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Should I consider doing an unpaid internship?

Paid and unpaid internships have similar qualities that will enhance your professional career and its development. Opportunities to network will also make sure you forge the right connections in the industry you work for.

Paid internships are great opportunities to earn money, earn experience, and earn valuable knowledge on what a potential job will look like.


  • While all types of internships can have value, NACE research has found that students with paid internships had more job offers, higher starting salaries, and a shorter job search after graduation. 
  • They provide an opportunity to finance your commute, clothing for the internship, and other expenses.
  • Often, project work and responsibilities will be much more significant, and, ultimately, you have more substantive work to share on your resume and with future employers. 
  • You may feel a greater level of investment and satisfaction knowing that your time and work is valuable, and that you are being compensated as such. 

Make sure to read up our resource, What are some ways to find a Paid Internship?

If you are considering an unpaid internship, it is important to self-reflect on the impact that having an internship could be, and whether it will bring worth to your resume and professional outlook.

See below for a guide on self-reflection that can help you decide on taking an unpaid internship opportunity.


  • The most important question: Are you able to afford not being paid for the duration of your internship, financially?
    • Perhaps you saved up for this, or your family can help cover costs during this time. 
  • Do you have experience in the field already?
    • Sometimes it’s harder to get a paid internship if you don’t have field-relevant experience. 
  • Is it typical for your industry of interest to offer mainly non-paid internships?
    • For example, student teaching is often unpaid, but it is required to enter this field. 
  • Is the internship part of your major requirement/do you need to participate in an internship to graduate?
    • Sometimes internships that are paid, and are needed as a part of a major requirement, may be more difficult to find.
  • Can you get credit for completing an internship even if it is not a requirement?
    • Getting course credit for the role could be an excellent way to get exposure and move towards graduation.  Contact your department for specific information regarding receiving credit. 
  • Does the internship provide training and exposure to the field that will be valuable for your career development?
    • An unpaid internship that exposes you to your field can be valuable if it helps you develop towards your career goals. 
  • Will you have opportunities to expand your network?
    • Networking and meeting new people through an internship is extremely valuable. Doing so helps you build long-lasting connections and can contribute to your professional development.
  • Will this internship contribute to your skill development, allowing you to learn things you have not learned before and are essential skills for future roles? If the internship has you running errands for the manager and you aren’t learning anything, you shouldn’t accept it.
    • Tip – reach out to former interns from the organization to see what their experiences were like and where they ended up after the internship. We also provide questions (further below) to ask your intern manager during your interview to determine what you will be learning during the experience.
  • Are your intern responsibilities interesting? Are the duties something you’d like to take on, and are you curious to explore more?
    • Make sure that the role you’re accepting is something that excites you. Thoroughly read the job description to make sure! 
  • Is this a reputable company?
    • Research companies to determine if they are reputable. If not, perhaps the role isn’t for you. 
  • Is there any note that interns are likely to be hired into paid positions in the organization (room for growth)?
    • If an unpaid intern’s conversion to a paid, full-time role is possible, it may be worthwhile.  It can be helpful to research how often full-time employees receive promotions within the organization. Use LinkedIn to see if interns receive full-time roles.
  • If you accept the role, are the hours manageable enough for you to work at another job that does pay you? 
  • Is the internship remote where you only sign in for a few hours a week?
    • If the internship is remote, you may need less professional clothes to purchase, and you won’t need to commute. If it is only a few hours a week, you can contribute to your professional development while having time for other things that can help you earn money. 
  • Can you finance the unpaid internship through a stipend or federal work-study?
    • If you receive work-study through financial aid, you may be able to apply your award to your internship site. Email: fws@brooklyn.cuny.edu for details.
    • The Magner Career Center offers stipends that allow you to get paid to do unpaid internships.
  • Are there other incentives that the internship may offer, such as free classes, use of their equipment, cover transportation/free lunch?

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