Fair internship compensation?
January 10, 2013 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend: I have the opportunity to have an intern work part time (sixteen hours or about twice a week) for me and I need to figure out how compensation might work here. We're a very small business and this is the first time we've dealt with internships.

The intern in question is a post-grad (bachelor's) looking to have some experience before she starts a graduate program in this field in the Fall. She won't be receiving any college credit for the internship. I have two ideas about compensation:
1. A flat weekly payment
2. Straight hourly wage

I can't tell how much would be a fair payment. The intern would likely shadow some of the other employees in the office and do some small research projects. I was thinking to start her at the same rate as reception, but I wasn't sure if this was the best option here. Ideas?
posted by Kitty Stardust to Work & Money (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Pay for an intern? Don't those guys usually work for free?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:39 AM on January 10, 2013

Pay for an intern? Don't those guys usually work for free?

Frequently. It's also often illegal if they are doing work that would otherwise have to be done by others.
posted by Jahaza at 8:40 AM on January 10, 2013 [16 favorites]

In my internship over a decade ago, my hourly rate was about 5/8ths of a full time engineer in the same position.
posted by LeanGreen at 8:41 AM on January 10, 2013

Usually people pay at the wage of an entry-level employee, prorated for how much time the intern spends. You might do more or less depending on her responsibilities. The wages of reception are not an unreasonable place to start, but if she's shadowing employees, their wages might be a good baseline to start at.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:45 AM on January 10, 2013

Especially given that it's part time, an hourly wage makes sense. The highest paid internship I had without a bachelor's degree was 70% of what I got offered for a full time job after I graduated.
posted by deanc at 8:45 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Please pay your intern something she can theoretically live on. Just because it's an internship doesn't mean that person doesn't have bills to pay.

I held out for a paid internship. It was part time and I was taught the specialized skills I needed to perform the duties I was assigned. I started at $20/hour and was bumped up to $25/hour after 100 hours.
posted by woodvine at 8:46 AM on January 10, 2013

All the internships I've had (software development -- ymmv) have been paid in one lump sum, of the full salary prorated for time.
posted by katrielalex at 8:49 AM on January 10, 2013

It's probably a good idea to indicate what the intern is doing because intern compensation ranges widely between professions. It would be odd for a media intern to be paid at all; it would also be odd for an engineering intern to be paid anything less than, say, 50% of a full salary (60%-70% would be more common).

I can give you a couple examples from engineering if you want to memail me, but I don't think they will be relevant to you.
posted by saeculorum at 8:50 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

What's the industry and what would the intern be doing?

I do think hourly would be best.
posted by radioamy at 9:08 AM on January 10, 2013

Response by poster: The intern would be working in the legal field. She's been accepted to 2 law schools and is wanting to learn more about how a firm operates before she begins. Much of her time would be likely split between shadowing the paralegal and doing some light legal research for the attorney.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:13 AM on January 10, 2013

It really depends on the industry; unpaid is standard is some, paid is standard in others.

I do not know how the legality of unpaid works, but I bet the law varies by type of work performed and possibly by state.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:14 AM on January 10, 2013

On non-preview: legal internships vary. Most public interest and government legal internships are unpaid; all or virtually all private firms pay their interns who are in law school. However, I would be surprised if most law offices paid a college student intern who had no legal training.

So, standard practice would probably be unpaid, since she hasn't started law school.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:19 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

If she is doing research projects or light filing work (etc.), she should be paid. Just because many, many companies abuse intern laws, it doesn't sound like that's the route you're going for anyway. Sticking with the receptionist scale seems relatively easy, especially if in the beginning she'll be working on lower-level tasks. One advantage could be that you could adjust her pay scale, which you can't do with a set lump sum.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:26 AM on January 10, 2013

My (engineering) firm treats interns like any other part-time employee. It seems like either the standard hourly receptionist rate or something like 50% of the standard paralegal rate would be fine - I would probably default to whichever's higher because offering good internships can be a good way to promote a business to qualified, sane potential employees.
posted by muddgirl at 9:35 AM on January 10, 2013

I don't know where you are. But here in the USA you must pay at least minimum wage. The exact hourly amount depends on your city and state.

You should be fair - if the person is doing work of equal value to a full time employee, then they should be paid approximately equally. However, most interns really don't do this, they are learning on the job and are accruing significant benefit of real world experience. In this case I think it's fine to pay significantly less.
posted by Long Way To Go at 9:35 AM on January 10, 2013

What I feel like you should do is you should figure out what percentage of output you expect from this intern compared to a full-time employee in the same role, and then use that as your baseline. So for instance if she's basically doing paralegal work but your expectation is that she will be doing about 50% as much work per hour as a real paralegal since she'll be learning on the job, then you should pay 50% of what a paralegal makes. Adjust upward, if necessary, until you are paying at least a basic living wage (or what would be a living wage assuming she were working full time) for your area.

For reference, here is the minimum living wage for Melbourne City, Florida according to MIT's Living Wage Calculator. I would probably adjust upward a little for a part-time job since I assume you are not offering benefits and there is always an opportunity cost in stringing together part-time jobs that makes them never quite as good as having the same number of hours in a full-time job (transportation, etc).

Of course you might also want to consult with an employment lawyer here, to make sure that whatever you decide on is all legal and above-board. And you might want to try and look at some job listings for other similar businesses in your area to see what they are paying their interns. Keep in mind that most places don't pay interns very much if anything, so if the numbers look shockingly low to you then I might suggest that you listen to your conscience and adjust upward in the name of good karma and improving your reputation among up-and-comers.
posted by Scientist at 9:55 AM on January 10, 2013

Much of her time would be likely split between shadowing the paralegal and doing some light legal research for the attorney.

Lawyer here. Based on this description, I would pay something between whatever your friend's firm pays the staff who do the filing et cetera and the paralegals. Filing staff are sometimes part-time, so if your friend has part-time file clerks, their hourly pay might be a good place to start.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:19 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Start by checking what the municipal and state regulations are. Then check with relevant professional organizations (ABA, I guess, if you're in the US) to see what their policies are, if any.

Failing guidance from that, I would pay whatever hourly rate is suggested as the local "living wage" (as opposed to mandated minimum wage).
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:08 AM on January 10, 2013

When I worked as a legal studies intern for National Public Radio in 2006, I made $8/hr.
posted by vegartanipla at 8:20 PM on January 10, 2013

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