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Is it normal for a company to offer internship work without compensation?

I have seen some job posting for intern work online that indicates applicants should expect little to no compensation for their efforts, and may not be credited in the final projects.. basically all we would get is experience? It sounds like a scam, how can companies do that? #work #internships #july2020 #july20


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Abby’s Answer

Unfortunately, this is how some internships work. A lot of internship work is unpaid, which essentially means you are getting paid for the experience and nothing else. This poses many problems, one of which is that some people simply cannot afford to work an internship if they are not getting paid. Therefore, those privileged enough to work without pay, get that experience and may receive more opportunities. Here are some potential action steps to consider if you're deciding between no internship or an unpaid internship:

Consider asking the company if they offer part-time internships. This can allow for you to get another job that does pay, while also gaining some experience in the area of the internship.

Research and apply for internship grants. Some independent organizations (colleges and universities, non-profits, etc.) have grants that will give unpaid interns a stipend for their work. These grants are independent of the place you are interning, but can give you some financial assistance.

Remember that paid jobs as a cashier, server, maintenance employee, can give you real world experience in communication, customer service, conflict resolution, etc. Just because your job isn't an internship, you can still gain valuable skills and get paid.

Be sure to include in your inability to work an unpaid internship for financial reasons in any "special circumstances" boxes in applications for college/jobs/grad schools.

If you do accept an unpaid internship, know that you have every right have a manageable workload. If you are getting too much work, or not getting the experience you had hoped for, you can always (politely) tell your manager that you need more training/resources/work to do.

This is a really great question, and I definitely wish I could tell you that things were different. I hope this gave you a little more insight into the realities of unpaid internships.


I would add if can afford to work an unpaid job for a while, make sure you get that experience in an industry or setting where you have a deep interest. Consider it an investment. Try to make a list of 3 or 4 outcomes that you want to get from the experience and pursue them. It will feel rewarding and worth the effort. And a good story to tell in an interview. Patricia Schachtitz

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Dhairya’s Answer

Sadly this is too common and quite unfair. I agree that unpaid internship unfairly privilege those students who are well off and can afford the luxury of not get paid to get work experience.

Many companies are changing their policies. Some states are passing legislation to require stipends for internships by reclassifying interns under the Fair Labor Standards Act. I remember as undergrad, one internship would not give me a stipend but negotiated to provide college credits for the work I did. Luckily I was able to get research grant to cover my expenses as the internship had research related activities. Its worth seeing if your school has resources to support independent research and internship work like the grant I was able to find.

It's up to you if an unpaid internship is worth it. Sometimes you may be able to get a bus pass or some other minor stipend to help with minor costs. Unpaid internships with highly prestigious organizations or political offices can be greatly beneficial in growing your network and helping with downstream career opportunities. Likewise if the responsibilities are substantial and you think the learning and professional experience will help with getting your first job, it may be worth it.

But in general, if its a standard organization, the unpaid internship is likely a way for them to get cheap/free labor. Honestly, if you can get paid work, I'd suggest taking that over the unpaid internship. Ask your family and career center for leads on paid internships. While they can be competitive, if you apply to enough you may get into one somewhere.

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Kellen’s Answer

Hi Grace, this is super common. Many companies offer interns little to no compensation. I know this sounds like a bad deal but the value you receive is the experience and the networking. Paid internships are becoming much more common but they are extremely competitive. If you are not having any luck attaining one of these positions, then by taking an unpaid internship will give you experience for future interviews and offers. It is not for everyone so if that is not something you are interested in, and more importantly if it is not a company/job that you are passionate about, keep looking for something that better suits you. Regardless, I encourage you to apply and interview as much as possible because practice never hurts!

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Joseph’s Answer

Internships are entered for the sake of getting some practical experience prior to getting into the work world. From internships, people get to meet contacts and might even get some connections to certain areas of life. It is, therefore, not a bonafide thing for people to receive remuneration. Above all terms for being allowed the chance to be an intern is spelled out to the prospective intern before he or she sets a foot in the company's premises.

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Kellen’s Answer

Hi Grace, this is super common. Many companies offer interns little to no compensation. I know this sounds like a bad deal but the value you receive is the experience and the networking. Paid internships are becoming much more common but they are extremely competitive. If you are not having any luck attaining one of these positions, then by taking an unpaid internship will give you experience for future interviews and offers. It is not for everyone so if that is not something you are interested in, and more importantly if it is not a company/job that you are passionate about, keep looking for something that better suits you. Regardless, I encourage you to apply and interview as much as possible because practice never hurts!

Kellen, I am thinking you answered really well because it is the practical experience first and then the contacts you may get at the end of the day which is important as that will be rich resources to fall on in the future. Good job. Joseph Anie

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Andrew’s Answer

Grace,

Unfortunately, it is a reality that some companies to not offer compensation for interns. This can be due to a variety of reasons, but it is up to your personal situation in life if you are able to take on an unpaid role. If the experience would be extremely valuable, it may be worth taking the internship, but, if not, you may want to find something else that is paid.

Andrew recommends the following next steps:

1. Determine value of the unpaid internship
2. See if you can find a paid position somewhere else

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