Unpaid internships are on the rise. Tell us your stories -- and your opinions -- about working for no pay
My name is Derek, and I was an unpaid intern.
I begin with a confession, because the unpaid internship has become something of a dishonor, if not a scandal. And, as New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse wrote in his blockbuster take-down of the institution in 2010, I might have helped various companies conspire to break the law -- even if it's the murkiest, most broken law in the country.
Of the 10 million students at four-year colleges in the U.S., more than 75% have at least one internship before graduating. We don't know how many of those internships are unpaid, but Ross Perlin, the author of Intern Nation, estimates that it's up to one-third. "It's the only major category of work that I know of that is not tracked at all by the Bureau of Labor Statistics," Perlin said.
NOT PAID, NOT LEGAL?
If you've ever had an unpaid internship, there is a distinct chance that you participated in unlawful activity.
The Labor Department has strict guidelines for unpaid interns, and every year, thousands of companies dutifully flout them. Technically speaking, internships must resemble an education rather than a job. Interns cannot work in the place of paid employees. Nor can their work be of "immediate benefit" to an employer.