Opinion: College internship opportunities should be paid

By Farah Bassyouni Feb 4, 2022
Graphic by Liam Killian
Graphic by Liam Killian

The longer I look for an internship for this summer, the more upset and frustrated I get. So many companies view internships as free labor, which creates the idea that they do not respect students enough to pay them— simply because they have not graduated. Internships should be paid for the amount of work put in, and the amount of time that is expected to be given.

It is understandable that small or new businesses cannot afford to hire a paid intern to work. But what about big companies that do not pay their interns, especially when they work full-time?

Students work hard to gain work experience and potentially receive a job offer and expect to get paid for any services provided in an internship position. Most students  are in extreme need of money, and even a small pay can make a huge difference. Yes, interns do not do “big work,” but everything big builds on small things and actions. If 10 or 20 interns start being lazy and inattentive at a business because they do not get paid, the company will suffer. Especially for companies that directly hire interns for full-time positions, it is important to provide incentives for those interns to stay at the company. Providing a salary is already necessary, but can also be an enticing reason to stay with a company after an internship. It’s a win-win for both parties.

Internships provide necessary work experience that make candidates look more appealing for full-time positions post graduation. 

When I was in Russia, I held an unpaid editing position for a writer. It was an extremely interesting position, but soon enough, it became annoying as I was receiving no compensation for doing my job. It was not long before I resigned. This is different from my feelings toward my current internship where I get paid. I am excited about what I am doing, and I want to work hard because I know I will be rewarded with a salary. I want to work more, and I start new projects knowing I will be compensated for my work. . 

When I study full-time, do a lot of homework, then work for several hours but get paid for my labor, I do not find my work going unnoticed, even though it can be strenuous. I want to do it because you know everything you do will pay off. Simply receiving experience in return is not enough when you study full-time. 

When you receive a salary for a former position, you become accustomed to receiving a salary for your services, so understandably it can discourage one from pursuing an unpaid position after receiving the benefits of a paid one. The desire to receive  an internship becomes further prominent due to the pressure of entering the real world as a college graduate. When both needs are met in an internship opportunity, college students are able to both budget their finances and receive necessary experience that will pave the trajectory for later success. 

Students work hard to get good grades in our education, and doing a job for free can be perceived as discouraging for some. I will continue my search for a paid internship, regardless of how difficult it may be to find one.

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