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Should You Take an Unpaid Internship? Questions To Ask First

Apr 29, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

If your company isn’t going to pay you as an intern, they should be offering you something else of value. If you’re considering taking an unpaid internship, be sure you’re getting something besides money in return—whether that’s a strong line on your resume, a valuable learning experience, an opportunity for full-time employment, or class credit.

Here are a few questions to ask to determine whether an unpaid internship opportunity is worth your time.

Will I get college credit

Some internships offer college credit. Others don’t. If your internship doesn’t, it’s possible that the reason is because the internship doesn’t satisfy your college’s requirements for credit—in other words, the tasks they’ll have you doing don’t apply to your major or your department believes they don’t have adequate academic value. This is definitely something to consider when choosing a college internship.

How prestigious is this company

Business Man With Pockets Pulled out

No company should get your work and time for free. If they’re not paying you a wage, be sure you’re getting something else you want.



Will the name of the company itself look good on your resume? Will you get a career boost just by working with them? Will knowing the people who work there—and getting strong recommendation letters from them—help you in your job search? Sometimes it’s who you know—not what you know—that gets you the job.

Do they have a record of hiring interns in full-time positions after graduation?

How likely is it that this position will translate into a full-time job? Have they hired interns for full-time positions before? The job market is extremely tough for new graduates these days—so working in a company that’s open to hiring interns and has a prior record of doing it may be worth it to you later.

What will my job duties be?

Are you performing tasks that will teach you something, or will you primarily be pouring coffee and making copies? Ask about the job duties of the internship program and the areas of the business you’ll be exposed to. Do they mesh with your interests and goals? Will you gain experience here that will help you in your job search later?

Can I handle the schedule?

If you’re planning to work in this internship position during the school year, you’ll need the schedule to accommodate your classes and study time. If you’re doing it during summer vacation, you may need to fit it around a paying job. What kind of time commitment do they expect? How flexible will they be about your hours and attendance? Will this internship cut into your school or work time? Is it possible that your grades could drop or you’ll have to work fewer hours at an actual paying job to take this opportunity?

Can I work there while living at home?

Where is the internship located? If they’re not paying you, then you’re completely on your own for housing costs. If you can live at home, this may not be an issue—but if you have to pay rent while you’re there, it could be a problem. Be sure you know what your housing options are and whether taking this internship is financially feasible.

What will my transportation costs be?

An unpaid internship shouldn’t set you back financially or in terms of schedule because of transportation and commute issues. Even if you live fairly close by, you may need to take a car, bus, or train to get to work. Can you get there using public transportation? Will you need a car? How much will it cost you to get to work? And how long will the commute be? If it takes you over half an hour to get there and back, you may have trouble fitting work in with your full-time class schedule.

No company should get your work and time for free. If they’re not paying you a wage, be sure you’re getting something else you want. Find out whether they’re offering college credits, what tasks you’ll be asked to do, and whether they have a record of hiring interns as full-time workers after graduation. Do some research on the company and its executives to see where they rank in your industry. And be sure this internship won’t cost you more than it’s worth in terms of housing and transportation. With some research, you should be able to find an internship opportunity that works for you.

Paid or Unpaid Internships -



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