Thursday, January 5, 2012

Does it fit? Determining if an internship is legal and a good fit for you

Over the past year, students I meet with have continuously asked me whether an unpaid internship is legal, and unfortunately the answer is “it depends”. As many of you know, the laws surrounding unpaid internships by the Department of Labor are vague to say the least. As it currently stands, internships provided by government agencies or non-profits are not held to the same laws as corporations/for-profits.

Despite the vague language and recent media attention surrounding internships, here are 10 parameters that may help you figure out if an internship is legal AND a good fit for you:

1.What type of organization is the internship with?
2. What type of work will the intern be responsible for?
3. What will the intern’s role be?
4. Who will be the intern supervisor?
5. What kind of supervision will the intern have?
6. What opportunities are there for training or professional development at the internship?
7. How does this internship further your career aspirations?
8. What skills will you have the opportunity to develop at this internship?
9. What are the costs to you in taking this internship? (Examples include travel, housing & tuition)
10. What monetary benefits will this internship provide you with? (Some internships provide stipends, housing accommodations, hourly pay or salary to name a few)

When all is said and done, if you still have questions about an internship, utilize your campus career services. UW-Madison L&S students can stop by L&S Career Services Monday-Friday from 12:00-1:00pm for internship drop-ins.

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