We’ve made it out of the Great Recession, but it’s still tough for lots of college graduates to find jobs. In recent years, more and more grads have worked unpaid internships in the hopes of breaking into their field.
Some new grads may jump at the opportunity to intern at their dream company. Others may wonder why anyone would work as an unpaid intern.
Whatever your perspective, read on to learn the pros and cons of unpaid internships, plus some insight into unpaid internship laws.
Pros of working unpaid internships
1. You get real-world experience
The purpose of an internship is to give you real-world experience. Whether you’re interning at a magazine, a tech company, a farm, or a Wall Street firm, you’ll get first-hand insight into that industry.
You’ll see what the day-to-day is like for employees, and hopefully, you’ll get in on the action too. The best internships give you a real taste of a profession and teach you essential skills in the process.
2. You get to sample an industry
Unpaid internships let you feel out a career path. Reading about an industry is one thing. Being a part of it is another.
Even if it’s a dead end, it’s better to know sooner rather than later. Before committing to a job you don’t enjoy, you can test the waters with an internship to make sure it’s the right path for you.
3. You can network with working professionals
One of the major benefits of an internship is the connections it allows you to make. You can forge meaningful relationships, build a professional community, and find support among your peers.
Reaching out to colleagues should be one of your main goals as an intern. Ideally, you’ll find a mentor who can guide you through your career journey. You may even meet someone who helps you find your next job.
4. You can build up your resume
Finally, an internship adds experience to your resume.
If you’re just graduating from college, you might not have much work experience. But with an internship, you can show that you’ve worked in the field.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), internship experience on a resume is positively correlated with getting a full-time job offer.
Cons of working unpaid internships
1. You’re not getting paid for your work
Those who ask why would anyone work as an unpaid intern have good reason to wonder.
Many interns don’t get paid a dime for their work. Not only does this feel unfair, but it also means internships aren’t accessible to everyone.
Lots of people can’t afford to work for free, especially after graduating college. How are you going to pay back your student loans or monthly rent without an income?
That same survey from NACE further upends the value of the unpaid internship. It shows that people who took unpaid internships actually ended up in lower-paying positions than those who worked paid internships or no internship at all.
Of course, this survey may also reflect the fact that unpaid internships are most prevalent in lower-paying fields. Whereas paid internships are more common in lucrative fields, like finance and engineering.
Before working an unpaid internship, you should consider the return on your investment.
Is it worth spending your time now without compensation to get a well-paying job in the future? Can you get a part-time job or set up a side hustle? Or will taking an unpaid internship mean you go further into debt?
Let your answers to these questions guide your decision-making before committing to an unpaid internship.
2. You could get stuck doing meaningless work
Internships should be designed to give you a meaningful experience and help you develop marketable skills. They shouldn’t be about fetching people coffee, taking out the garbage, or walking your boss’s Pekingese.
If you find yourself in a Devil Wears Prada-esque scenario, then that internship probably isn’t worth your time.
3. Your internship might be legally questionable
Why do so many companies get away with not paying interns? Well, the unpaid internship falls in a legal gray area.
Recently, interns sued the makers of Black Swan for not paying them for their work on the film. They initially won the suit, but it was overturned in an appeals court.
At the end of the day, the unpaid internship must be purely for your benefit. If a company starts relying on you for menial tasks, then it isn’t following the unpaid internship laws.
4. You could get stuck in an “intern cycle”
Unfortunately, even the most coveted internships won’t necessarily lead to a job.
In fact, some interns get stuck in an “intern cycle.” Their job applications go unanswered, but they keep getting internship offers.
Instead of propelling your career, an unpaid internship could make you feel stuck.
So, should you take unpaid internships after college?
Before taking on an unpaid internship, you should do a cost-benefit analysis. Will the experience truly be valuable enough to make up for the time and work you contribute without compensation?
While you can’t predict the future, you can do your research.
Try to gauge whether the internship could lead to a job. Is the company hiring? Do they help interns with the job search?
If possible, speak with former interns about their experiences. Did the internship help them along the path to gainful employment?
Or, if you’re still deciding on a career, you might prioritize industries that offer paid internships, like transportation, manufacturing, tech, and engineering. You’re less likely to get paid in fields like fashion, journalism, entertainment, or film.
And, if you decide to pursue an unpaid internship, do your best to make the most of the experience. Learn as much as you can, network with colleagues, and stay active on the job hunt. Above all, make sure that you’re enjoying yourself!
Whether or not you take an internship, it can be tough to make ends meet after graduation. Check out this guide to learn how to turn your talents into income. Or, if you’re looking for side hustles that pay up to $50 an hour, we have a list of them here.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.30% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
APR stands for “Annual Percentage Rate.” Rates listed include a 0.25% EFT discount, for automatic payments made from a checking or savings account. Interest rates as of 11/8/2018. Rates subject to change.
Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term, 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term, 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term, 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term would be from $180.89 to $193.75. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term would be from $139.65 to $146.76. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term would be from $104.56 to $111.98. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term would be from $78.77 to $86.78. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term would be from $67.05 to $75.68.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.28% effective October 10, 2018.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.47% – 6.30%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.51% – 8.09%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.02% – 6.44%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.69% – 7.21%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.79% – 8.39%6||Undergrad & Graduate|