DEBATE: Unpaid internships are necessary


Alex McLean

Summer for college students is usually spent in one of three ways: working, lounging on the couch, or at an internship. Internships can range from being specific to your major to simply being an interesting experience needed for a resume booster. However, the internships offered to college students are often unpaid and purely for experience.
The paid internships are few and far between. Often these paid internships require training and sufficient prior experience in order to be considered for the position. It seems too, that most of the paid internships are centralized around STEM majors and often these programs align with the interests of liberal arts majors. And this situation tends to aggravate those who would like to participate in an unpaid-liberal-arts-centered internship, especially when micro-organismal evolution doesn’t sound too fun. However, as long as internships are advertised as unpaid and provide an adequate experience gained to time spent ratio, it’s okay to not pay the students.
Before I eventually decided on a STEM major, I had initially considered majoring in political science. I was offered an internship position with a political action group in which I would be door-knocking up to 20 hours a week. I thought this sounded so cool as I’d meet politicians and I’d be involved in the process. I eventually turned this position down as it was unpaid and required a lot more time compared to the benefits received.
In another situation, I was offered a paid internship with another political action committee which I eventually turned down as I moved onto a different major. I’ve experienced two separate instances in which I could gain this experience but had to levee my time versus experience gained. In other situations, larger STEM internships like the Anderson Texas Medical Institute and others offer weekly stipends in order to complete the internship.
In recent times, the media has labeled unpaid internships as the “new slavery.” Not only is this egregious, it’s dramatic and incorrect. Internships are meant to be experience-based. It’s only by nature of privilege that we receive payment for only certain internships. If your nature of study or expertise only consists of unpaid internships, then that was your choice, but it does not mean that the experience is not worthwhile. That is up to you.
Removal of these programs only succeeds in greatly limiting the ability of amateurs to experience the field they want to study. Even more so, limits their ability to be accepted into any program after graduation. Both types of internships are necessary, the issue only lies in human error and when the applicants have to realize the internship is unpaid and purely for experience.
Cartoon by Cassie Talbot. Talbot shows the other side of the debate against unpaid internships.