• Position Statement: Unpaid Internships

    The NACE position statement on unpaid internships is framed by the following principles, beliefs, and assumptions:

    • Internships provide unique and valuable experiences for students both academically and in professional career preparation.
    • The term “internship” encompasses many different program models (i.e. paid and unpaid; full time and part time; of varying length; as a required part of an academic curriculum or as a course option; for academic credit or no credit). The broad use of this term to cover diverse circumstances makes it difficult to apply common and consistent standards, guidelines, and applicable policies.
    • Internships exist or can exist in literally every kind of business, industry, organization, and sector—both public and private.
    • What constitutes an internship is determined in the final analysis by the student’s college or university and the employer.
    • Internship programs should ideally involve a close partnership between the university, the participating student, and the employer in which all accrue some form of benefit.
    • The federal and state governments have significant roles in providing and enforcing laws and guidelines to protect the interests of both employers and employees in the workplace.
    • Unpaid internships in the not-for-profit sector reflect the fiscal realities and limitations for organizations in that sector and are acknowledged accordingly in current Department of Labor guidelines and enforcement practices.
    • All interns, regardless of their compensation, should enjoy similar basic protections in the work setting consistent with all laws, ethical considerations, and sound business practices.

    Based on the above principles, beliefs, and assumptions, and the information supplied by NACE members, NACE’s position statement on the issue of unpaid internships is:

    “The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), representing more than 3,000 higher education institutions and employing organizations, recognizes the enormous value of internship programs to individual student participants and both the higher education and employer communities. We believe that the U.S Department of Labor criteria for assessing whether internships in the for-profit sector may be unpaid must be reviewed and further clarified to ensure they account for the incredible diversity of students, higher education institutions, and employing organizations involved in such programs. Further, all interns, regardless of their compensation, should enjoy similar, basic protections in the work setting consistent with all laws, ethical considerations, and sound business practices.”

    June 2010