Unpaid Internships: The Monster Under Every College Grad’s Bed


Internships are scary.  Like Gremlins-under-my-bed scary.  Take away the salary and you’re looking death in the face.  Schools and businesses have told us that in order to get a job in the current economy, we must secure an internship.  That causes students who are either graduating soon, or are looking ahead towards their impending doom to have night terrors in the form of Gremlins in suits.  Would it relieve them, or stress them out more, to know that internships don’t necessarily lead to a job offer?

Over the last couple years, lawsuits have been brought up that question the soundness of unpaid internships, the type of internship most available to college graduates or soon-to-be graduates.  Unpaid interns tend to be overlooked and exploited in the workforce and often don’t lead to job offers.

In a study of 2013 college graduates, a whopping 63% of unpaid interns were not offered a job.

That is remarkable.  For the amount of weight we as a society give unpaid internships, for 63% of those interns to not be offered a job is something that is quite disturbing and needs to be observed.

Of those who had paid internships, 63.1% received a job, and made more money than those who were not paid. They made a median of $51,930 as a starting salary coming from a paid internship, whereas those who were given jobs after having an unpaid internship started with a median of $35,721.

This notion that college students should accept unpaid internships in the business circuit under the assumption that it will eventually lead to some paying job needs to be eradicated. The best thing these internships can do is boost resumes. That’s it. Maybe one can gain some experience in the field, but most of the time it’s darting around the office double-fisting coffees.

In this regard, companies and corporations are exploiting their interns.

Numerous cases of companies exploiting their interns have been brought to court, as having interns completing non-educational menial work without payment is illegal and serves as a prime example of work force abuse. The vast majority of these cases come from well-known companies that many college graduates dream of working for: Fox Searchlight Pictures, NBC Universal, and Hearst Corporation.

One such example of this exploitation comes from a student at NYU who hoped to work in animation during her internship, but instead was told to sanitize door handles every day to minimize the spread of swine flu.


There are other such stories along the same lines of the NYU student. A major lawsuit was brought up where two men who worked on the set of “Black Swan” complained of doing “menial work that should have been done by paid employees”.

These two examples bring up the question of whether or not these internships are good for graduates and students, not just because of the lack of future involved with them, but also based on how they are viewed by the company. If the company is going to exploit the unpaid intern because it is a cheaper and easier way for the company to make profit, then something needs to be done.

Although there are already laws in place for what categorizes an unpaid intern, companies are still managing to get around the issue.  It’s not a question as to what law should we implement next, it’s more a question of how should we change this?

Drexel University believes that co-ops are the way to go about this change.  The president of the school believes that businesses and universities should “acknowledge their mutual goals and work together to create new pathways of career training that benefit all parties”, according to an article by John A Fry.

This may alleviate some of the fears that have college students stressed out of their minds.  As a co-op, students would earn, on average, $16,500 over six months.  Though not all co-ops receive money from their employers, work is being done to rectify this and give these students a stipend.

These co-ops will be difficult for universities to accept as the academic area would need to change slightly to make connections with different companies and corporations.  This would take time and a lot of expenses before coming together, but it is definitely an option for the future.

In the mean time, college students should get as much information from their future employer as possible, figuring out what exactly their tasks will be as an internship and if that internship could possibly turn into a job in the near future, laying this monster to rest.


Unpaid Internships: The Monster Under Every College Grad’s Bed

2 thoughts on “Unpaid Internships: The Monster Under Every College Grad’s Bed

  1. 1. What are the specific strengths of the op-ed argument and why?
    A major strength to this argument is that it’s an incredibly interesting topic that I feel goes overlooked by the public. Sophie does a great job of incorporating statistical evidence to demonstrate how the interns are often exploited.

    2. Which evidence best supports the argument? Why?
    The statistic illustrating that unpaid interns are not necessarily likely to be better off than paid interns. Her example of the NYU student sanitizing door handles instead of learning the trade she was interested in was also effective because it was a prime example of exactly how unpaid interns are exploited.

    3. Tone and op-ed style: how effectively does the author use the title and first few sentences to “hook” the reader? Why?
    In the last sentence of the opening paragraph she does a great job of intriguing the reader by asking, “Would it relieve them, or stress them out more, to know that internships don’t necessarily lead to a job offer?” This kind of question makes a reader curious to find out more.

    4. Where does the author use “snap and sizzle” in the diction and how effectively do they do so? Provide a specific example.
    I think the only thing that is slightly lacking in this op-ed is the snap and sizzle. The best example is where she metaphorically discusses putting this “monster to bed.” I thought this was a great way to end her argument.

    5. Read against the grain: why might someone in the community disagree with the author’s argument, and why?
    Someone might argue that being an unpaid intern is part of the process and that people should feel privileged enough to even have an internship. I think Sophie really does a good job of closing up any wholes in her argument, and doesn’t give the other side much room to respond.

    6. Op Ed Style: Where does the author vary the length of their sentences and paragraphs to emphasize key points and to control the pace of op-ed – for example, by using a one sentence paragraph, or a sentence fragment? How effective is it? If all the paragraphs and sentences are about the same length, offer some suggestions where they can employ a short paragraph or sentence.
    Although well written I think it’s a little too academic. There was not a whole lot of variation in paragraph length; however, there was some good use of mixing up the sentence length, which definitely emphasized her point. The one paragraph that did stand alone was, “In a study of 2013 college graduates, a whopping 63% of unpaid interns were not offered a job.” This line definitely hits the reader with some gravity, and demonstrates the strength of her point.

    7. Which visual best supports the argument? Which link? And why? Which ones could be better integrated?
    What should they work on when they revise?
    The images and links are very effective in purveying the point. I think the one that is the best integrated is the link used to demonstrate how unpaid interns are not necessarily better off. I think if she provided one or two more visuals it would be outstanding; however everything is very well integrated.


  2. Sophie
    1. The op-ed gives hard facts about income which is something that is relevant to the intended audience. Giving facts about income also catches the eye of people who may not be the intended audience simply because I feel like people enjoy reading about average incomes and comparing their income to others.
    2. I think your example about the intern basically being used as a janitor, cleaning door handles, is especially effective because it provides perspective on the issue. I think more specific examples like this would be very helpful to argument.
    3. The first few sentences of your op-ed are short and to the point. This immediately informs he reader about the topic and establishes your argument and point of view on the topic
    4. Snap and sizzle dictation seems to be used pretty effectively to tie up paragraphs and prove points. Example: “…laying this monster to rest.”
    5. People could disagree with this argument if they are not persuaded by the facts presented. Some people may believe that internships are a necessary step in joining the workforce and whether or not they involve pay or meaningful work is irrelevant.
    6. I like the pace of the op-ed I think it reads pretty smoothly. One sentence paragraphs are effectively used to make strong points using snap and sizzle dictation. Example: “In this regard, companies and corporations are exploiting their interns.”
    7. The visual of the graffiti is interesting and effective. I didn’t see any links to websites or videos that could support this argument though.
    8. Add some more links and evidence to back up your opinion. Maybe find a video about unpaid college interns? Interviews with people who are currently unpaid interns?


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