The Unpaid Internship

By I’esha Swilley

“This is an unpaid position, but student can receive school credit.” After reading a post about what seems to the best internship opportunity, those words can rob you of some of that excitement. It’s only natural to want a little more. While school credit is great, most students juggle many other tasks, including coursework, part-time jobs and student organizations. You want the opportunity to gain experience in your field of interest, but since you’ll be dedicating much time and effort, you want to be paid as well. After all, isn’t an unpaid internship the same as working for free? That question can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

An unpaid internship is essentially free work. But if viewed in a different perspective, unpaid internships can be seen as just as valuable, maybe more, than a paid internship. Most companies who offer internships, especially paid, would like to bring on candidates who have some prior experience. However, most students searching for internships don’t have experience, and are hoping to find it in their quest. Many times, unpaid internships don’t require prior experience so they are often easier to obtain. So, after working an unpaid internship, you would then have some experience to take with you to the next opportunity, which hopefully would be a paid position.

Along with providing useful experience to take to another internship or even the workforce, unpaid internships show that you are willing to work for free. When I got my current internship, I was excited about the opportunity, but also a little bummed that I would be giving so much of my time (and gas money) to this internship, with not much in return. But, I had to look at it like this: not only would I be gaining valuable experience, the fact that I’m willing to work for free showed that I’m so committed to gaining experience and learning all I could that money wasn’t a main factor. I believe that working two semesters at an unpaid internship will look rather impressive on my resume.

So don’t shy away from unpaid experience. Although it can be a sacrifice, it is well worth the experience you will gain and will show that you’re in it for more than money!


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