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The price to pay: Unpaid internships provide experience at a cost

Condé Nast magazines will no longer be offering internships.

Condé Nast magazines will no longer be offering internships.

When choosing a summer job, which is more important — money or experience?  For many aspiring journalists, the experience gained from an unpaid internship trumps the need for money.

But for other journalism students, unpaid internships often mean getting a second paying  job to support themselves.  And because many internships are in big cities like New York or Chicago, a minimum wage side job isn’t always enough to cover costs.

Magazine empire Condé Nast announced that it would be ending its internship program after lawsuits from two former interns.   Current interns will be able to finish their term.

The former interns, from Condé Nast’s W Magazine and the New Yorker, reported that they were paid only $1 per hour.

Some schools offer credit for internships but in those cases, students essentially are paying for the internship.

The legality of unpaid internships is often in question, but if an intern voluntarily goes into the internship knowing they will not be paid, is it OK?  Is there a difference between an unpaid internship and volunteering?

The internship must benefit the intern, according to the Department of Labor,  An intern, the Labor Department says,  also “does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.”

For college students, the decision of whether  to apply for unpaid internships is personal.  Despite the lack of pay, the experience may be worth more than any dollar amount.

_Emily Rust

  1. November 20, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    I think the issue of paid vs. unpaid internships comes down to whether the internship is more of an educational experience or a real-world career experience. If the intern is basically shadowing other journalists and learning new things, I think it would be acceptable to be an unpaid internship. If the intern is writing just as many stories as everyone else, though, and working all day, it doesn’t seem right to me that they wouldn’t receive some type of compensation.

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