General FAQs |

Personnel and Human Resources FAQs and Info |

Remote Interns FAQs

Nothing on this website constitutes legal advice. Please consult an attorney or other professional if you have questions about minimum wage compliance or other legal issues.

General FAQs

More than 19 hours of work per week can negatively impact a student’s academic performance; students who work more than 15 hours per week are more likely to drop out; half of students working more than 15 hours per week had a grade average of C or lower.

  • One survey of undergraduates at a small liberal arts college found that the academic performance (greater hours studied and higher grades) of students who worked 10-19 hours per week was superior to all other students, working and nonworking. The researchers suggested that the increase in performance is due to an optimal work-college balance that establishes structure and discipline not achieved by working too few or too many hours. Dundes, L. & Marx, J. (2007). Balancing work and academics in college: Why do students working 10 to 19 hours per week excel? Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 8(1), 107-120. Other research related to balancing work and studies is summarized here.
  • According to a 2018 study published by Georgetown University, close to 70 percent of students work while attending college; of those, more than half have no other option. The same study found that students who work more than 15 hours per week are more likely to drop out—even as they incur debt—and nearly half of students working more than 15 hours per week had a grade average of C or lower.

Studies show that the average wage for interns in 2020 was $20.76. The fields of study with the highest average hourly wages for bachelor’s-level interns were computer science ($23.39), math/statistics ($23.34), actuarial science ($23.30), and engineering ($23.17).

For information about Virginia minimum wage and federal wage regulations related to for-profit and non-profit employers, see the Personnel and HR FAQ & Info section below.

  • NACE Survey of Intern Wages in 2020 (May 30, 2021): The average hourly wage for interns is $20.76. The average hourly wage for co-ops is $20.20. The fields of study with the highest average hourly wages for bachelor’s-level interns are computer science ($23.39), math/statistics ($23.34), actuarial science ($23.30), and engineering ($23.17).
  • CNBC (July 12, 2021): According to a recent survey of 267 employers (including big-name companies such as Adidas, Dell and Wells Fargo) by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average hourly wage for paid interns in the summer of 2020 was $20.76 — an increase of $1.22 from the previous year and the highest rate ever measured. More than half (56%) of organizations said they helped interns relocate, including $2,500 for housing and $1,700 for travel expenses, on average. About 14% of employers said that they use signing bonuses to help convert interns into full-time employees.

Yes. There are at least two excellent programs:

  • The Project SEARCH program provides real-life work experience combined with training in employability and independent-living skills to help young people with significant disabilities make successful transitions to productive adult life. The Project SEARCH model involves an extensive period of skills training and career exploration, innovative adaptations, long-term job coaching, and continuous feedback from teachers, skills trainers, and employers. As a result, at the completion of the training program, students with significant intellectual disabilities are employed in nontraditional, complex and rewarding jobs. Virginia currently has 18 sites. More information here.
  • The Next Move Program works to combat the 70% unemployment rate for young adults with developmental disabilities here in Virginia. They tackle this crisis by facilitating guided-internship experiences within their own organization at Tablespoons Bakery and guided-externship experiences within other businesses like Altria, Wells Fargo, Quirk Hotel and the University of Richmond. Their model is endorsed by the Virginia Department of Education. More information here.

The United States government tightly regulates the employment (and internships) of foreign nationals, so the answer depends on the type of visa the student has. The student must have either an F-1 or J-1 visa. One benefit of the F-1 and J-1 status is that most students may apply for work authorization to accept a variety of employment opportunities. Best of all, it is possible for students to begin working without their employers having to provide visa sponsorship.

Working in the US without prior authorization is a serious violation of immigration regulations and may lead to cancellation of the student’s visa.

For more information about F-1 Visas, see here.

For more information about J-1 visas, see here.

Several institutions of higher education have posted guides for employers who want to hire international students as interns:

Personnel and Human Resources FAQs and Info

The minimum wage is established by the Code of Virginia § 40.1-28.10. The law establishes $9.50 per hour as the minimum wage effective May 1, 2021. The minimum wage is scheduled to increase to $11.00 per hour on January 1, 2022, with another increase scheduled on January 1, 2023 to $12.00 per hour.

There are numerous classes of workers who are exempt from the Virginia minimum wage.

Employers should review the Update published by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Labor and Employment Law Division.

