Exploitive, unfair, & discriminatory are a few words people have used to describe unpaid internships. These internships have many downfalls but few critics focus on is how the lack of monetary incentive leads to a lack of motivation, which negatively affects both the intern and the company.

While many young men and women decide to work unpaid for a summer or a semester claiming that the experience, resume enhancement, or class credit they will receive will make up for the lack of pay, not being paid for their work can be detrimental to both the individual and the company. If there is an opportunity to be hired by the company after the internship, the intern will have more of an incentive to work hard. But when students have to do internships for class credit, the work ethic is not as strong. Yes, they might need an evaluation afterwards but usually the supervisor gives a brief evaluation of the intern. So as long as they do their job and complete their tasks by the end of the internship, he or she should get a fine evaluation.

As an unpaid intern this summer, I witnessed first-hand how not being paid influences an individual’s professionalism and motivation. The majority of the interns I worked with were doing it for class credit and it seemed like they were there simply to complete their required hours. Many of the interns spent the majority of the day at work on their phones. They were even willing to use their precious data in order to surf the internet since the organization did not have Wi-Fi to try to prevent this exact thing from happening. As time progressed during my internship, I recognized myself beginning to adapt their ways. I realized that I could get away with playing games on my phone or taking longer to complete a task because everyone else was doing it. As long as I finished the task by the end of the day, I was fine. I also realized that if I came into work a few minutes late, or left a few minutes early nobody really cared. Often times it was better for me to take my time on certain tasks because the summer was slow and if I did finish a task quickly there often would not be another task for me to start. A lot of my fellow interns, and other unpaid interns at different organizations that I have spoken to, agreed that they did not feel guilty about missing a few days or showing up late because they were not losing any money by doing so. Towards the end of my internship, I had exceeded the amount of hours that I needed for my class credit, which caused me to lose a lot of motivation. Since I was not being paid and since I met my required hours, I felt like there was no reason for me to be there anymore.

Another downfall that can come with unpaid internships is that the employer pays less attention to the intern. If the company is looking to hire their interns, then they will pay spend more time on training them but with companies who are not looking to hire their interns there is a strong possibility that the intern becomes ignored. They are often assigned small, menial tasks that do not enhance their skills. Since the intern is temporary and will eventually be replaced, why should companies spend so much time on somebody that will not eventually work at their organization? Yes they can complete short-term tasks but since they are only at the company for a short period of time it is difficult for them to make long term achievements.

​So while unpaid internships still give the individual experience and help build their resumes, paid internships would be more beneficial to the individual because with more of a motivation they will learn more and put more effort into their work. Also even though the company would be spending more money by paying their interns, it would be more beneficial for them in long run because the individuals will have a stronger work ethic and could do more for the company. What is the point of having an intern if he or she spends a majority of the day on the phone, does not do tasks as quickly and efficiently as possible, and who shows up late or leaves early? They simply act as an extra body in the office. Without an incentive it is incredibly difficult for a college student or a recent college graduate to be motivated to work to his or her greatest capability.

Emily Reers
Glen Rock, NJ

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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...