The Cost of Unpaid Internships

Photo via Flickr by Simon MacEntee

Although most would agree that paid internships are better than unpaid, many argue that the experience a student gains during an unpaid internship makes it worth it. In fact a recent article in my local paper stated, “Unfortunately, we cannot pay our interns, but we can offer a great life-enhancing experience, in addition, an internship is a tremendous asset on your resume.” (1) Design students are lured in with such promises along with the added bonus of creating professional work for their portfolio.

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Students and pro bono work

Logo created pro bono for SCAD "The Role Graphic Design in Social Awareness" class

The Role of Graphic Design in Social Awareness,” “Issues in Design,” and “Can Design Touch Someone’s Heart?” are all graphic design courses with the common theme of creating pro bono work (volunteer work done “for the public good”) to teach social responsibility. As AIGA Philadelphia and others are taking a pledge to support paid internships, where does pro bono work done by students fit in?

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Do you think unpaid internships are unfair?

Student intern Naundi Armour poses next to the WNCU logo (Durham, NC 2009) photo courtesy Durham Skywriter

When creative director Florian Bacheda of FB Design was asked “What do you think the biggest ethical issues are that graphic design students can expect to face in their careers?” He responded with the following: “I think the biggest ethical issue will be from a managerial perspective. Some bigger corporations will try to use the recession as an excuse to place more work on the shoulders of fewer people.

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