Many fields of study require or strongly suggest semesters or summers of unpaid, or “educational,” internships, where students get experience in their intended future careers but not pay, and often not even college credit.
To address concerns that some employers may be taking advantage of the opportunity to have eager college students come work for them at no cost, the U.S. Department of Labor released a set of rules Wednesday that clarify the roles of those employers and the students’ colleges. The rules will fall under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which also establishes the minimum wage, overtime pay, and any youth employment standards.
According to the Labor Department, internships may be unpaid if they meet the following six criteria:
The Labor Department rules agree with the notion that internships existing as partnerships between employers and colleges are best, and most likely to comply with the new regulations. According to the Labor Department: “The more an internship program is structured around a classroom or academic experience as opposed to the employer’s actual operations, the more likely the internship will be viewed as an extension of the individual’s educational experience (this often occurs where a college or university exercises oversight over the internship program and provides educational credit).”
We know sometimes students have no choice but to apply for internships led by private companies and organizations, and outside of their colleges’ control. Some of those experiences offer not only stipends or salaries but benefits as well, since the students are considered more than interns but temporary employees. What do you think about unpaid internships? Should there be more oversight, as the Labor Department hopes there will be now?