The Virginia Workers Compensation Act applies to all employers that employ more than two part-time or full-time employees. An employee is viewed broadly under workers’ compensation law and includes part-time, seasonal and temporary workers, minors, trainees, immigrants and working family members. More information is available here.

Paid interns should be covered by the employer’s workers compensation policy. In Virginia, workers’ compensation is statutory; that means it is required by law. Therefore an employer cannot exclude an individual employee or employees from a policy, by waiver or by any other means. (Source)

Even unpaid interns could be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. While statutes and case law relating to unpaid interns vary by state, in Virginia, in determining whether there is an employee-employer relationship, the Workers’ Compensation Commission issued this guidance:

  • “A person is generally considered an employee if: 1) they are selected, 2) can be dismissed, 3) earn pay or wages, and 4) control is exercised over the means and method by which the work is performed. The last factor is given the greatest weight. If inquiry indicates that “control” is exercised over the worker, the worker should likely be counted as an employee for coverage purposes.” (Source)
  • The right to control includes not only the power to specify the result to be achieved, but also the power to control the means and methods by which the result is attained. If a person has the power to direct the means and methods by which another does the work, then an employer-employee relationship exists.
  • While unpaid interns may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, volunteers generally are not. “Generally, volunteers that are not paid or compensated are not employees under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act. However, should a business wish to cover a volunteer they can be endorsed onto a policy.” (Source)

The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) administers the unemployment insurance program. More information is available here and here

In Virginia, a person must have earned at least $3,000 during two quarters of the “regular base period” of covered employment. If the intern is no longer working for any reason other than reduction in workforce (lack of work), the VEC will gather facts from the former intern and the employer concerning the separation. The former intern is required to be able and available to work, actively seek employment, and meet weekly eligibility requirements.

Va. Code § 40.1-28.7:8 (Covenants not to compete prohibited as to low-wage employees; civil penalty) states that, “No employer shall enter into, enforce, or threaten to enforce a covenant not to compete with any low-wage employee.” The statute defines low-wage employee to include “interns, students, apprentices, or trainees employed, with or without pay, at a trade or occupation in order to gain work or educational experience.”

The Virginia Human Rights Act, as it relates to employment, states that it is the policy of the Commonwealth to “[s]afeguard all individuals within the Commonwealth from unlawful discrimination in employment because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or military status.”

Employers sometimes ask faculty to identify their “best” students. This raises a host of ethical issues and has legal implications as well. (Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers, Journal, August 2021 (membership required)

Although some recommend a student or new graduate volunteer to work unpaid to gain experience, it is illegal for for-profit organizations to have “volunteers” perform work. (Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers (membership required))

It is true that federal anti-discrimination laws—and the majority of state laws—provide protections only for “employees.” It is also true that unpaid interns are generally not considered “employees” under the law and are therefore not provided with the protections afforded in the statutes or regulations. . . . The more interaction and control an educational institution asserts over an internship, the more likely there is to be joint liability between the employer and the educational institution. . . . Both the employer’s and the educational institution’s policies should define what constitutes harassment. More importantly, the policies should have a specific complaint mechanism that indicates who an intern is to report complaints of harassment or discrimination to if he or she believes such issues have occurred.

National Association of Colleges and Employers (membership required)

Harassment in the Workplace: What Employers, Employees, and Interns Need to Know
National Association of Colleges and Employers (membership required)

Remote Interns FAQs

Onboarding

  • Start the onboarding and orientation process earlier or consider lengthening the internship by a few weeks to allow extra time for start-up and acclimation to remote work
  • Send a welcome packet of information before the start of the internship; include branded gear to help the intern feel like they are integrating into the company
  • Create short video bios of every member of the team introducing themselves and sharing something about themselves and send those to interns prior to start or on the first day

Orientation and Training

  • All members of the leadership team should still be involved in the orientation schedule, and video introductions should be utilized as much as possible
  • Some orientation can still happen in person, especially if there is a small cohort of interns starting at the same time; an in-person meeting could help build relationships more quickly
  • Determine how much time during each day of orientation interns should be asked to participate in online meetings versus working at their own pace reviewing policies, procedures, etc., and then create a schedule for the first week or days with detailed agendas
  • Keep training segments focused on one task at a time and have interns practice or discuss content after each topic to keep people engaged
  • Consider a scavenger hunt within the company’s online resources
  • After a company has carefully chosen an online collaboration platform, whether the same one that all employees use or one specific to the internship program, train the new interns on using the technology (if the platform is new and specifically for the internship program, ensure that all current employees who will interact with the intern on the platform are also trained)

