Blog: The Educated Reporter

What are internships worth?

My internships during college and graduate school were a diverse lot. I was paid generous market wages for some (Newsday, Washington Post) and got credit as part of my academic program for others (Foreign Affairs, World Policy Journal, Wall Street Journal Europe). Still others—a theater company, an anatomy lab, a small-town newspaper—were simply ways to explore random interests or keep busy or make a tiny bit of money or none at all.Those in the last category would not have qualified under the Department of Education’s new rules about paying interns, nor would Wesleyan have wanted to give me credit for them. They weren’t worth credit and, frankly, my contributions did not merit much pay. But they were worth it for me.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed had a nice piece yesterday on credit and internships. Yet I would like to read more about casual internships that don’t fall neatly into the credit-or-wage classification. Paying people competitive wages under labor law probably presumes they are contributing to the value of the company. I am sure my fumbling attempts at performing surgery on newborn mice in the mid-1980s did nobody any favors—I probably cost my colleagues more time than I saved them—but the experience sure did teach me what I didn’t want to do for a living.