Are unpaid internships worth it?

Photo by i_yudai.

Have you ever considered an unpaid internship? It can be tempting. To work at a reputable company and gain valuable experience can be enticing even if it means no pay for a few months. But recently, there have been mixed reviews of whether or not internships without compensation are worth it.

Check if unpaid internships are legal in your area

It is important to note that unpaid internships in British Columbia are illegal. However, there is an exception to this. A practicum is an unpaid internship, but it is legal in B.C. as it is part of a study program at a school. If you are in another part of Canada, you may want to check if unpaid internships are legal in your area.

I started my career with a practicum. It was part of my college studies and I loved it. I also landed a job with the company because I was working in the office at the time and they needed to hire a person right away. They practically gave me the job on the spot. I ended up working with the company for the next five years.

A study shows that unpaid internships may make you less employable

Not everyone has such a positive take on unpaid internships. A study from the US by the National Association of Colleges and Employers established that recent grads who had worked unpaid internships were only doing a little better in their careers than students who hadn't done an internship at all.

This research also shows a few other important points: When the unpaid interns did find paying jobs, they were usually earning less than the students who hadn't done an internship at all. The study came to the conclusion that taking an internship without compensation may actually harm a student's chances at future earnings compared to interns who were paid and students who took no internship at all.

Consider the pros and cons of volunteering your time

Before taking a voluntary internship, it is a good idea to sit down and consider the pros and cons of giving your time to a business or organization. Will you make key contacts that could lead to employment? Will you discover industry skills and knowledge that you would not have learned in a paid position? Will this unpaid internship take you closer to your career goals?

When you have your interview for the internship position, ask the interviewer these questions. You can also prepare other detailed questions which will help you decide if volunteering your valuable time will benefit both you and the employer.

About the author

Sacha DeVoretz is an independent journalist currently based in North Vancouver. Sacha reports and blogs on a broad spectrum of stories both locally and internationally. Her in-depth coverage has been featured in the Vancouver Observer, Canadian Immigrant Magazine and Fox News Latino. She writes a lifestyle blog for the Huffington Post. Visit her daily at SachaD.com

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