Unpaid Internships are a bit of a grey area. Regulations tend to vary by state, city, or even by industry. We will break down a few key points to keep in mind.
Are Unpaid Internships Allowed?
The Bad News:
- Companies generally do not have to pay interns. This means there is no guarantee that your internship will fund your American experience.
- Even though they don’t pay a stipend or salary however, you should still be benefiting from an unpaid internship. You may be entitled to pay if teaching you is a secondary or tertiary goal of the company. Keep in mind though, that if you aren’t in a learning capacity, you need to tell your sponsor immediately so they can assist you.
The Good News:
- Many companies value the exchange programs they work with and provide stipends, housing, transportation or other perks of joining their team.
- Companies in fields such as Architecture, Computer Programming, Data Science (and similar fields), and Engineering typically offer stipends at or above a livable wage for their area.
- If you find yourself in a situation where your unpaid training seems like it benefits the company as much or more than it benefits you, you may be owed at least minimum wage. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are certain requirements your internship has to meet if you are to be unpaid.
- Remember: Contact your program sponsor if you are having problems with your internship. This includes not being compensated fairly for what you are being asked to do.