Every year, Chandra Turner, a veteran of the magazine industry, gives out a handful of scholarships to unpaid interns hoping to enter her field. But after two recession-era semesters when she couldn't raise the dough, Turner decided to tap a new revenue stream: the people hiring unpaid interns.
Turner runs Ed2010.com, a popular resource site for those aspiring to work in the media industry. Starting last year, publications that want to advertise unpaid internships on her jobs board have to pay $20 a pop -- $30 if they want a tweet out of it too.
"I'm basically taxing them," says Turner, who is currently the executive editor of Parents magazine, which pays interns. (Read the full list of who pays and who doesn't.) "If you want to use me for their unpaid labor, you have to pay me."
This summer, she was able to give a $1,200 grant to two students, one of whom is interning at Oprah magazine, and the other at Cosmopolitan -- both magazines owned by mega-media conglomerate Hearst Corporation, which famously refuses to pay any of its interns, leading a group of them to file suit last year.
Unpaid internships are currently the subject of a bloody battle in U.S. courtrooms, but when it comes to her industry, Turner isn't one to sit on the sidelines and twiddle her thumbs.
"We can't wait for any lawsuit to create change. The courts take eons," says Turner. "That's not going to help this generation of kids. We can't sit around and wait for that happen."
Since many companies will continue to offer unpaid internships as long as they can, and students -- with few other options -- are willing to take them, it's the middle man who's now taking a stand. Turner isn't the only one to turn job-listing boards into the latest front of resistance. Earlier this year, two New York University students started a petition to "remove postings of illegal, exploitative unpaid internships" from the university's career listings site, and received over 1,000 signatures.
The gatekeepers of many university job sites say that they're fighting back against employers looking for unpaid talent. "One messaged back, 'OK, we can pay,'" says Mike Wong, the director of career services at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. "Sometimes the career services director just has to be an advocate for them."
Turner says that there was some backlash to her scheme, but she wasn't particularly sympathetic. "Perhaps Ed2010 shouldn't encourage people to intern at your magazine," she thought, "if you can't invest $20 for someone to be interning for you."
The Most Underpaid Jobs in the U.S.
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Average Salary: $23,900 No. of Openings: 195,000 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
Those who work in security frequently praise the occupation's flexible hours (lots of night and 12-hour shifts result in more days off) and recommend it for people who don't mind working alone. Still, it's a job that can be particularly stressful to the psyche as well as the body. Security guards must remain alert to protect against and prevent fire hazards, larceny, vandalism, and other emergency situations and illegal activity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that security guards experience more on-the-job injury than the national average for all professions; gaming surveillance officers specifically have one of the highest injury rates. Too bad the pay is so paltry for those making security their full-time gig. In 2011, the average median salary for a security guard was just $23,900.
Average Salary: $28,470 No. of Openings: 71,400 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
A sports coach trains either amateur or professional athletes for competition. But he or she also serves as an adviser, parent, teacher, and confidante for his or her team. The most-renowned in the profession -- the Bela Karolyis, the John Maddens, and the Pat Rileys -- have earned impressive salaries that came with adulation as well as endorsement deals. But most of the 242,900 professionals working in the field currently aren't coaching on that level, nor are they earning that type of pay. And the adulation they most mention to Glassdoor comes from the impressionable young people they coach on the secondary and collegiate level.
Average Salary: $29,100 No. of Openings: 162,900 Job Satisfaction: MEDIUM
The approximately 530,000 medical assistants employed in doctors' offices and larger medical organizations must do a mix of traditional office operations work and hands-on medical tasks. They take patient histories, assist in patient examinations, change wound dressings, and help with sterilizing equipment. Often, they're the first and last people a patient sees when visiting a doctor's office, so medical assistants play a substantial part in the overall patient-care experience. In recent years, a medical assistant's people skills and practical skills have been complemented by technological skills, since most patient records are now digitized. The multifaceted nature of responsibilities hasn't resulted in substantially higher pay, however. In 2011, the BLS reported a median salary for medical assistants that's $12,573 less than the national average.
Average Salary: $31,030 No. of Openings: 124,700 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
"There is a lot of satisfaction in helping people," writes one assistant department head to Glassdoor about working at Minnesota's Life Time Fitness club. Another recreation and fitness professional with Urban Active Fitness in Lexington, Ken., appreciates "The people you'll meet and relationships you'll start." So it's no surprise that as a whole, recreation and fitness occupations—aerobics instructors, camp counselors, and personal trainers—receive a boost on our Best Jobs list for their reported personal perks. The chance to be physically active and forgo a traditional 9-to-5 schedule also help boost these occupations' curb appeal. But fitness trainers earned an average $31,030 in 2011, according to the BLS. That's more than $10,000 less than the national average median wage.
Average Salary: $31,870 No. of Openings: 118,500 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
Today's administrative assistants have evolved beyond juggling phone messages and transcribing meeting minutes. They must now be thoroughly organized, have excellent writing and editing skills, and display a knack for multitasking. Often, admin professionals fulfill the roles of project managers, secret keepers, daily planners, customer service reps, and tech support. And despite wearing so many hats around the office, the more than 2 million employed administrative assistants were earning a salary that's well below the national average -- $30,830 in 2010. In 2011, they earned about $31,870. Corporate culture and outstanding office benefits -- but not compensation -- were the key contributors to this occupation securing such lofty scores for job satisfaction.
Average Salary: $39,070 No. of Openings: 45,000 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
The mercurial economy hasn't made a real estate agent's profession an easy one. Still, the BLS predicts approximately 45,000 openings in this occupation between now and 2020, thanks to population growth. Agents have to stay abreast to the local zoning and tax laws of various communities, plus keep a pulse on the atmosphere in communities where they might do business. Keeping tabs on market conditions is another crucial element of their occupation. This is also a job that requires copious paperwork and patience, but it's not a job that comes with copious spending change. Though the profession's highest-paid earned around $92,000 in 2011, a real estate agent's average salary was less than $40,000 that year. Some tell Glassdoor that they find reward in helping people find homes. For others, they appreciate the chance to make their own flexible schedule.
Average Salary: $40,680 No. of Openings: 58,200 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
The stakes are higher when a social worker has a bad day. The average, coddled office employee might become discouraged when the copier jams or the instant coffee machine goes on the fritz. But for a children, family and school social worker, a "bad day" could entail reporting suspected child abuse, having a proposed adoption fall through, or witnessing a parent losing custody of their children. Despite the high stress, social workers report to Glassdoor that they like working with people, and get a thrill out of positively impacting the lives of others. Their tender hearts don't translate to loads of legal tender, though. The BLS reports that a social worker's median salary was $40,680 in 2011, just shy of the national average wage.