Unpaid Internships: Are They Worth It?

It’s finally internship season and after weeks of resume tweaking, Skype interviewing and “thank you” e-mailing, you finally got the offer! Your dream internship company wants you as an intern this summer. There’s one caveat: it’s an unpaid internship. Now comes the time to decide if this opportunity is worth the inevitable empty wallet. Read along as VALLEY helps you to decide — are unpaid internships really worth it?


The biggest con regarding unpaid internships is pretty self-explanatory: the absence of a paycheck. Internships are the equivalent of a job for college students. Deciding to accept an unpaid internship can therefore diminish the possibility of having a part-time or full-time job and take away any source of income for students. It is possible to work a paid job while interning, but if it is a full-time internship, it can be hard to juggle as well as pretty draining.

Not being paid for all the time put into an internship also brings up the next negative factor: the time commitment. Whoever came up with the expression “time is money” certainly was not a fan of unpaid internships. Deciding to put so many hours into an internship each week and getting no monetary compensation in return is a frustrating thought for many people. The time spent volunteering for an unpaid internship is certainly something to think about before accepting an offer.


Of course, internships (even unpaid) have many pros to them. No one would offer or accept unpaid internships if there weren’t any upsides! The biggest positive regarding unpaid internships is, without a doubt, the experience. There is so much to be gained from an internship experience that can be used for the rest of your professional life. It is also an amazing way to network and make connections in that specific industry.

Another pro is that many internships that do not offer money do offer class credit. Credits at Penn State can range anywhere from $900 for in-state students and upwards of $1,500 for out-of-state students. While it is not money in your bank account, class credit definitely has monetary value to it.

Also, a lot of unpaid internships will only need you a few days a week. This leaves time to get a part time job on the other days. Of course it would make for a busy summer schedule, but having the option to make money alongside your internship experience is certainly one way to make the best out of it.

Final Thoughts

Looking at the big picture, unpaid internships are definitely worth it. The experience gained through internships is priceless. While it definitely helps to be getting paid for your time, there are so many benefits of internships regardless of the pay (or lack thereof). Seeking out only paid internships can most definitely be a set-back in professional development as well as experience in general. If and when the offer comes up, don’t let the word “unpaid” hold you back!

Tweet us @VALLEYmag with your best internship advice!


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