Arguments for and Against Paying Interns

Arguments for and Against Paying Interns

Arguments and counter arguments have arisen on why companies should pay their interns or not. Interns are very important in establishments. If not for anything, they provide the much needed extra hands at very cheap rates, though their mistakes can cost companies a lot. Interns are also easier to train, which means that if the company finally absorbs them into its labour force, they will become wonderful employees.

Today, college students and fresh graduates seek internship programmes. Most graduates are eager to go into this because it will avail them with the experiences that recruiters look out for during recruitment processes. Apart from that, they see internship period as the right time to prepare themselves for their desired career by acquiring and developing skills needed for their professions. As a result, most interns are not mindful of partaking in internship programmes that do not pay. Notwithstanding this, there is a need to critically review reasons behind the arguments for and against paying interns.

Arguments for Paying Interns

In Nigeria, there is no law that insists that employers should pay their interns. This means that those that pay do so because they wanted to. However, there are noted reasons why interns should be rewarded for the jobs they do.

  • Motivation

Interns are actually there to learn through experience, but they need to be motivated to increase their performances. Besides, paid interns are happier and less grumpy than unpaid ones. And when your workers are happy, your customers will be happy too.

  • Access to the Best Talents

Employers can find employees with exceptional talents and skills through internship programmes. This will happen more if they pay their interns because that will attract others. In other words, employers will have a greater pool of talents to choose from.

  • Encouraging Professionalism

The logic behind this is that interns that are paid are expected to work harder than those that are not paid. Employers that pay their interns assign them duties that are almost equivalent to that of full time staff, thereby giving them more exposure to the job. But employers that don’t pay their interns may likely not have a strong hold on them – the interns may come to work when they choose and may decide not to carry out any duty even while in office. By the end of the day, paid interns will be more professional than unpaid ones.

  • Reducing Poverty and Dependency

Though the amount paid to interns is small, they still go a long way in reducing their financial dependence. For instance, paid interns can pay for their transport fares and take care of their personnel through their allowances. Some can go as far as taking care of their dependents and/or setting up businesses for themselves. It can then be said that employers that pay their interns are engaging in community developments.

  • Maintaining Good Employer’s Reputation

Employer’s that do not pay their interns do not always have a good reputation; they are branded negatively. As words go out, other interns will avoid such an employer.

Arguments against Paying Interns

It will be good to look into why some employers insist on not paying their internship workers.

  • Internship is Part of School Curriculum

Most interns, especially college students, are reminded that they are there to learn and not to earn salaries. Some employers even demand that their interns pay them for the period of training instead of the other way around. Since these interns need to go back to school and continue with their classroom studies, as well as present evidence of completed internship, they opt for unpaid internship.

  • Service Period too Short

This is experienced by most Nigerian students that go for their 3-month Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES). Most of the companies they apply to turn down their applications unless they (the students) are willing for unpaid internship. As the students said, these employers assert that the duration of the internship is too short for the students to learn and contribute towards the growth of the company. In other words, the students leave before they can practice what they learnt from the company.

  • Company not in Need of Interns

Some employers, especially in Nigeria, do not have provisions for more hands. These people already have enough workers so that interns are added burdens to them (and most of them do not want the burdens of training new hands every now and then). However, they take in interns because they want to provide them with avenues to learn more skills or to meet up with academic requirements. Some offices like this create redundant portfolios that might not generate extra income and that might be closed when the intern goes. For this, employers under this category don’t bother adding interns to their budgets though they (the interns) may enjoy other benefits that do not include fixed monthly allowances. The ones that perform well may be absorbed into the company’s labour force.


Whether interns should be paid or not is between the intern and his employer. Insisting that interns must be paid may mean that most of them will roam the streets in search of a place of internship without success. Let the companies that have provisions for internship programmes recruit, train and pay their interns (if they can afford to do so). Those that don’t have such provisions are encouraged to create them because internship has come to stay.

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