I got an email this week from the father of a college sophomore, requesting my point of view regarding his plan to buy a summer internship for his son.  The “helicopter parent” is focused on building his son’s resume so he hopefully lands a good job upon graduation or impresses the best graduate schools. 

The internship in question is being offered by University of Dreams for the same amount the student should be making in a traditional summer job.  The student isn’t sure about the profession he wants to pursue, so I suggested that the father save his money.  While two or three internships are now the “cost of entry” in post-college job searches, I certainly don’t think you should buy an internship between the sophomore and junior years of college. 

Last year, this blog discussed purchased internships, but I’ve become even more negative towards the concept, and I’m alarmed about the increasing number of unpaid internships.  Unless an internship is with a nonprofit organization or qualifies for at least three college credits, all interns should be paid. 

Parents, students and mainly employers need to adhere to state and federal laws governing internships.  Today’s New York Times sheds important light on legal implications of unpaid internships.  The article quotes a U.S. Labor Department official, who says, “If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law.”   My bottom line:  If an organization benefits financially from an internship, they should pay for the help.