Paid or Unpaid Internships : Which is Better?

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Answered by: R.K., An Expert in the Internship Basics Category
Job hunting is never easy; the same can be said for finding a good internship. To get started, make a list of pros and cons about what you desire from your internship. Then use this list in your job search by selecting keywords that will help narrow your search results. A great question to begin this list with is: Am I looking for paid or unpaid internships?

Paid Internships

Most people will naturally be drawn to a paid internship, because who really wants to work hard for free? However, this could be the wrong attitude to go into an internship with, as any intern (paid or unpaid) is receiving on-the-job training.

Of course this does not mean that looking for a paid internship is bad. Often times people may not be able to take on an internship unless it is paid, due to financial responsibilities or other circumstances. To help determine if a paid internship is necessary, ask yourself a few of the following questions:

-How long is the internship period?

-Will I suffer financial repercussions without pay over this time period?

-How many hours per week are required?

-Will this paid internship cover my monthly expenses?

-Does this internship schedule allow for a second job, if necessary?

-If you are making an industry move:

-Will I have to quit my current job to become an intern?

Unpaid Internships

Those looking to get an internship quickly will always have more luck when using “unpaid” as a keyword, simply because unpaid internships greatly outnumber those that are paid. However, the saturation of the unpaid internship market can also seem a bit overwhelming, especially to novices in the job hunt. When looking for an unpaid internship, try to narrow your options down by using industry and location specific keywords in your online searches.

For example, a person wishing to intern locally at a marketing company should not simply type “marketing internships,” into a search engine. Doing so would produce millions of unusable (and unrealistic) job results. Try using advanced search keywords that include your location, job specifications and industry keywords.

The Best Choice

In the end, the choice between paid or unpaid internships depends on individual preferences, needs and job availability. Generally speaking, ANY internship that allows someone to dabble in their preferred industry should be considered a win — regardless of pay.

Internships allow people to test the waters of industries they are interested in and make decisions about their future paths, using the knowledge and experiences they learn as interns. If you are a professional considering a career shift or a college student contemplating your major, allow these internships to be your guide to finding a bright future full of career satisfaction.

When looking for an internship, remember to make use of your personal network (family, friends, coworkers), school programs (career center / alumni resources), social networks, job search websites and search engines. Also, be sure to finish your pros and cons checklist to help you distinguish between your internship needs and preferences. Good luck and happy job hunting!

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