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An Internship Is Not an Entry-Level Job


In the great debate about whether internships are really just a way for employers to take advantage of free labor, people forget that an internship is not, or should not be, an entry-level job.

(Photo Credit: UNE Photos/Flickr)

Eric Ortiz, a 41-year-old veteran, told NBC News that his internship for the 2012/2013 school year was full of empty promises. He claims the company continually extended his contract with the “implied” promise of a future job.

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A Contract Is a Contract

There are many things wrong with this picture, not the least of which is there is no such thing as an “implied” contract, at least not in the legal sense. You can have a contract, you can even have a verbal agreement, but you can’t expect a judge to take you seriously because the other party didn’t hold up their end of an unspoken, “implied” contract. If you think you have an “implied” contract with another party, please stop reading this article right now, and go ask for clarification.

Students and Entry Level Jobs

According to NBC News, Ortiz was working as a graphic design intern for a publishing company and receiving college credit. That’s the second thing wrong with the idea that interns are free labor: they are receiving college credit. They are students. If Ortiz’s internship kept getting extended, he better have received more necessary credits toward graduation.

In theory, companies that “hire” interns are offering them valuable training that would not be offered to a paid employee. In other words, the students do not have to know as much as a new hire.

Professional Training

The argument that an intern is taking away the job of a new hire comes with numerous assumptions:

  1. That the type of training needed is minimal and can be learned in a week or two.
  2. That no special skills (education) are necessary to do the intern’s job.
  3. That mentorship in the form of professional supervision is not necessary.

It may have a lot to do with the type of work the student intern hopes to do upon graduation. Some professions need less supervision, mentorship, and training of interns; others, more.

A student in hotel management may not need to log 3,000 hours before he can work as a hotel manager; psychologists in many states need to log those hours before they may become licensed.

It also depends upon what the intern is expected to do while working. If the tasks at hand have educational value, then it is likely an internship and not an entry-level job. If the hotel manager intern spends the bulk of his time cleaning rooms for free, he is working as an entry-level maid. If he spends a day doing it, it may have educational value in that the manager must have experience doing all aspects of keeping up a hotel.

Interns are not taking away jobs from entry-level employees, nor are they a drain on the economy. They are hard-working students getting valuable experience and training toward their degree and their professional careers.

Tell Us What You Think

Did you have an internship? Have you worked with interns? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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