Are Unpaid Internships Immoral?

This week, we asked you: Are unpaid internships immoral? You got back to us with a mixture of opinions. The overall consensus is yes, experience is valuable. Many professionals agree, however, that working for free isn’t fair on interns desperate to get experience.

That being said, to progress in your career, an internship is perhaps a great way of demonstrating your abilities, improving your skills, gaining industry contacts and potential routes into your industry. Work experience and volunteer work also serves as similar purpose: offering hands-on experience that will be invaluable to your industry of choice.

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On LinkedIn:

Guy Williams

Handyman at G&D Home Repairs

Although I believe that internship might be immoral, but to who? I truly believe that an internship should get paid but not as much as a full time position does.

David Hunt

Design for Life Cycle – design, manufacturing, assembly… in one package

No. So long as all parties understand the terms.

Amanda Malitsky says her previous unpaid internships boosted her career considerably:

Amanda Malitsky

Recruitment Consultant, LION

Not at all. Unpaid internships got me into places early in my career that I would never have had the chance to be involved

Kevin Pray says that internships are worse than most people imagine, causing damage to both employers and employees:

Kevin Pray, MBA
Asbestos Litigation Docket Supervisor at Schiff Hardin LLP

Yes, and economically destructive to both employers and employees, as well.

Rebecca Pavlik {LION}

Talent Acquisition Specialist at North Star Staffing Solutions eCommerce/IT/IT Project Management

I completed an unpaid internship. I wouldn’t say they are completely immoral, but they toe the line.

Graham Courtney adds to the opinion that an internship is agreement by both parties, and that interns gain valuable experience from it:

Graham Courtney
General Manager SimuLearn Inc

If someone gives themselves (or a product) away for free, they do so for future gain and opportunity. What does morality have to do with it? It’s a choice made by both parties. And as a former president found out, an intern can do a heap of damage too.

Felicia Woodley also says that internships are a great way of gaining valuable experience that will forward an intern’s career:

Felicia Woodley
Recruiter at Advantage Sales & Marketing

I don’t believe they are. An unpaid internship is teaching the intern valuable business practices, that they will later carry on into a career.


HR Generalist Looking for P/T HR Opportunity

Immoral is a very strong word and not at all appropriate in this situation. A person is exchanging their time for an incredible opportunity to learn and be critiqued.

There are many many truly immoral things that companies do, but this is not one of them.

Brian Solar, CPRW

Career Coach/Talent Recruiter/Advisor with experience in career counseling, talent acquisition , and resume writing.

Absolutely not. I have to agree with Blanche, immoral is too strong of a word as well. Internships, especially those for course credit, can be an invaluable experience. So often college graduates enter the workforce with little to no experience. These internships allow them to gain strong, hands on experience that they just will not get in the classroom. With the basic question of paid vs unpaid, the short term internship experience far outweighs any moral argument. Experiences that can have a deep impact on your career development can be few and far between. The internship is one of these situations.

On Twitter:

On Twitter, Eike Spengler said that he felt internships are immoral, signalling that many inexperienced workers and graduates are desperate for any experience. Eike said employers should at least cover travelling and other expenses:

Are unpaid internships immoral? Let us know in the comments, or reply in our discussion on LinkedIn now!

To conclude, many people feel that while they are questionable, internships are an agreement by both parties. There are benefits to be gained from taking on internships, but it’s only advisable with prior financial support.

By Robbie Palmer