Benefits and Compensation, Recruiting

Internship Compensation Trends

College students taking part in internships are increasingly getting paid for their efforts, according to a report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

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Results from NACE’s Class of 2017 Student Survey show that 61 percent of graduating seniors took part in an internship or co-op experience during their college careers. Among that group, nearly 57 percent of the experiences were paid, up from approximately 51 percent in 2011, when NACE began tracking compensation status.
Pay for interns is most common in the private sector. In fact, paid internships at for-profit companies accounted for nearly 38 percent of all internships last year; in comparison, paid internships at nonprofits made up less than 11 percent of all internships.

A Slim Majority

Yet, although the percentage of paid internships has been trending upward, even last year’s number, a record-high 56.7 percent, is not exactly off the charts.

Trends in Paid Status of Internships/Co-ops

Class Year Percent Paid Percent Unpaid
2011 51.3% 48.7%
2012 51.1 48.9
2013 51.2 48.8
2014 53.7 46.3
2015 53.9 46.1
2016 55.8 44.2
2017 56.7 43.3

Source: Class of 2017 Student Survey Report, National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Data are for bachelor’s degree graduates.
Indeed, an employer looking to justify a nonpaying internship could reference this chart.
Still, as a previous Recruiting Daily Advisor article points out, there are many reasons to pay interns for the work they do.

Changing Environment

In releasing its findings, NACE notes that it remains to be seen whether the trend toward paid internships will continue, in light of new guidance around compensation for internships from the U.S. Department of Labor. Under the new test, if the intern is determined to be the primary beneficiary of the internship experience, he or she may be unpaid.
However, as another Recruiting Daily Advisor article points out, this may be subject to legal interpretation.