Unfortunately, nearly 50% of all internships are unpaid.

Further, a majority of companies are beginning to require that interns pay for the opportunity to intern with them.

These payments can be upwards of $2,000 dollars, on-top of the tuition students pay to their college or university.

Employers know that students looking for an internship are simply looking for experience to add to their resumes.

They, unfortunately, take advantage of this fact.

Interns are willing to work the hardest, simply to show their value and to be given the opportunity for a full-time position.

While this is not true of all employer’s, it is becoming an issue so common that the U.S. Department of Labor has begun to enact regulations on whether or not an internship can qualify as paid or unpaid.

If an internship is paid, it must meet the federal minimum wage and interns must be paid for any overtime work they complete.

Per the U.S. Department of Labor, in order to qualify as an unpaid internship, the following standards must be met:

  1. The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation

2. The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment

3. The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or receipt of academic credit

4. The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments

5. The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning

6. The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees

7. The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship

So long as the internship meets the 7 standards above, then the qualification as an unpaid internship is legal and can be offered by the employer.

The Good News

The good news for students and interns across America is that more and more paid internships are being offered.

As competition across industries increases, employer’s looking for access to interns are being forced to rethink their strategy in hiring and retaining the best interns.

In addition, the increase is in large part due to an influx in lawsuits filed against employers from former interns for their unpaid work.

Companies looking to avoid these costly and negative lawsuits are beginning to offer paid internships.

While there is no master log of all companies which pay their interns, it is safe to assume that most Fortune 500 companies do so.

The reasoning is simple, by offering a paid internship, these companies gain a “leg up” in future hiring’s.

They are able to train the future employee from the onset of their career and offer them a full-time position once their training as an intern is completed.

In addition, pay for interns is increasing.

The National Associate of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported that the average hourly wage for undergraduate interns is $18.06.

Should You Ever Pay For An Internship?

While the question may seem preposterous, it is valid in that the experience gained will be invaluable once your full-time career search begins.

If you are unable to land an internship and have the means to pay for one, then it is a worthwhile endeavor.

However, you should ensure that all other options are exhausted before doing so.

Paying for an internship may cause resentment and reduce an intern’s overall leverage.

If you do pay for an internship, be sure to set the guidelines with your employer before the internship begins.

What will be expected of you?

How long will the internship last?

Will there be an opportunity for a full-time offer?

Will you be provided with letters of recommendation?

In addition, be sure to ask questions regarding the scope of the work and what tools you will be utilizing.

Will you interact with new software that is crucial to your industry or will it be proprietary or outdated software?

Which Internship Should You Choose?

Again, while this question may seem crazy, it is one that you should consider carefully.

You need to research what your needs are and what your goals are.

While a paid internship may be more attractive in the short-term, those companies may be unable to offer you a full-time job on completion.

In addition, you need to see which internship will be most beneficial to your future.

A paid internship that is unrelated to your major or industry of choice may be more harmful than no internship on your resume.

Determine which internship will be most beneficial for your future and weigh your options carefully.

This is a decision that will have long lasting ramifications.

Lastly, make your determination based on possibility.

That is, what is the possibility of a full-time offer being made upon graduation.

The goal of an internship is to gain valuable, career-oriented skills and to make yourself more marketable.

If an internship offers a near guarantee of a full-time offer, then it may be more worthwhile to consider.

Paid or Not, Negotiate Your Salary After

If your internship is not paid or not, and you are offered the role , then try and negotiate your salary after with the tips below.

The negotiations will need to be justified and you should be prepared for some back-and-forth.

However, ensuring that you’re the best intern there and making a lasting, meaningful impact on the company and department will help you in your salary negotiations.


Firstly, congratulations, if you have been offered a full-time position as a result of your hard work, commitment, and dedication during your internship.

You took the advice on this blog (I hope) and persevered and are now a full-time employee.

Yet, negotiating a full-time employee’s salary can be both daunting and confusing, especially after your stint as an intern.

The first thing to do is to get rid of the intern mindset.

Clearly the company saw something in you that they gave you a full-time offer, so take that as a sign of confidence in your abilities.

When negotiating a salary after an internship you should complete the following, if possible, to allow for the best possible salary for yourself.


There are a plethora of resources on the web about specific job roles and the salary and compensation they receive.

You should do you due diligence and understand what the industry average pay is for a similar position as the one you are being offered.

Having this information will allow you to decide whether or not you are being compensated fairly and equitably.

You should not forget to include your benefits and bonuses as additional forms of compensation, which vary from employer to employer.

Similarly, 401k matches, and contributions should be thoroughly considered, as the earlier you begin to invest in your 401k the better.

Interview Elsewhere

Unless you’re committed to the one employer, you should allow yourself to branch out and interview at other companies.

Not only will it give you a better perspective on what’s out there, but if you do end up getting an offer elsewhere, you can use that as a bargaining chip with your current employer.

State the Facts

Employers, typically, understand the needs of newer graduates and individuals in the job market.

Coming out of college, with student loans coming due and the cost of settling into a new apartment are difficult and costly changes.

When considering a job offer, explain to the hiring manager the costs associated with your transition out of college.

Let them know that you have a strong will and desire to continue working with this company, but that you will need to be compensated fairly and at a rate that makes sense for both parties.

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No!

I feel like I’m going to get a lot of angry emails from parents about this, but don’t be afraid to say no to a job offer.

Your initial job and salary will project long-term earnings potential and settling for a salary well-under the median can hurt you for years to come.

Feel free to also check out this article which goes through how to negotiate better.

Definitely a must-read when negotiating a salary.

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