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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 for undergraduates range from $10 to $18 per hour and are usually determined base upon academic year (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior).  Engineering intern compensation range of pay is slightly higher and averages $17-$22 per hour.

Unpaid internships with for-profit companies are subject to the U.S. Department of Labor's guidelines in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is meant to distinguish appropriate classifications for interns and emphasize the necessary educational, legal, and ethical aspects of internships.  

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

PSU Guidelines for Unpaid Internships with For-Profit Companies

  • The internship is highly educational and will primarily benefit the intern
  • The intern is supervised and mentored throughout the internship 
  • The intern does not displace a paid employee
  • The employer derives no immediate financial advantage from the intern 
  • No more than approximately 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 if desired by the student
  • Unpaid internships should be limited to no more than 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.