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Internships should be paid, no exceptions

I started my hunt for an internship after watching “The Carrie Diaries.” For anyone who has seen the show, you know that Carrie Bradshaw’s New York internship experience was nothing less than glamorous.

Photo via Flickr

Now that I am on internship number two and in the application process for one next semester, I am upset by the expectations Carrie Bradshaw set. I thought it would be me contributing ideas to team brainstorming sessions and us all having lunch together at fabulous New York hotspots. This could not be further from it. My experience with internships is that you are an employee that does all the stuff the regular employees cannot get to that day or just simply do not want to do. Of course, there are days where I do get to do more than make Fed-Ex labels, but those days are few and far between.

Interns work hard and deserve to be paid for the time they put in. Interns spend just the same eight hours the other employees do in the office and are a vital part of the company functioning. If it weren’t for interns, most of these companies would not get to half of the tasks in the day. Plus, how would the boss get her morning Starbucks fix without an intern going and getting it for her?

Paid interns would make for happier, more productive interns. It would allow for these interns to come into work excited and ready to put their best foot forward. It would also reduce the amount of stress these students carry. For example, because

I do not get paid; I must work two jobs in order to make ends meet each month. Students have to pay for a lot more than meets the eye such as textbooks ranging from $30-$200, food and parking on campus.

Paid positions allow for the best of the best to apply to a company. Companies who offer pay are likely to receive two times the amount of applications and can therefore handpick who would be the best fit for them.

Internships are usually a top priority for employers when hiring students straight out of college. But some students cannot afford to take on an unpaid position. Between paying for school and life, how can a college student who is already in debt add more expenses to their plate? Internships will cost a student tuition, travel expenses and if a summer internship is in another city, housing.

In an article from, the author uses a quote from Ross Perlin, author of Intern Nation, that explains how not paying interns further contributes to inequality: “Unpaid internships create a pay-to-play system since only some people can afford to work for zero dollars for longer than a week or two. This ultimately exacerbates social inequality because key professions get filled up with people from privileged backgrounds; it not only affects who gets ahead and does well, it also plays a big role in terms of the voices we hear in the media, politics, arts, etc.”

Lastly, it is simply illegal to not pay interns. The Federal Labor Standards Act (FSLA), which dictates if and when an intern needs to be financially compensated specifies six criteria to determine whether someone is a “trainee” or an employee — the difference being that employees need to be paid at least minimum wage. Ex-interns have sued major companies including Condé Nast, Charlie Rose, NBCUniversal and Hootsuite for not following these laws and won.

Vanessa Vela is a junior public relations major from Chino, Calif. She can be reached at

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