Journalism in the Public Interest

Have You Had to Turn Down an Internship Because You Needed to Get Paid?
Understand how unpaid internships impact people’s career choices
by Christie Thompson
ProPublica, Jun. 12, 2013, 11:38 am

Last month, we launched our investigation into the booming intern economy. We’re looking into companies that violate labor laws by staffing unpaid interns who function as regular employees.

But it’s not just about the interns who work for free. It's also about the thousands of people shut out of journalism, politics, the arts, and other fields because they can't afford to take unpaid internships on their climb to a career. The curators at Journos of Color, a journalism Tumblr, recently noted the cost of unpaid internships in the media:

If you’re wondering why it’s hard to find people from low-income backgrounds in elite journalism—which, disproportionately, means people of color—look no further than this. The only people who can afford to work full-time for free come from wealth, and generally, if you’re wealthy in America, you’re white.

The current internship economy raises issues of race, class and missed opportunities. Over 250 people have shared their internship story with us so far. But we also want to hear from you if your internship story is, “I can’t afford one.”

Have you changed career goals, or turned down opportunities because you needed to get paid? Help our investigation by filling out the form below. 

Alternatively - have you held an internship recently? Share your experiences with us.

Get Involved

Thanks for your interest; this project has been archived and we are no longer accepting submissions.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Projects You Can Help With


Do You Know Someone Who Died or Nearly Died in Childbirth? Help Us Investigate Maternal Health

Stories Submitted


Are You a Vietnam Veteran? Help Us Investigate the Impact of Agent Orange

Share Your Story

3,713 stories shared


Help Us Investigate Discrimination Against Pregnant Workers

Share Your Story


Have You Ever Been Sued Over a Debt? Help Us Investigate Collection Practices

Share Your Story

62 tips shared

More on This Investigation

What We Learned Investigating Unpaid Internships

Though the intern economy remains opaque, dialogue about the role of interns in the labor force – and protections they deserve – is beginning to take shape.

Four Ways You Can Seek Back Pay for an Unpaid Internship

Think you’re entitled to be paid for your unpaid internship? Here are resources you should know about.

Have You Interned in Arts or Entertainment? Rate Your Internship

Help us understand what it’s like to intern in an industry that often doesn’t pay.

The Department of Labor’s Internships Investigations

In 2010, the Labor Department issued a new fact sheet clarifying when an intern needs to be paid under federal labor law. We collected the case files for all the internship investigations the Labor Department concluded in the three years after issuing new regulations.

How the Labor Department Has Let Companies Off the Hook for Unpaid Internships

Four years after warning for-profit companies about unpaid internships, the agency has investigated relatively few employers for wage violations.