Are unpaid internships worth the costs?

By on October 30, 2017

By Adria Calnon —

As junior and senior year rolls around, many students search for an internship. Whether it’s for school credit, trying to make job connections or to learn more about their field, internships are a popular option for upcoming graduates.

But are they worth it?

An unpaid internship is going to cost paychecks and valuable time. Working part-time at an unpaid internship is about 15-20 hours a week that could be devoted to a paid job. Consider everything needed keep an internship: gas to the office, parking fees and tuition for college credit for the internship.

Most people would like to be paid for their work, but many smaller companies can’t afford to pay interns. That leaves unpaid internships as a way to give students real-world experience. U of L Junior Austin Bryant said having a job during an unpaid internship is important.

“It’ll make your life so much more stressful if you’re constantly worrying about how to pay for lunch on your lunch break,” Bryant said. “Even if you only work a few hours a week for a paycheck, it can make a big difference.”

It is important to note internships do not always lead to jobs. They can be a helpful stepping stone if done properly, but many students accept an internship offer hoping to move into the company.

While you’re not guaranteed a job, an unpaid internship might make you even less appealing to other companies.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed more than 9,000 seniors in 2013 to see if they had received a job offer from their internship. They found  63 percent of students with a paid internship had received at least one job offer. Only 37 percent of students who were unpaid interns could say the same, yet 38.8 percent of students who never interned still received a job offer.

It’s important to understand that having an unpaid internship is a privilege. It’s a use of time and money that many students cannot afford. Remember, your time and integrity are important if you take an unpaid internship.

“Always remember that your time is valuable. Set boundaries early on in the internship and don’t let them take advantage of you,” senior Emily Baskett said. “If you state that you’ll be working 15 hours a week, you are under no obligation to work more than that. Stand up for yourself and the management will respect you in return.”

If you can dedicate your time to a non-paying gig, you can get a lot of experience from it. Just keep in mind the pros and cons of giving your time up for free.

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