Paid Versus Unpaid Internships

Instructor: Tara Schofield

Tara has a PhD in Marketing & Management

It's that exciting time - time to choose an internship. Learn the benefits of paid versus unpaid internships and how an internship can help with your education and future employment.

What is an Internship?

You've been studying communications for a couple of years now and want a chance to practice the skills you've been learning. You look at your options and you become very interested in applying for an internship with a local television station. During the internship, you will be able to work in every division, meet a variety of people, and gain great experience in what it is like to work at a TV station. Because you have no experience in this field, the station is willing to show you the ropes without the expectation that you will have knowledge in the field. The internship is meant to give you real-life experience and apply the education you've gained.

Internships vary in opportunities and length of time. Usually, the specifications are set in advance. This means you know how long the internship will last, what is expected of you, and how much you will be paid for your time. Many internships report back to a college or university, where credit may be given for time spent working as an intern.

Advantages of Internships

In this highly competitive job market, finding a summer or part-time job in the field that you are studying, but for which you have no experience, is going to be difficult. Internships (either paid or unpaid) are opportunities to apply the skills you have been learning as a student to real-life situations. The advantages of this on-the-job training are more than just the experience gained - and that itself is a huge advantage. In addition to training and experience, an internship will also help you meet contacts and participate in social networking, which could prove to be invaluable when you are ready to look for that first job after graduation. Remember the saying, 'It's not always what you know, but sometimes who you know.'

Another advantage is that internships can turn into future employment. Although companies may not pay interns at the same rate as employees, they have still invested time and resources on the intern, and if they are happy with what they see, a future job offer is not out of the question. Now that we know internships can possibly help gain school credit, give on-the-training and experience, help create networking contacts and have the possibility of future employment, let's look at the two basic types of internships: paid and unpaid.

Characteristics of an Unpaid Internship

An unpaid internship can be an exceptional experience, even though there is no financial compensation. While a person isn't paid, they are given opportunities that are often much more valuable than a paycheck. There are still requirements that must be met and work will be monitored for quality, just as if a person were being paid.

As part of your internship at the TV station, you are offered a chance to do a few special segments on-air when you are mentored on interviewing a local business owner and doing a news story for the evening news. You have always dreamed of being an anchor person and being on-air gives you experience that can help you after you finish your degree. In this instance, the break is much more valuable than a paycheck.

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