Today is apparently National Intern Day.  It’s trending on Twitter.

Right off the bat all of the Tweets I’ve seen on this subject about the importance of paying interns and how internships are racists, etc.

I have worked two internships in my life.  Neither were unpaid.  I’ve never actually heard of an unpaid internship in engineering.  No engineering student would take it.

My best friend from high school worked several internships with Wall Street firms.  He was getting a degree in International Finance from Wharton.  All his internships were paid.

I get that some kids may want to intern with a Congressman or Senator because that sounds cool.  Other kids may intern for some celebrity news anchor.  In those cases, you are paying for the privilege of making connections to advance your career.

For everyone else, if you are expected to work and unpaid internship it is because the market is flooded with people with your skill set that your value is zero.

Take an introduction to economics course and learn about supply and demand.  Then ask yourself what it means that people are willing to work a job for free.  Maybe factor that into thinking about your chosen major and career.


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By J. Kb

10 thoughts on “Advice for the kids”
  1. “experience doesn’t pay the bills” bullshit! I am a civil engineer and as my experience increased so did my salary and responsibility. You get paid by what you know, unless you have a degree in women’s studies

    1. Even if you have a degree in woman’s studies — because then you’re unemployed, being paid for what you know: nothing.

  2. I’m not going to say free internships should be illegal. An employer and employee should be allowed to come to an agreement on whatever pay the two can agree on.

    I will, however, say: Never take an unpaid internship. Your time is worth more than that.

    1. Under the law, Workman intern does should be peripheral and not part of the Duties of regular employees. The idea is to keep a company from having an entire unpaid intern workforce. I reality, they all cheat at this.

    2. You learn more working at a minimum wage fast-food job. If you’re taking an indentured servitude for “connections”, you don’t have a career, you’re not a professional — you’re a courtier.

  3. I worked a couple of summers while in collage as what I call a “semi-intern.” the collage had a co-op program with the near-by Atomic Energy Commission site. We were trained as radiological protection technicians and paid a stipend of $200/mo. (ca 1971) not a living wage by a long shot, but it paid for tuition next term, plus a few beers. That experience allowed me to get a full time job when I took a hiatus from college. That job paid for the rest of my college, and living expenses. Graduated debt free. So was I glad I did the co-op thing, absolutely.

    Would I have done it unpaid? At the time I’m not sure, in retrospect, yes.

  4. “Interns deserve to be paid for the value they add to an organization.”

    I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to charge the intern, so unpaid is the most equitable arrangement that can be managed.

    I’ve done one paid and one unpaid internship. The paid was mechanical design, and the unpaid business admin.

    Looking back I can see that the reason the mech-d was paid was because the school had taught me actual, marketable skills. Business Administraion teaches the theory, but not much application, so you have to go out into the world to learn that. Where the internship is an extension of the classroom like that, the student shouldn’t expect to be paid for something that’s entirely to their benefit and a solid drain on the company they’re “working” for.

  5. My Yankee Uncle and Aunt were boasting about how their daughters both had paid internships. One is involved in microprocessor engineering, the other in mathematics above my head.
    I looked then in the eye and said “That’s because they’re going to have real jobs.”
    Aunt and Uncle both are in non-stem fields and worked as slaves/ unpaid internship for 4 years each.

  6. Paramedics, nurses, and EMTs all have to do unpaid internships. When I earned my EMT certification, it required 36 hours of internship. Then I went to Paramedic and had to do over 400 hours of internship. It is required by law in order to get your license.

    After I was experienced, my department assigned interns to me, so that I could train them. They don’t add value. Instead, they require more work from their preceptor, in that they must be guided and mentored.

    Pass a law requiring paying interns, and departments simply won’t do it.

    1. Medicine is a little different as that is mandatory on the job training. I’m talking about voluntary unpaid internships where college kids do stuff for the summer for free.

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