Paid vs. Unpaid Internships: What’s the Difference?

The first benefit is attainability. An unpaid internship will require much less from its prospects than a paid internship. This may be a great option for you if you don’t yet have relevant experiences (yes, some paid internships require previous experience). The second is the low-risk, practical environment.

Some of these were internships in ghostwriting with wages of under 10 cents per word. Then there were the (mostly unpaid) summer internships with respectable media outlets, which I really anticipated. They guided me toward my love of the news business, but they didn’t even come close to paying my bills. On the contrary, I wasted any money I did have by driving a long distance to and from work or by visiting numerous locations for reported stories. Each gig left me more exhausted and broke than when it had begun.

My mindset didn’t change until my senior year of college. My friend informed me that she had to pay a $15 application fee in order to be considered for an unpaid internship at a human rights organization. Another said she was required to submit stories every day for free, staying up late. Another person revealed that she was required to write blog posts for free, a barter that the company justified by giving her a real byline.

I’ve always been confident in my ability to make certain life decisions. I attended college there, in the city where I was raised. My parents, who were both employed at the time, and I were living together. I wasn’t concerned about paying my rent, buying food, or dealing with other necessities. My social network helped me get jobs and access to competitive roles. These socioeconomic privileges were a direct cause of being able to build a resume even before finishing college, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that. Even as I criticize unpaid internships and all of their negative effects, I am aware that there was a time when I, too, contributed to these labor market inequalities.

Even though research has shown that internships are highly valued in the job market, 43% of internships at for-profit businesses are unpaid. Because of this, only young people from the most privileged backgrounds are ultimately qualified for these positions. This widens the wealth gap between generations and actively blocks marginalized people’s paths to equal opportunity.

Internship | Paid vs UnPaid Internship Comparison | Why Should you do an Internship

What is an unpaid internship?

Unpaid internships are those in which the intern is not compensated for their efforts. Since many unpaid interns are also students, they frequently have the opportunity to earn college credits in addition to gaining beneficial experience and mentoring. The program must adhere to a number of requirements set forth by the U S. Department of Labor. These guidelines are:

Some universities and organizations provide funding to students enrolled in these programs to help defray the costs of an unpaid internship. If you’re a student, think about asking your campus’s office of career resources if it has any knowledge of organizations or opportunities for internship funding. Inquire with the business you intend to intern with to see if it provides a travel stipend to help with the costs of traveling to and from the internship location.

What is a paid internship?

Paid internships are one type of training program available to college students, recent graduates, and people looking for on-the-job experience. One of the first paid job experiences you may have in your field of choice is typically a paid internship. You frequently carry out tasks as a paid intern in a setting akin to the one in which you wish to pursue a career. You have the opportunity to learn more about your desired career while carrying out these tasks, as well as about how the workplace functions and how much your employer will pay you.

Similarities between paid and unpaid internships

Although each internship can provide unique experiences, both paid and unpaid internships offer some similar advantages to the intern. The following are a few of the most significant parallels between paid and unpaid internships:

Focus on education and training

A paid or unpaid internship’s main goal is to provide the intern with the training they need to get ready for the workforce. This entails becoming knowledgeable about key tasks in the industry and how businesses typically run. As an intern, you can also gain first-hand knowledge from colleagues by observing them at work and getting clarification on their responsibilities.

Help finding employment

Paid and unpaid internships can both result in employment after the program is over. Employers who hire unpaid interns can’t guarantee a position as part of the program, but they still have the option to hire you if they believe you do a good job. When you apply for additional positions in the industry, they may also offer a recommendation for you to other employers.

Networking opportunities

Both types of internships can help you network with experts in your field. As you start your career, this can provide you with a number of advantages. By establishing a network, you can get in touch with people who can point out your areas for development and teach you new things. They can serve as references if you have direct experience working with them when you apply for other positions. Some coworkers may even be able to direct you to job openings or suggest hiring companies to you.

Differences between paid and unpaid internships

Additionally, there are some significant distinctions between paid and unpaid internships. Some major differences between the two include:


Paid internships pay you for your time and effort, and you may also be able to get college credit through them. Unpaid internship often compensate you with just college credit. Knowing the difference can help you choose the internship that best meets your needs. Consider a paid or unpaid internship to satisfy your major’s internship credit requirement if you are a current student. A paid position may be ideal if you’ve already graduated because it will allow you to devote all of your professional time to the internship without having to work another job to support yourself.

Types of experience

Paid internships are more likely to enable you to obtain actual experience with the tasks and responsibilities associated with your desired career. The tasks you complete as an unpaid intern might not be those you do in your career. However, you can still discover important details about how the various workers collaborate in your industry. At an unpaid internship, you can also learn about your future responsibilities, though this experience might take the form of watching others do their jobs.

Employment opportunities

Employers may offer you a paid position as part of a paid internship after you complete the course of study, though this is not a given for all paid internships. However, if this is a paid internship program, it might enhance the program. It’s helpful to assess whether the experience they offer is what you want or need because employers of unpaid interns cannot offer a position as part of the program.

Program availability

Depending on your location, different internship opportunities may be available, either paid or unpaid. There are sometimes more unpaid internship positions available than paid ones. The availability of internships for you may also depend on your ability to travel, your financial needs, and your profession of choice. Researching the type of internship you want to apply to several months before the program’s start date is recommended because doing so increases the likelihood that the internship program managers will take you into consideration.

Value of experience

The value of those experiences can also vary between the two types of internships because they occasionally provide different learning opportunities. For instance, a paid internship could teach you new skills for your resume while an unpaid internship could teach you about a workplace.

It’s helpful to identify what you need from an internship in order to choose the one that will be most beneficial to you. Consider an unpaid internship if you want to gain knowledge of a workplace to help you decide whether the career is right for you. A paid internship may be more in line with your objectives if you’ve already made up your mind about your career and anticipate starting soon.


What is the difference between a paid and unpaid internship?

Paid internships frequently have rigid work schedules and work programs. Paid interns may be treated as entry-level employees. Unpaid internships, on the other hand, usually have fewer constraints. Unpaid interns are likely to have more freedom to explore.

Is it worth doing an unpaid internship?

Positive findings were also obtained from the NACE study, which discovered that unpaid internships have a negative impact on how long it takes a graduate to find employment. The results of the study revealed that unpaid internships aid in career goal-setting, career confirmation, and networking.

What is a paid internship called?

Students who work internships that are partially paid receive stipends. Typically, stipends are fixed sums of money that are distributed on a regular basis. Stipends are typically paid to interns on a predetermined schedule determined by the organization.

Why should internship be paid?

Additionally, a paid internship gives business leadership more latitude when allocating projects and gives interns pride in their work and the drive to take risks.

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