College students are heavily encouraged to work an internship or two before they graduate and enter the workforce. Internships are meant to give you a real idea of the field you want to enter, give you hands-on experience, and help you get a job in that field down the line.
The downside is most internships are unpaid. And that is absolutely ridiculous.
I speak as someone who is currently working her third internship overall, which is also my first paid internship.
An internship is incredibly time-consuming. You work two to three days a week for roughly a full workday. The entire day is spent completing tasks, attending meetings, and assisting with various projects. Oftentimes, you're being taught how to do things and may spend hours on individual tasks. In short, an internship is a lot of work. (Usually.)
All this work and time, and you're not even compensated.
It's great to come away from your internship with added insight, some portfolio pieces, and experience. But to not be compensated by your internship for everything you did for them boggles my mind.
I interned recently at a local newspaper and wrote content throughout my time there, including a full story. I really enjoyed my time there and the experience I garnered, but to have been paid for my published work would have been nice.
College students are often working in addition to attending college full- or part-time. Taking on an unpaid internship means less time to work and save up, or just pay bills period. The internship experience is great and may really help out down the line, but if we can't meet monetary responsibilities, an internship becomes a bit of a hassle.
To me, saying an internship pays you in experience is like saying you'll pay an artist with "exposure." Experience doesn't pay the rent and bills or cover all the gas you use up driving to and from your internship (especially if you're fighting through traffic both ways).
Internships are the professional equivalent of apprenticeships. Like an internship, an apprenticeship is where an individual works for an organization to get a real feel for the industry and get hands-on experience. The one difference is that apprentices get actually paid for the work they do! Internships are essentially free labor for the companies who hire interns.
The only circumstances for why a company wouldn't pay their interns is if they're a very small company or a small nonprofit organization.
Otherwise, companies should be paying their interns.
Companies take on interns to help future generations of employees. They hire interns to help even out their company's workload.
If you're going to expect interns to do as much work as they are given, PAY THEM.