Source: The Blaze
Jan. 18, 2014 9:00am

Rachel Burger is a Young Voices Associate and the associate editor of Thoughts on Liberty. She writes frequently about social issues and foreign policy, and has been published in Forbes,, and The Libertarian Republic. Rachel graduated with an MA from University of Chicago’s Committee on International Relations and with a BA from Agnes Scott College.

 Internships are meant to bridge the gap between what’s learned in a classroom and what is useful in the business world. Some are as competitive as college applications, starting their selection process in September and not finishing until April. But most pick their interns in February and March, meaning that millions of college students are gearing up their applications in this competitive season.

College students: be warned. Unpaid internships may not be helpful at all in securing a job upon graduation.

Don’t Get Sucked Into The Unpaid Internship Trap

The National Association of Colleges and Employers conducted a recent survey questioning the benefits of unpaid internships. They found that of those recruited for a job before graduation, 63 percent had a paid internship before graduation. Hiring rates for those who had chosen to complete an unpaid internship (37 percent) were almost the same for those who had not completed any internship at all (35 percent). What’s worse, those with unpaid internships tended to take lower-paying jobs than those with no internship experience whatsoever ($35,721 and $37,087, respectively).

In other words: unpaid internships are not only unhelpful for new grads to get jobs, but they also work against potential starting salaries.

Why would anyone opt to work for free if its detrimental to their potential future earnings?

New laws have been introduced to define what is and isn’t a legal internship, but those laws are hardly going to change the mass availability of unpaid internships. For one, students are so desperate for “work experience” that they are willing to participate in unpaid internships without whistleblowing (who wants to be on the blacklist, anyway?).

A simple rule of business is to cut costs: pay people the minimum they are willing to work for. If these kids are willing to work for free, why would businesses turn them down? In fact, taking on interns is a risk to most employers: interns are untrained and temporary. Unless interns are providing employers with real value to their bottom line, companies are going to continue to be disinterested in paying for their services.

To be sure, some might argue that some industries are so competitive that they can only internships or jobs available are unpaid. That is notoriously true for the fashion and magazine industries, where, after interns sued for back pay, many companies stopped offering internships.

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