Companies have long used internships to avoid paying young people, but increasingly they don't want to see their interns at all. "Virtual internships," where recent grads do research and sales or work with social media from home, has expanded from an unheard-of practice to "something almost every college student has at least considered," one HR professional tells the Wall Street Journal. Many virtual interns never even meet their bosses.
While they may receive course credit or even nominal pay, virtual interns can't build the same personal rapport as those who do the photocopying and make the coffee. Still, career counselors and employers say that virtual internships allow young people in far-flung locations to gain experience in fields they might otherwise pass over. For one New Hampshire entrepreneur who has five virtual interns, "there's just no way I would have gotten the same level of talent if I required a physical internship presence."