Even though the labor codes clearly define an employee as someone who works in the interest of the employer, it doesn’t mean everyone working for a company is an employee. This means that the salary for interns depends on their agreement with the employer. In the case of unpaid internships, the company will need to conform to the rules of the US Department of Labor.

To clearly define internships and interns, here are some of the US Department of Labor guidelines on internships

  • The training the person receives is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school.
  • The training is for the benefit of the trainee or student.
  • The trainee or student does not displace regular employees, but works under their close supervision.
  • The employer that provides the training does not derive any immediate advantage from the activities of the trainee or student, and on occasion its operations may be impeded.
  • The trainee or student is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period.
  • The employer and the trainee or student intern understand that the trainee or student is not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

For unpaid internships, students will need to receive school credit to legally intern for a company without pay. Be sure to keep these in mind when interning, because if any of the above are violated, the intern is then considered an employee and should be entitled to wages.

Benefits of Unpaid Internships

Though you do not receive any wages for your work, many unpaid internships offer great training. You may have to do busy work every now and then, but you’re there to learn and the company knows it. You may get opportunities to attend seminars, workshops, and other training events to develop your skills.

Even unpaid internships will look great on your resume. It will show potential employers that you were dedicated and committed despite not receiving any compensation.

Other Information about Unpaid Internships

In a tough economy, students should take whatever internship they can get, as long as it is beneficial to their career path. Unpaid internships are usually less competitive than paid internships, so this increases your chances of getting some great experience.

If you have any questions or concerns, we recommend that you visit your school’s career center for rules and regulations regarding unpaid internships. Also check out the the US Department of Labor for more information regarding labor laws.

You may also be interested in learning about getting your resume and cover letter set up to apply for unpaid internships.

By Diane Barlow