Pros and Cons of an Unpaid Internship

by McKenzie Chapman   Ulticareer  | Pros and cons  | Job search  | Advice  | Opportunity  | Career decision  | Building connections  | School  | College  | Internships  | 

Internships can be an amazing way to boost your resume and gain valuable experience. Unfortunately many of them are unpaid, making accepting an internship position a difficult decision. To help you through your decision-making process we’ve assembled some pros and cons to the unpaid internship.  




  • Gaining Valuable Experience 

As with any opportunity, new experiences are a huge plus. With an internship you can build your resume, which will be super helpful when you start applying for your first jobs. If you’re lucky, an internship might even provide you an opportunity to build your portfolio. 


  • Learning New Skills 

A new experience means you’ll be learning new skills. Among them will most likely be communication skills, organizational skills, professionalism, how to work in an office, and even something like commuting effectively. All of these, and more, will benefit you throughout any career you choose. 


  • Try Out the Field 

An internship is an opportunity to test the waters. If you’re unsure about a certain field, then an internship can be the perfect opportunity to try it out. You’ll get a feel for what a job in that area will be like, and can decide if it’s something you’d like to continue pursuing. 


  • Building a Network 

During an internship you’ll meet a lot of new people. These people will be professionally established. Networking will be crucial to your job hunt, so be sure to make a good impression and keep track of all your contacts. Someone always knows someone else who may be hiring. 


  • College Credit 

A lot of unpaid internships will require you to participate in the internship for credit at your college. So although it isn’t paid, you’ll at least be gaining credit toward your degree.  




  • Financial Burden 

Unfortunately, with an unpaid internship you’ll lose money. Often unpaid internships can suck the money out of you with costs for commuting, housing, lunch, and time lost at a possible paying job. This makes taking an unpaid internship impossible for some people. 


  • Risk of Burnout 

Taking on another responsibility, like an internship, can add stress if you already have a packed schedule. If you’re taking classes and working part- or full-time, then adding an internship may be too much. Be careful about managing your time and make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew. 

  • The Experience Could Be a Disappointment 

Some internships are just bad. Instead of learning, you could be fetching coffee or taking out the trash. At most internships you’ll end up with your fair share of grunt work, but at some it can be more than it’s worth. 


  • Beware of Employers Expecting Free Labor 
    An internship’s main goal is for you to learn and experience. However, some employers view internships as a way to exploit free labor. Be sure that you’re gaining something from the internship and not just giving. 


  • An Internship Doesn’t Guarantee You a Job 

Yes, an internship will boost your resume. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re guaranteed a hire when you complete it-- at the company you interned for, or any other company you might be considering.  


An unpaid internship can be a great opportunity to stack your resume, learn new skills, and network. But it can also be a hefty financial burden and increase your risk of burning out.  


After weighing the pros and cons of an unpaid internship, do you have a better idea of what’s right for you? Have you ever had an unpaid internship? Do you have any advice to offer? Comment below with your insights and submit your experience on UltiCareer to give students and jobseekers a glimpse into what a day in the life of your type of job is really like. 

on UltiCareer to help others on their job search, get to know what your type of job is really like.

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