Paid vs. Unpaid Internships: How to decide?

An internship is a short – term work experience offered by organizations usually for students and graduates to get some entry – level exposure to a particular field or industry. Internship is important because it gives you a chance to work with accomplished industry professionals and gain real work experience. It sometimes also helps in figuring out what you want to do ahead because its often difficult to know where to even start when it comes to job searching. For others, it might help in deciding the field in which you wish to pursue higher studies. So, basically internships give you a chance to try and explore few things out without giving actual commitments.

Paid vs. Unpaid internship

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How long can an internship last?

Duration of internships can vary from few weeks to several months depending on the purpose it is going to serve. In some cases, internship might be required to fulfil the requirements of a degree course while in other, they might act as an entry point for the jobs.

Which type of internship is most helpful to your career path?

While internships can be paid or unpaid, individuals have the right to make informed decision about the same. However, an intense argument goes around discussing the comparative fairness of unpaid internships and, in a broader sense, doing work without monetary benefits. For a few people, unpaid internships are exploiting in nature because they simply present an illusion of opportunity but actually help companies in making profits with free labour. These companies provide experience and connections to interns in return.

Why then, do unpaid internships exist? This is because plenty of people support the idea of unpaid internships as they provide great learning and help in gaining early professional experiences. On the other hand, one might not find it wrong as some organizations like NGOs can’t afford to pay interns as they strive to spend every possible rupee in work supporting the elements they serve rather than covering administrative costs. Or a start-up where even the founders aren’t taking any salary and the only fee, they can offer is in terms of training, experience, connections and relationships. So, sometimes the pay comes in a different currency as it gives an opportunity to an intern to add achievements and skills to the resume, but only if, you can afford to do an unpaid internship.

However, for some, no matter how significant the non-monetary rewards might be, unpaid internship is a non-starter because you do invest significant time to provide value to the work. So, even if you’re just starting out, still – Hard work should be rewarded according to them. And this perception towards internship is also completely fine because while an internship may be good, it’s definitely not the only track. There are several other ways to gain experience and make connections with people. You can start an excursion down practically any way you want – you can learn anything you want for free through a large number of online platforms available or connect with nearly anyone through social media.

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Should you do an Unpaid Internship?

We can say that the idea of fairness in unpaid internship lies in the eyes of the beholder and is very subjective. An unpaid internship may be the perfect option for you, if the non-monetary benefits surpass the cost of time, especially in relatively niche pursuits. However, if the rewards don’t counterbalance the cost of time, or you can’t afford to exchange unpaid time for paid time, then an unpaid internship makes no sense. And, in a broader sense, if the rewards don’t overshadow the cost of time, then the company or organization will find it difficult to fill those internship places. That’s why several industries have a history of successfully filling unpaid internship spots because plenty of people clearly feel that the returns are worth the unpaid effort.

Ultimately, it would be right to say that the idea of an internship being fair or unfair is an individual decision that can be portrayed through a simple equation: the ratio of what you get to what you give. You might also think of it the other way round for instance, if you go to a college, you have to pay to gain knowledge. While in an unpaid internship, at least it doesn’t cost you anything other than time learn new skills and gain experience.

Disclaimer: This article has been modified and originally appeared on Inc website. Changes were made so as to make it better suited for the audience.