Paid or Unpaid? GU Interns Weigh In
Published: Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 03:01
A nationwide debate about paid and unpaid internships continues amid the flurry of networking events and resume workshops that signal the approach of internship application season, forcing students to take stock of their future employment prospects.
Internships held by Georgetown students are abundant. Ninety percent of graduating seniors have reportedly held at least one internship during their time on campus with 75 percent of those reporting having held a paid position, according to the university’s Senior Survey data.
A recent study published by the Society for Human Resource Management analyzed the increased availability of internships to students.
According to the survey, which took a sample of some 3,000 U.S. organizations, 34 percent of organizations offered more internships during 2013 than 2012.
“It is positive that organizations have hired interns,” SHRM’s Survey Research Center Manager Semiha Evren Esen said. “And most have hired two to five interns, which shows that they have an internship program in place.”
The survey also reported favorable prospects for paid internships: more than 75 percent of respondents reported that they paid their interns.
However, the internship culture still has a long way to go according to Eric Glatt (LAW ’15), who sued Fox Searchlight Pictures in September 2011 for undercompensating his unpaid work as a production intern on the set of “Black Swan.”
“I don’t think that study is really all that significant. It’s great to talk about members of that organization, but I don’t think the survey says a lot about the profile of unpaid internships in general,” Glatt said.
Glatt, who won his case against Fox Searchlight Pictures, believes that organizations are using interns to do jobs that should be held by paid employees.
“[Organizations have] learned that by merely adding that job title and adding that description to an ad for a job, they suddenly don’t have to pay for the labor they need performed,” Glatt said.
According to Cawley Career Education Center Executive Director Dr. Mike Schaub, Glatt’s sentiments reflect national trends in the way interns are being treated by employers.
“I believe that the culture surrounding students’ and employers’ expectations of the internship experience is changing and that employers are beginning to see the importance of compensating their interns appropriately,” Schaub said.
However, not all students agree with Glatt’s sentiments. Neil Noronha (SFS ’14), who has held unpaid internships at the White House, U.S. Treasury, U.S. State Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as a paid internship at Goldman Sachs, said there is value in unpaid internships.
“If you can get paid, great, but an unpaid internship with higher brand quality may offer more future job opportunities than a smaller brand but paid internship,” Noronha said.
While different opinions abound, Glatt has confidence that the national conversation surrounding interns’ compensation could set a precedent that will eliminate unpaid internships.
“When we filed the lawsuit, I would say more than half of the initial reaction was actually ridicule,” Glatt said. “Since that time, this country has opened up a dialogue about inequality, about exclusion and about structural problems in the economy.”