Unpaid Internships: Are They Worth It?

By Rebecca Boneschans

In the journalism world, you can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job. So, how do you find said experience? Internships.

Searching for and obtaining an internship is  crucial to filling up that resume, as well as your mind. But you have to wonder: are unpaid internships worth it?

Photo by SOCIALisBETTER. Licensed by Creative Commons.

In a quest to cure concern, research indicates that certain unpaid internships may just be resume fillers–a bunch of words taking up space under the experience section. In an article published on The Daily Beast, the author claims that unpaid internships often skip out on the importance of a learning atmosphere.

Paid internships are where it’s at–the money and the experience. Interns who are compensated for their time and effort are given more responsibilities related to their field of study–giving them the hands-on expertise that potential employers love. This is a huge advantage over unpaid interns, whose only gained experience include efficiently running the copy machine and directing phone calls.

Others disagree. In order to gain entry into the industry students are preparing for, the internship is a key component in mastering skill and gaining knowledge. It’s the job of the intern to learn as much as they possibly can by asking questions and being a sponge–to soak up as much information as possible and be grateful for it. That’s payment enough.

The premise of an internship is to gain real-world experience. The ability to take any task and turn it into a lesson is what gets you the job. But the question that begs to be answered is this: will the unpaid internship guarantee a future career?

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8 responses to “Unpaid Internships: Are They Worth It?

  1. Thanks for linking back to my internship post.
    I will admit, that I had 6 internships in college most of which were unpaid (a few were paid and turned into more employment in the Summers). I would ALWAYS vouch for a paid internship, I think it’s important. However, some programs you can’t control is a business isn’t going to pay you but you may learn SO much and make relevant connections that could affect your career and next steps. I think they’re extremely important and more in the case, if you weren’t going to take an internship period because it didn’t pay, I think airing on the side for 3 months working and learning a lot is just like what you do at college. You work. But you don’t get paid for it because it’s a complete learning experience.

    That still doesn’t stop my opinion that getting paid is the best option 🙂 Unfortunately, it’s not always available.

  2. Grace – I enjoyed reading your internship post. With a few internships under my belt and another underway, it was a pleasure to read!

  3. I really think this is a great question to be asked, I have been wondering the same thing. And I think it’s really cool that she commented back to your post!

  4. I wonder a lot about the benefits of an unpaid internship. The past three summers I was interned with a film company. Each year we helped create a campaign video to raise money for United Way. Every year the company we made it for donated about a 1,000 dollars to my old high school. However, I graduated from that high school two years ago so none of that money helped me at all. This year I did get paid because I had a title even though I did the same work I have been doing for the past three years.

  5. I’ve always worried about this. I’m broke as it is, so summer is the key time to gain some extra cash. Obviously paid internships are hard to come by, but at the same time, how I can pay to live somewhere else just so I can work? And if you do an internship for college credit, you have to pay for the credit as well. It’s really unfortunate because ultimately you’re paying to work. It’s a necessary sacrifice, but in my opinion, it really sucks.

  6. I also had unpaid internships throughout college. It’s great experience, but it makes life a little crazy with school work, the internship and then another part-time job to make ends meet. I definitely think everyone benefits more in a paid internship: more responsibilities for the intern and the intern is motivated to work hard for their paycheck. With the cost of higher education these days (that’s a whole different story) every little bit helps!

  7. I think unpaid internships can provide great experience — and great clips! I was an unpaid intern at a entertainment magazine, and my strongest clips are from my time there. Unpaid internships kind of suck, but you make so many great contacts for later, so I consider it worth it.

  8. I found another article relating to unpaid internship that I thought I would pass along! http://www.ed2010.com/2012/02/could-be-end-unpaid-internship

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