Lumos Creative will be closing on July 31, and is no longer accepting new clients. Thank you for an incredible six years!

Pay Your Interns — Why Unpaid Internships are Harmful

Internships are often the first step in a young professional’s career; and as many small businesses, strapped for cash, seek help with entry level tasks, unpaid internships have started to gain popularity. 

But there’s a pressing issue behind the ethics and implications of unpaid internships. We’re here to break it down and help you understand why paying interns is a crucial step towards equality and social mobility.

Consider this: individuals are paid minimum wage for entry level jobs across industries that don’t require specialized skills or advanced education. So why should an intern, often someone who is actively pursuing higher education, not be compensated for their contributions? 

The work interns do is valuable. Paying them acknowledges their worth and the effort they’re putting into their education and professional growth.

The truth is, unpaid internships are more accessible to individuals from wealthier backgrounds who can afford to work without pay. Equally talented individuals from low income families are often unable to accept unpaid internships, needing a reliable income to support themselves. 

This disparity stifles the career potential of these individuals while perpetuating a cycle where socioeconomic status dictates professional success.

Unpaid internships also impact women and people of color, other groups who often can’t afford unpaid work. Their peers, however, from more privileged backgrounds are able to participate in these unpaid internship roles, further widening the racial and gender wealth gaps. 

This system perpetuates inequality, reinforcing historical biases.

So, can paying interns positively impact your organization? It can make opportunity more accessible, it can set a standard for valuing work appropriately, and it can contribute to reducing systemic inequality. 

By compensating these individuals, companies can play a pivotal role in fostering a more inclusive professional environment. Interns bring a willingness to learn. In return, they deserve to be compensated fairly for their effort.

How will you do your part to ensure opportunities for growth aren’t determined by one’s financial background, but by their talent and hard work?

Here are a few Lumos-approved resources for developing your own paid internship program:

Indeed Creating and Internship Program Guide

Chamber of Commerce 7 Step Guide for Creating an Internship Program

How to Create an Internship Program from Business News Daily

Global Internships’ Guide to Creating a Thriving Internship Program

How to Build a Summer Internship Program from Forbes

Share this post