What Are Paid Internships & How to Find One

FT Contributor
Interns and businessmen discussing in the background while the word "internship" is written in the foreground.
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A paid internship is a temporary position with a company that allows you to gain relevant work experience while also earning college credit. Aside from being paid for your time, there are a number of other benefits to paid internships, including experience with colleagues, clients, and software programs that will boost your resume. A paid internship in your field can allow you to make money while earning valuable experience to help you find a job after college.

From tech to engineering and marketing, you can find paid internships at a variety of companies in numerous industries. This allows you to figure out if you’re interested in a particular industry or not. With an internship, you’re able to test the waters before fully committing to a career path.

If you’re happy with the industry and position that you’ve interned for, it could become a full-time job. In fact, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conducted a survey in 2012 that found 60% of college graduates that year received at least one job offer after completing a paid internship.

Discover the difference between paid and unpaid internships, what you stand to make as a paid intern, and how to find a company that will pay you for your internship.

A paid internship is one that pays you a monetary value for the time you work. Conversely, unpaid internships do not pay anything for your time. Instead, you are only offered college credit. Paid interns are viewed as employees while unpaid interns are not.

In addition to the money, paid and unpaid internships differ legally. The duties of an unpaid internship may differ from those of a paid one, as can the learning experiences. Unpaid interns are still monitored closely by paid employees of the company, but with the understanding that there is no monetary compensation — only educational benefits.

You might take an unpaid internship if the position aligns with your future goals. Not all companies can afford to pay the interns they hire, but you can still gain relevant experience that will bolster your resume and possibly help you land a job in the future.  

Regardless of whether you take a paid or unpaid opportunity, an internship will always help build your resume, provide networking opportunities with professionals in the industry, and open the door to potential employment.

For-Credit Internships

For credit internships are those that are completed for college credit. These internships may be paid or unpaid, but they come with the underlying value of receiving school credit.

Internships are often referred to as experiential learning. While you may be considered an employee, the company isn’t evaluating your performance like they would a regular, salaried hire.

Instead, the company focuses on the learning component of the internship. Their primary goal is to educate you as to how their business runs and what a typical day looks like in the role that you applied for.

Throughout the internship, you might receive less feedback than you would if you were actually working full time. Instead, your performance is focused on academic evaluation.

What Do Interns Typically Get Paid?

The NACE reported an increase in bachelor’s-level interns’ wages since 2013. In 2019, the average hourly wage for an intern was $19.05. Note that this is a national average that can vary state by state. What an internship pays also varies by industry and duties of the job. For example, architecture interns will earn $17.26 an hour while a marketing intern may earn $12.80 an hour.

The availability of internships is on the rise. The NACE’s hiring outlook for interns is expected to continue on a positive trend. They anticipate hiring 2.6% more interns this year than last.

How to Find Paid Internships

To find the paid internship that’s right for you, conduct research. Seek out a career counselor at your school, talk with friends and family members, or search online job boards for opportunities in your area.

Once you’ve found a paid internship you want to apply for, do the following:

  1. Create a resume: Typically larger companies are the ones that offer paid internships, so it’s important to create a resume that will stand out.
  2. Submit an application: Be sure to follow all of the instructions outlined in the internship application. Address the correct contact in your cover letter, and don’t forget to include any attachments. This is the first step in making a good impression on the employer.
  3. Prepare for the interview: Paid internships are highly sought after, so it’s important to stand out in your interview. Look up potential questions and practice your answers with a friend or family member. You should also go into the interview prepared to ask questions about the company or tasks at hand, so research the business as much as you can.
  4. Follow up: After you’ve had an interview, send a follow-up to whoever you interviewed with to thank them for their time. Reiterate your interest in the role as well. This can be done via email or by snail mail.

Remember that what you’ll need to do to land a paid internship will vary by industry. In some cases, you may need to complete multiple interviews or a sample project to obtain the intern position being offered.

There are numerous opportunities for paid internships out there. It all comes down to the type of job you’re interested in.

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