To Intern or Not To Intern: Is Money The Answer?

* any official or formal program to provide practical experience for beginners in an occupation or profession:

* any period of time during which a beginner acquires experience in an occupation, profession, or pursuit:

Those common thread in those 2 definitions is experience. When you commit to doing an internship, the expectation is that your employer will expose you and encourage you to experience the joys and pains that will come; should you decide to pursue that field. Many careers have a requisite that you do an internship. For example, almost all communication majors are required to do at least a semester-long stint at an employer respective to their concentration. When my sister was a pre-dentistry student, she spent her senior year shadowing an orthodontist. Doing an internship can be just as emotionally taxing as holding down a real job. So shouldn’t students be at the least getting be compensated with minimum wage?

Not all internships are just menial, busywork

Two interns that logged hours during the production of Black Swan are suing 20th Century Fox with claims that the film company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. Upon investigation, 1 of the plaintiffs, Eric Glatt, found that the stipulations that constitute an unpaid internship didn’t apply to his work at 20th Century Fox. A few weeks ago, his case was moved to a class action suit; allowing other unpaid interns employed by Fox Entertainment Group to join in.

In college, I interned with the New York Knicks and didn’t get paid. I also interned sporadically with the Los Angeles Lakers from 2005-2007 and was paid by stipend. However the connections I made and people I got to meet were far more effective than a few coins in my account. I met James Worthy, Kobe Bryant, Rick Fox, Lamar Odom, Allan Houston, became good friends w/ Ronny Turiaf and Ron Artest, and attended the draft for 2 years. I also worked for the Magic Johnson camp 2 consecutive summers. I don’t say this to brag or name-drop, but to illustrate a point. I got more access to people that mattered than entry level salaried people did. I sat in on film sessions and handled shoot-arounds, met players’ agents and 1 agent specifically took me under his wing to learn the business side of sports. Those 2 internships gave me invaluable insight. More importantly, they taught me how humility can keep you on the goods graces of people who’ll have a hand in your upward mobility in a field.

My standing opinion is that if your internship is 30+ hrs per week, then you should be paid. Period. For a person who’s also attending college and not receiving much financial assistance, those 30 hrs of free work take away his/her opportunity to make the bare standard of living with a paying job. While likely only 40-50% of internships lead to actual jobs, people need that real job experience to make them stand out amongst hundreds of other applicants. Depending on what your field is, you may develop a camaderie with people who will be more than willing to recommend you for positions that you didn’t even know existed. An internship shouldn’t feel like an assembly line.

Should interns be paid? If so, how much is reasonable? Do you think the experience outweighs the paycheck?


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