Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Internship guidelines for employers

This is a summary of the Department of Labor standards for unpaid internships. See the full text: Internship Under Fair Labor Standards.

Has your company considered the benefits of starting an internship program? Interns can bring a fresh perspective and an extra set of hands, and can eventually become entry-level hires. Remember that interns are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act and there are specific labor laws to be aware of while designing an internship program. See more about PCC’s guidelines for employers.

Intern or employee?

Intern or employee – how do you tell the difference? A key difference is who primarily benefits from the relationship. While both parties benefit from a good internship program, an internship primarily benefits the intern and employment primarily benefits the company.

The Fair Labor Standards Act uses these factors to determine if a position can be offered as an unpaid internship:

  • Clear expectations: do both the intern and employer understand there is no expectation of compensation?
  • Educational: does the work provide training similar to an educational environment (includes clinical and hands-on training)?
  • Credit or coursework: is the work tied to a formal education program by integrated coursework or academic credit?
  • Accommodates student schedule: does the internship correspond to the academic calendar?
  • Limited duration: does the internship only last as long as it will provide beneficial learning?
  • Doesn’t replace paid work: does the work complement, rather than displace, the work of paid employees?
  • No guarantee of future employment: is it clear that the internship is not guaranteed to lead to a job offer?

If these factors do not describe the position, it’s likely that the position requires compensation and can’t be offered as an unpaid internship. See how to post paid positions here: Hire a Panther.

How to comply with policies and laws

The easiest way to ensure compliance is to coordinate with the Jobs and Internships Office. All CTE programs at PCC and most transfer programs have an assigned specialist that can help you with setting up an internship.