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Compensation and Labor Laws

Compensation for time spent in an internship depends upon the employer and/or the project.  Some government and non-profit organizations offer unpaid internships, while most for-profit internships are paid.  Typical wages range from $10 to $15 per hour, with the exception of engineering internship opportunities which average $17 to $22 per hour.

Unpaid internships with for-profit companies are subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act which is meant to distinguish appropriate classifications for interns and to emphasize the necessary educational aspects of an internship.

With that in mind, PSU has developed the following criteria based on current labor laws and our commitment to providing quality educational opportunities to students:

PSU Guidelines for Unpaid Internships with For-Profit Companies

  • The internship is highly educational and will primarily benefit the Intern
  • Learning objectives are established with the intern before beginning the internship and are revisited regularly to ensure ongoing objectives are being met
  • The intern is supervised and mentored throughout the internship 
  • The intern is not a consultant or on-site expert for any project or task that your professional staff is not able to perform (e.g. create a website, write a grant, develop a marketing campaign) 
  • The intern does not displace a paid employee
  • The employer derives no immediate financial advantage from the intern 
  • No more than 30% of the intern's time should be spent on clerical or repetitive tasks
  • The internship is a substantial learning experience, such that a faculty member would approve the internship as worthy of academic credit
  • Unpaid/non-credit internships are limited to only one academic term or 10 weeks

For information on Internship Program Best Practices for Employers, click here.

Information for Nonprofit Organizations: Managing a Legally-Compliant Unpaid Internship Program:

This link will offer you information about how to classify your unpaid intern, determine compensation and other benefits, and learn about trending practices and recent news around nonprofit internships. (LawForChange)

National Council of Nonprofits: Tips for avoiding risk when using interns.