Overworked and Unpaid

Posted by Kenzie Kramer

Something that you most likely don’t know about me is that I love, love, love scouring internship websites to see the amazing opportunities. I already have an internship that I adore and am not looking for actually looking for an internships to apply for. I just happen to enjoy scanning and seeing all of the cool things that journalists can do. There’s one thing that always amazes me on the websites: a paid internship. Maybe it’s just me, but seeing a paid internship is like Christmas morning for a journalism major.

Is the work really worth it?Image from: Muffet on Flickr

Is the work really worth it?
Image from: Muffet on Flickr

When I talk about my internship to friends and family, I’m always excited to say that it’s paid. They’re typically not very impressed. People who are not in creative fields don’t seem to understand that unpaid internships are a norm for journalism and art majors.

If you think about it, doing that much work for free is kind of odd. Working fifteen hours a week with no compensation is weird when you think about it. Technically students can or are required to receive college credit for their internships. But is that really worth it? I’ve done two unpaid internships while I’ve been in college and I have to say that the only thing that kept me motivated through them was to build my resume.

There’s laws set up specifically for unpaid internships here. Basically, students can’t be overworked and they have to benefit from the position. Recently, there’s been a couple of lawsuits that have come out about unpaid internships. You can read about how a woman working at a magazine and a man working on a movie set are starting lawsuits here.

What are your feelings towards unpaid internships? Are they exploitation or opportunities?


6 responses to “Overworked and Unpaid

  1. I totally agree with your Christmas morning comment. Such a bonus. But I think the main reason why so many internships are unpaid is because our industry is so cutthroat. On a resume, employers don’t want to know if you were paid or not; they just care about your experience. Of course, employers exploit the financial advantage of not having to pay us. But we can’t see it like that, because they’re basically doing us a favor by hiring us. Without unpaid internships, I don’t think the whole idea of “starting from nothing” would be as prevalent in our field, which is what makes it so competitive and so respectable if you make it to the top. Same thing with clips. If I pitch something, I never ask for pay–if anything, I’ll specify I don’t need it. Just want to get published!

    PS: Check your email asap, girl! Tomorrow is our last meeting–thanks.

  2. I think they should at least pay minimum wage, but I suppose some places that don’t pay probably wouldn’t hire as many interns if they had to pay them all, so in that respect it gives more people opportunities.

  3. Dawn, I agree that they should at least pay minimum wage. A lot of unpaid internships require that students receive credit for the internship which makes it legal because they’re receiving some sort of compensation. However, some schools charge students to get credit for internships so they end up paying even more.

  4. I think all internships should be payed. It can be minimum wage, but a salary keeps things professional. If businesses expect interns to be a part of their company, they need to pay them. I understand that many business offer college credit, but most journalism students don’t need – or wait because of other college requirements – more journalism credits.

    This is an excellent topic to discuss.

  5. Jeff, you make a really good point about interns feeling like a part of the company. I’ve had two unpaid internships and I didn’t feel nearly as connected to the companies as I do with my current internship.

  6. I agree, I think that the internships should be paid. But often, some of the best experience you get and learning opportunities come when you aren’t being paid. As Meagan said earlier, employers only care about the experience you got from it and what you learned. I have had an unpaid internship and I just tried to learn as much as possible and get the best experience from it, so when asked “What did you do at ____” I could blow them away with what I got from the internship.

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