North Texas Daily

Reconsider taking an unpaid internship

Reconsider taking an unpaid internship

Reconsider taking an unpaid internship
January 28
17:37 2021

Many college students feel pressured to take an unpaid internship to gain experience with a company in their chosen field. It may seem like the right move to exchange your effort and time for college credits instead of money, but you still need to pay your bills and earn a living.

Unpaid internships give companies the opportunity to take advantage of college students and use them for free labor. Unpaid interns often end up taking on a paying job to fund their internship. They’re paying to work instead of being paid to work. Even though you may lack experience, you deserve to be compensated for your work. 

Many unpaid internships are with smaller companies that don’t have the budget to hire new people. This makes it even more pointless to take their unpaid position when there’s no hope for you to gain a permanent position in the future. Before you accept an unpaid internship, it’s important to research your other options. 

There are many alternatives to an unpaid internship. Check out student organizations and see if they have volunteer opportunities. For example, I’m a journalism student writing for the school newspaper to gain more experience. While I’m writing articles and learning how to find and pitch stories, I’m still free to work a full-time job and go to school full-time. When I graduate I will have a collection of published stories to use in my portfolio when I apply for paid internships and full-time jobs. 

Volunteer opportunities may sound similar to unpaid internships, but they’re quite different. Unpaid internships don’t often allow students the freedom to earn a living. Even in the age of COVID-19, remote internships require the student to own a computer, pay for electricity, pay for rent and pay for internet service. Volunteer opportunities with student organizations allow the student to gain experience while retaining the flexibility to work for money and work on assignments. 

In 2017, unpaid internships accounted for 43 percent of all internships according to the Washington Post. This means most internships are paid and you don’t need to take an unpaid internship to gain experience. If college students stop allowing companies to use them for free labor, they will be forced to offer more than college credit. My favorite places to search for internships are Handshake, which is available to all UNT students, and WayUp.com

Handshake is great for finding local employers, but many of the internships are unpaid. WayUp.com allows users to weed out unpaid internships and it matches students with reputable companies within their chosen industry. Paid internships with major corporations are much more impressive on your resume and you’ll gain more valuable experience. 

Another alternative to an unpaid internship is freelance work. You can use websites like Toptal.com, Guru.com, Fiverr.com, and UpWork.com to find opportunities. No matter what industry you’re going into after college, you can find freelance work that will help you earn money and experience. With each completed job you can build an impressive portfolio and resume.

If you’re willing to work for free, consider volunteering with a charitable organization. You will be giving back to society in a productive way while earning valuable experience and boosting your resume. Through volunteering regularly you can build relationships with the organization and gain networking skills.

Consider these alternatives to unpaid internships and decide what will work best for your situation. Make sure you’re devoting your time and effort to a company or an organization that will appreciate it. College students deserve to earn a fair living while gaining experience and unpaid internships are an opportunity for companies to exploit them for free labor.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Shelby Stevens

Shelby Stevens

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