Lens Of The People: Unpaid Internships

Good Afternoon, readers! Lens of The People is a column dedicated to the capture of the real-life scenarios and events in the local Houston area whilst also giving the thoughts and opinions of the Houston community itself its own voice to speak through.

Internships have become an integral, and frankly, normalized part of pursuing a career. They reward interns with information and experience, both of which, the said intern will likely go on to use for their future endeavors, whether it be with that organization or another. Most internships are unpaid, rewarding the intern with what I just mentioned. This circumstance, however can lead to a great deal of controversy, as many people obtain internships in which the very nature of the job is counter-intuitive to the internship itself, with some internships being nearly exactly the same as the real job they’re trying to do. It is easy to feel dissuaded from following your passion if it feels like there’s no revenue being generated from it. That being said, this week my question was: Do you believe that unpaid internships are ethical and worthwhile experiences? Here’s what the people have to say:

“Much like all things, an argument can be made for the pros and the cons of internships. Internships, if properly utilized are a pivotal and significant part of an individual’s journey into their future. When evaluating the significance and importance of unpaid internships, the ethicality behind them and if they are indeed worthwhile, one must consider themselves with full knowledge of what they want before answering. I believe unpaid internships, much like paid internships are worthwhile and are indeed ethical. When looking at the aspect of analyzing if it is worthwhile, we as critics must recognize the purpose of an internship. If the purpose is indeed to gain experience in a specific field, network, or simply build a resume, than an unpaid intern gains all of those things. The payment is in the form of experience, networking or simply as a way to build one’s resume.” –Nahab Fahnbulleh


“I do believe that unpaid internships are beneficial. The experience the interns endure in the process allows them to gain something useful in the field they may pursue in life.”- Debra Davies


“Totally not ethical in my opinion because people shouldn’t work for free. That’s like the professional environment equivalent of ‘getting paid in exposure.’ It just seems wrong to me how an internship can take up so much of someone’s time and they’ll walk out broke unless they have another job.”-Iris Munoz


“When it comes down to it, as far as internships, it can be a great experience, however that experience might not be enough especially for someone who doesn’t have another job. I also think that unpaid internships make people work less at what they’re passionate about, because what they’re passionate about isn’t giving them any money. When it comes down to it, unpaid internships are about the experience, but it does a disservice to college students like myself who tend to need the extra money. Yes, they may be doing what they love, but they’re not getting paid for it, which can make all the difference.” –Tyler McDuffy


“I just had an experience with an unpaid internship over Spring Break and I enjoyed it and came up with a lot of creative ideas from my work there, and when it was over, I was ‘paid’ in hair care products which I was thrilled about. But other unpaid internships that really require you to work a lot is something I’m not really cool with. I feel like the only way that’s really acceptable is if the intern is just really passionate about what he or she is doing within that internship. At the very least, if the intern is gaining some kind of service hours for their work.”- Janaya Britton

Photographer’s Thoughts

Unpaid internships are a bit difficult to discuss as far as ethicality is concerned, because simply put, every internship is different in their fields, as well as the time they have you for. In an ideal world, I would prefer that there be no unpaid internships, however I can understand that from a business standpoint this just isn’t realistic for every company. Some internships might also serve as a way to gauge the potential work ethic and overall attitude of the intern, so that when they’re finally hired, they know what to expect. In that respect, it just wouldn’t be fair for the other employees who had to do much more to get paid. All that being said, however, I don’t condone continuous work put in by an intern for nothing. By that I mean, if an intern has been working for a company and doing respectable and consistent work comparable to even employees for long periods of time, for example a year, then I don’t think it’s too much to ask for that intern to receive compensation of some sort.

This was Lens of The People, a column dedicated to giving the Houston community a voice and a platform. Stay on the lookout for more, all made possible by The Forward Times!