Are Unpaid Internships Becoming Obsolete?

Relevant work experience has become an essential part of gaining a graduate job after achieving a degree. Internships allow students to explore a profession that is of interest to them, and allows them to gain valuable and practical experience to add to their CVs. Further to this, it increases the graduate’s chances of getting a job as the employer will already be familiar with them.

However, since the recent economic recession, unpaid internships have become more and more common, and many are calling for the law in this area to be changed.

Fair Labour Standards Act (FLSA) 6 Criteria:

These six criteria according to the FLSA determine whether an internship is required to be paid.

  • The internship is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.
  • The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
  • The intern does not displace regular employees but works under close supervision of existing staff.
  • The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.
  • The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
  • The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Unpaid Internships

Unpaid internships are common within companies. Academic worthiness of an internship is defined by stating that students doing the internship in conjunction with college coursework are expected to gain hands-on experience that helps them develop the knowledge and skills required to gain entry into a specific field. However, internships could be affected by new guidelines since one of the FLSA’s criteria states that the employer should gain no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.

The aim of the new guidelines is to enforce that internships are for educational training and not for the intern to replace the work of regular employees. Due to many employers spending considerable time training and overseeing interns, they do not obtain much benefit from having them complete an internship with the organisation. However, some organisations have expectations for the intern to carry out the same work as a regular employee. As a result of employers having to strictly abide by the new guidelines, students may struggle to find internships in the future.

The alteration of guidelines for the unpaid internship is due to employers utilising internships as free labour with no intent on hiring the intern once they have graduated, this being one of the main advantages of an internship. The misuse of these programmes have resulted in companies ending up in court.

Do Unpaid Internships Have Benefits?

The primary benefit of unpaid internships are that they provide the student with first hand experiences of the workplace, along with the ability to establish a strong network of connections with professionals in the specific field of work.

Due to the building of connections in a professional environment, internships increase the chances of receiving a high quality recommendation letter. This would increase the chances of the student gaining full-time employment in a similar field.  

For further information on Employment Rights and Pay for Interns visit

Or if you would like to speak to a member of our team, contact Paul Windmill