internships help those better off, while the company misses out on potentially better talent.”
“Many talented, deserving people can’t afford to work for free no matter how rewarding the experience is.”
We’re doing them a favor
“No work done in engineering by an intern could be accredited. We do not hire them; it’s mostly universities that request us to take them before or after graduation. We give them opportunity to learn in a real world. However, this assumption they need to be paid minimum wage makes many small businesses shut doors as they cost us!”
—John Ole Keko
“I have no problem with interns getting paid for what they do, and that is wonderful that some companies choose to provide that for them, but that does not mean that we should shame companies that do not. The point of an internship is to gain professional experience to make you more competitive in the job market, not necessarily a part-time job. By shaming companies that do not offer compensation, or ‘fair’ compensation, one is potentially limiting the opportunities of students and young professionals to land internships in their field of interest.”
—Ben Inabinet IV
The debate rages on. And so, I ask you:
- What are the goals of an internship, from the perspective of both company and intern?
- Should interns always receive wages?
Article originally posted on Inc.com.