The Intern Diaries: Unpaid, paid, or college credit


A while ago, I allowed readers to ask me questions directly that they wanted to have answered about internships. People ended up asking questions personal to their blog instead of something that may help the wider audience, so I eliminated the Q&A option. However, that doesn't mean I won't answer questions! If you have a question you want answered, just send it my way or even comment on this post! It may be a post in the future!

Anyway, today's post is a discussion about my the many kinds of internships from a blogger who has asked to remain anonymous.

Question: I've noticed internships have different qualifications such as paid or unpaid, or that they give college credit. What are the differences and what are your thoughts?


This is such a great question and I thought it was worthy of a post!

My thought is that no internship is a bad internship. Any learning experience is a positive. It can help you realize that an industry you thought was for you really isn't, or it may firm up your belief that you belong where you thought you belong. Perhaps it'll make you realize that the overarching industry you have an interest in is correct, but the specific department you are in is not your cup of tea. Because of that, any internship truly is great.

Unpaid Internships


Unpaid internships are exactly as they sound, unpaid. You do your work and you will not receive any monetary compensation in exchange for your work. A lot of industries have unpaid internships, most commonly in non-profits. The obvious downside to unpaid internships is that you aren't getting paid, but the positive is that you are probably working at a smaller company that can't pay you, so you are getting more hands-on experience than what you may get in a bigger company.

Unpaid internships are typically advertised as unpaid and if you have any question you should always make sure you clarify such a thing with HR or your hiring manager before you start. 

My very first internship was unpaid and I learned a lot. I used it as a launching point to try to get future paid positions after my parents agreed to support me for the summer because I was too young to properly intern anywhere that paid yet. They viewed it as a necessity to get my foot in the door and then I could take care of myself for the future. And I still believe that unpaid internships are sometimes a necessity to get your foot into the industry and to properly understand it so you can go for the bigger internships in the future. It's hard in certain industries to simply jump right into the big names with the big paychecks. It's something you work your way to.

Travel Stipends


If you have an unpaid internship, it's always worth questioning if there is a travel stipend. Travel stipends may be a pre-designated amount of money, or they may cover the exact amount of your travel if you present HR with receipts every week. Either way, if you are unpaid, at least you are being compensated for your travel which is always a bonus.

Travel stipends can also be part of paid internship programs, though that is rare because they are paying you. It does sometimes happen if you are paying large sums of money to travel because you are coming from far away. However, most companies have disclaimers about how the intern is responsible for finding their own housing and travel to work.

Because of those disclaimers, when inquiring about travel stipends make sure you use logic. An unpaid internship is more likely to give you a travel stipend than a paid internship. Typically if a paid internship offered a travel stipend, they'll bring it to your attention. Unpaid internships are more likely to consider creating one by request if you present a decent argument.

Again, this is just from personal experience. I have received a stipend while being paid and a stipend while being unpaid, but both were offered to me in my contract and I did not have to inquire about either. My friend has been given one at an unpaid position after inquiring about it and I have had multiple friends get shot down in paid positions when inquiring about them because they were making more than the minimum wage at the time.

College Credit Internships


Technically, this is another form of an unpaid internship. But not really. You're being compensated, but in a different way. College credit means that you're "taking a class" by completing your internship.

I don't know how other colleges choose to run their college credit internship programs, but my college has you sign up for a class and do a weekly journal at the end of every week on top of a midterm and final essay talking about what you have learned, whether this position is for you, etc. At the end of your internship, the professor will then have your boss at your internship fill out a questionnaire that factors into your grade. Your boss is well aware that they have to do this because they have to write to your professor to prove you have the internship to begin with in order to be let into the class.

Some colleges choose to make this class pass or fail, but my college chose to make it an actual grade. For most people this is a GPA boost because they would not opt for college credit with a boss they do not get along with. 

College credit internships tend to also count towards your major degree, so not only do you have something noted on your transcript and a nice grade added to your GPA where you got real life experience, you also get to take a class off of your major to explore a minor, a second major, or an open elective. This means you may even be saving money depending on how your college chooses to run payment of tuition and whatnot if you decide to go for more than one degree.

College credit isn't always ideal, but it's nothing to shake your head at.

Paid Internships


Ahhh, the holy grail.

Honestly, paid internships are, at times, very hard to find. They don't exist in the non-profit industry, but if you go into finance you'll always be paid (sometimes as much as 5-7 times the minimum wage because it's so competitive). Typically paid internships are more competitive because 1) they are paid and 2) they are often with the bigger, more recognizable companies.

Being able to get paid to learn about an industry you (hopefully) love is wonderful. It's like a temporary seasonal job. Of course, you do have to pay taxes and all of that fun stuff at the end, but you have more money in your pocket to explore or save up to study abroad if you are like me.

When applying for a paid position, make sure not to ask how much they are paying you up front. The way I view it is any pay is going to be at least minimum wage, which I'll take because years ago most internships weren't paid. If offered more, I'll accept with a smile on my face and continue my merry way to my cubicle.

As I mentioned above, my first internship was unpaid in order to be able to work my way towards large companies that do pay, and I don't regret that decision. Some internships are competitive for a reason, and when you finally get one you can sit there and be ridiculously proud of yourself because you did it! 

Do you have any questions about internships? Did you learn anything from this post? Is there something specific you would like to be mentioned in a future post? Comment below with your thoughts! As always, they are greatly appreciated <3

1 comment:

  1. Just received a check for $500.

    Sometimes people don't believe me when I tell them about how much money you can make by taking paid surveys from home...

    So I took a video of myself getting paid over $500 for paid surveys to set the record straight.

    ReplyDelete