Good news for young people: Paid internships are becoming the norm

For years, many young college-aged Americans have viewed getting an internship almost as a rite of passage. Traditionally, internships have offered many advantages—helping to develop marketable skills, sprucing up a resume, and frequently earning college credit. Unfortunately, these internships often haven’t paid a dime.

Today that’s changing, thanks to America’s robust employment rate. Increasingly, paid internships are becoming the norm.

Young people who want to build career skills while still in post-secondary school—but can’t afford to work for nothing—should find this encouraging. And the new popularity of paid internships should encourage employers in technical fields and the trades to consider how they can use them to attract young talent.

The Wall Street Journal provides the details in a piece that explores how today’s tight U.S. labor market is squeezing out the unpaid internship:

With unemployment at historic lows, more companies are paying for work they used to get free in order to ensure a pipeline of young talent for entry-level positions….

A survey of 2017 college graduates conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers showed that nearly 60% of respondents had an internship during their time in school, compared with almost 50% in 2007.

In 2012, about half of all internships were unpaid. Since that peak, unpaid internships have declined steadily, hitting 43% in 2017, according to NACE.

The Journal points out that unpaid internships have been widely criticized

for taking advantage of free labor and catering to students who can afford spending a summer or semester working without pay because their parents foot the bill. Students can get college credit for internships, but unless they are on a scholarship they still pay the school for that credit.

In today’s newly energized labor market, what should employers expect to pay interns? The Journal reports that

the average hourly internship wage rose 3.7% in 2018 to $18.73, according to [the National Association of Colleges and Employers]. In 2014, the average hourly wage for an intern was about $16.