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Paid vs. Unpaid Internships

Paid vs. Unpaid Internships
“Can I get paid for my internship?” is a common question.  Everyone wants to be compensated for their time and work during the internship, but not every organization is able to provide interns with an hourly wage or stipend.  In addition, sometimes the internship that is most in line with your career goals is unpaid. 

Paid internships are fewer in number and tend to have earlier application deadlines, and so students determined to be paid for their internship must begin their search even earlier.  A few great resources for paid internships are Career Connection, Georgia County Internships, GA Internship Network (GAIN), and Internships.com.  The Georgia Governor’s Intern Program is also a great paid opportunity for college and graduate students.  Utilizing specific keyword searches for paid internships as well as social media websites like LinkedIn and Twitter can result in locating other paid opportunities.  Professional networking is also essential to locating paid internships in your course of study. 

There are many benefits to completing an unpaid internship, so it’s important to keep your options open.  Unpaid internships tend to offer flexibility, so students are able to formulate internship learning goals that specifically align with their career objectives.  Unpaid internships can be more convenient to a student’s class schedule or offer a shorter commute.  Unpaid internships offer the same kinds of networking and learning opportunities as paid internships.  They also give students the opportunity to prove their dedication and enthusiasm for their internship , which makes a positive impression on employers.     

The Law and Unpaid Internships
For-profit companies are required to pay their interns or submit to a list of requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Labor under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  In short, these internships must be completed for academic credit, do not replace the work of regular employees, and must be in line with the same kind of training the student would receive in an educational environment.  For more information on the Fair Labor Standards Act and specific requirements for unpaid internships: Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act (pdf).  Students should contact the Career Center if they have questions or concerns about unpaid internships and these regulations. 

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