Internships Under the Microscope

shutterstock_253848799 [Converted]Obtaining internships has become as necessary to college students as the classes they take or the books they read. But these experience builders, especially unpaid ones, have come under the gun as many lawsuits brought by unpaid interns weave through the court system. So how can instructors help students manage the internship quagmire?

First, some facts. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conducted research that shows a strong correlation between a student having an internship and receiving a full-time job offer before graduating. Therefore, encouraging students to go for these internships is a given. However, the correlation between internships and job offers does not exist if the internship is unpaid. NACE has not conducted research analyzing whether unpaid internships lead to job offers after graduation, however. Therefore, no actual figures can back up the notion that unpaid internships lead to job offers,

In policy papers, the NACE has stated that both paid and unpaid internships should provide positive learning outcomes such as practical experience, perspective on career options, and obtaining networking contacts. If students can land paid or unpaid internships that offer tangible lessons, they should jump at the chance, NACE suggests. Still, students taking unpaid internships should be aware of the Fair Labor Act standards governing the organizations that offer unpaid internships. They are:

  1. The internship must be similar to training in an educational setting.
  2. The experience must benefit the intern.
  3. An intern must not displace regular employees and must work under close supervision of staff.
  4. The employer offering the internship derives no immediate benefit from the intern’s activities; in fact, the internship may actually impede operations occasionally.
  5. The employer offers no guarantee of a job following the internship.
  6. Both intern and employer understand the intern does not receive payment.

These strict rules and the recent spate of lawsuits surrounding them have put both employers and colleges on guard. Many companies are starting to pay interns to avoid facing lawsuits. But others, such as magazine publisher Condé Nast, have opted to stop their internship programs altogether. Some colleges are paying more attention to protecting their students from unfair labor practices by insisting the company proves the job meets the Fair Labor Act standards. However, not all colleges have taken this step.

The legal scrutiny of internships has affected the number of positions available, making them harder to obtain. Still, they remain an important factor for résumé building and job preparation.

Below are resources for students looking for internships.

  • Glassdoor, the job review site, names its picks for the 25 best companies for interns in 2015. Facebook tops the list, followed by Chevron, Google, QuickenLoans, eBay and Yahoo!
  • Quint Careers offers a free e-book, The Quintessential Guide to Finding and Maximizing Internships.
  • Web resources for students looking for internships:

interninc connects students, employers, and universities in a social networking platform.  provides access to a national database to search and to post résumés.

internmatch offers a large selection of paid internships.

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