  • Inform interns of company norms such as: When do we use chat tools? When do we post an update on progress to a project management platform? Why do we write emails? At what point do we pick up the phone or schedule a video call?
  • Consider prefacing communication with the context each person is in or what they’ve just completed (providing a bridge can help transition from a previous unrelated task to the conversation or task at hand and help avoid or explain distracted or seemingly curt exchanges)
  • Consider starting with frequent scheduled check-ins, multiple times a day, until the intern feels secure in their work assignment
  • Ensure the intern knows they can still ask a lot of questions using Slack or other chat tool
  • If a company hosts many interns, consider an “always-on” video room staffed by a monitor so the intern is able to see at least one other person working and can ask questions
  • Some companies follow the rule that if one person will attend a team meeting remotely, then all team members participate via individual video; when some team members are together in a room and others join the meeting via video, the experience is not equal
  • Consider company-wide online town halls with agenda items crowdsourced from all employees and interns in advance.
  • Use break out rooms for portions of large meetings
  • Consider weekly 15-minute random groupings of two or three team members who connect on video just to chat about non-work things
  • Use jamboards for all employees to post comments about a weekly non-work topic (favorite summer vacation spot, favorite Thanksgiving recipe, pet peeves, etc.)
  • Host a virtual “Show & Tell” and ask each intern to show an item that had special meaning; their choices and stories can provide insights into what they value
  • For interns to get to know each other, use a LinkedIn Scavenger Hunt: use break-out rooms so groups of interns can collaborate to find profiles of other interns on LinkedIn that meet criteria you set (name an intern who studied at USC, name an intern with an outdoor background); set a time limit, bring everyone back onto the main meeting and see which group found the most correct answers. You can take it one step further and review profile best practices and send the groups back to breakout rooms to assess their profiles and advise each other.

Pairing a scholarship with your internship program can be a great way to promote your program and attract top talent, especially in very competitive industries. This is true whether interns are working remotely or in person. If your company has unspent internship program funds available, consider adding a scholarship.

Other ideas:

  • Virtual escape room challenge (vendors charge ~ $25 to $30 per person)
  • painting workshop (vendor will mail materials to interns and lead the workshop for about $40 per intern)
  • Trivia games for team building or as a social event (again, vendors are available)
  • Jeopardy game using facts about your company and the internship program (use PowerPoint to make the topic board; send electronic gift cards to the winning team)
  • Food delivery to each intern for morning breakfast meetings or tea and cookies for afternoon meetings
  • Food tasting session where samples of food were shipped to each intern and everyone tasted things together and gave feedback and opinions

  • Ensure interns have a stable high-speed internet connection and, if not, supply funding to pay for it or provide a mobile hotspot. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia took a “Closer Look At Virginia’s Digital Divide In Education” and found that (1) statewide, fully one in five Virginia students (K-12 and college) lack either high-speed internet or a computer in the home and (2) while students living in rural areas are less likely to have broadband internet in the home compared to urban students, nearly 40% of all students without broadband live in or around Virginia’s cities.
  • Provide easy-to-follow printed instructions or videos for setting up the company-provided hardware and software
  • Schedule a one-on-one virtual meeting for each intern with a member of the IT staff to conduct the initial setup of the hardware and software and to troubleshoot any issues

  • Provide every employee, including interns, with great headphones to ensure good audio quality and less echo or feedback
  • Assist the intern to evaluate (i.e., through a checklist) their home work space to ensure they have everything they need; consider including advice on ergonomic best practices

Consider training your staff who mentor interns on strategies to work productively in a remote environment, or other topic, to be used as an ice breaker.

  • Build relationships with and recruit interns from colleges and universities that are not your usual sources (either due to geographic distance or budgetary considerations that previously limited your travel to career fairs, etc.)
  • Perhaps not all scheduled work hours need to fall during regular business hours; perhaps a remote intern can do some work asynchronously at any time of day, especially if the intern is located outside of your time zone; however, a work schedule should still be agreed upon and followed and both supervisor and intern should recognize the benefits and barriers to working different hours
  • If the company has more than one location, consider taking advantage of the remote environment to broaden the list of executives who can participate in the internship program
  • Invite college and university career services personnel to interns’ virtual presentations of their work or to listen to intern panels