Intern or Employee? Legal issues
An intern's response about his internship experience.

Internships: Who benefits from this experience?

Elliot Gaskin, my intern helping me at
Maker Faire. 2009

For the past six weeks, I've been working with an intern from the local Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California.  It has been an interesting and productive experience for both of us and only the second time that I ventured into this arena.

I have two children in college and have been aware of how valuable it is for young adults to gain real-world experience.  I felt that giving an internship experience to a local student was my way, in part, to support all young people in advancing their careers.

The internship program sponsored by the Academy of Art University, San Francisco was fairly open-ended but included the following statement in their materials:

The difference between an Internship and Employment
The difference, as set forth by the Department of Labor, for purposes of determining whether or not individuals must be paid for their work, is as follows:

An individual is an “employee,” and must be paid, if his or her activities benefit the company more than they benefit him or her. An individual is an “intern,” who may or may not be paid, if his or her activities benefit him or her more than they benefit the company.

Dilbert Bracelet (front side)
from the California Collection

I learned that there is a real concern that some interns are exploited as cheap labor.  Basically, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states that if the internship involves extensive productivity from the student and will not be allowing the opportunity for college credit, an intern must be paid for his or her work.  Consider carefully whether the internship falls under the category of Employment or Internship for credit.

I did some research on my own. This information is included in a previous post with more detail about the regulation of internships. 

As part of my internship effort, my intern and I covered a broad  range of professional practices, including:

  • Internet: Web sites, Dreamweaver, 2.0, blogs, SEO;
  • Images editing: Photoshop;
  • Image organization and Image Descriptions;
  • Promotional materials for galleries and museums;
  • Packing and shipping work ;
  • Preparing pedestals and didactic materials for exhibition;
  • Artist Statements;
  • Studio work: hallmarking, time management, pricing, studio maintenance;
  • Professional Guidelines;
  • Lecture preparation;
  • Tons of opinions about surviving as an artist;
  • and much more.

Dilbert Bracelet  (backside)
from the California Collection

This was just a brief summary of the topics we covered.

In my next post, I thought that my intern, Elliot Gaskin, could talk about his experience as an intern.

In the meantime, have any of you had an intern or an internship? What did you think was the best and worst part of the experience?



This post was updated on December 23, 2021.