Myth: Unpaid Internships Aren’t Worth It

A girl pointing her hand to the monitor while a bald man watching her from the foreground.

Flickr user Juhan Sonin

There is a heavy debate about whether or not it is worth taking internships if they’re unpaid. So let’s take a closer look at what you really get out of an internship besides a paycheck, and you can determine if it’s worthwhile for you personally…or not.

College Credit

Oftentimes if an internship is unpaid, they’ll “pay” you instead with college credits. These credits count towards your overall graduation requirements, and you essentially get them for free (you pay with your time and work, but not your money).

Earning credits can help you graduate on time—which is another money-saver. They can also help you get your gen ed requirements out of the way so you can focus on your major classes instead.

Relevant Experience

It goes without saying that internships look great on a resume—so there’s another check in the “pro” category. But beyond just the kudos, you’ll earn valuable experience that is likely related to your field of study.

You’ll get hands-on experience, get an inside look into your potential career field, learn industry facts, lingo, or standards. Internships come with a wealth of knowledge and learning experiences.

Networking Contacts

If your internship relates to your dream job or industry, an internship is a fantastic way to create contacts. You’ll work with professionals—whether they’re your boss or colleagues—and those connections can help you further down the road. They may know somebody who’s hiring entry-level positions that’d be perfect for you or have heard about a scholarship you qualify for. They may right you future letters of recommendation or pass your resume along to a buddy of theirs at a similar company.

It’s all about who you know, and you’ll get to know plenty of people at an internship.

So Is It Worth It?

That’s entirely up to you. To be sure, you get a lot out of an internship besides a paycheck, but if money is tight and very important to you, it could be worthwhile to search for other paid internship positions or opt for a part-time job instead.

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