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Paid or unpaid? The debate on internships

Paid or unpaid? The debate on internships

REXBURG, Idaho - About 30 percent of college students will work at least one unpaid internship, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Unpaid internships are raising a lot of debate about exploitation versus opportunity.

Brigham Young University-Idaho puts a big focus on internships. Nearly every student is required to complete one, and get college credit for it.

At BYU-Idaho, students are encouraged to do an internship every off track semester. BYU-Idaho students have interned in almost all 50 states and in 20 countries.

"We've had students in companies like Boeing, Apple and Intel," said Justin Hodges who works in the Career Services department at BYU-Idaho.

Hodges says there is a large debate on whether unpaid internships are beneficial.

"There's an investment on the employer's part with a paid internship, where there is not always is an investment with an unpaid internship," said Hodges.

Will Gerke is a recent college graduate. He turned down an unpaid internship and chose to complete a paid internship in marketing. It led to a full-time job offer.

"I think paid internships is always better. I don't know if we need a law saying there should or shouldn't be paid or unpaid internships," said Gerke.

Students at BYU-Idaho say the experience and networking opportunities from internships are extremely valuable; even if they're not always fun.

Amberlee Lovell, a BYU-Idaho junior, has been a paid and unpaid intern. Her first internship was unpaid.

"I first went to Washington, D.C. I worked for a congressman there. It was like a secretary, really," said Lovell.

Lovell said if companies pay interns, they'll get better quality work.

"I worked really hard at both internships, but I had more desire, I felt like I had to give back to the company when they were paying me, so I wanted to go above what I had to," said Lovell.

Internships in the film or media industry tend to be more commonly unpaid.

They are also the industries where interns end up getting coffee or making copies instead of learning something educational.

In a recent case, two unpaid interns sued Fox Searchlight Pictures. A federal district court judge in New York ordered the company to back pay the interns. He said the internship was not educational and the studio received the benefits of the work.

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