While some students are willing to forgo a paycheck to gain work experience or credit, there are many people out there who need to make money during the summer or semester, and working for free is simply not an option.
Luckily, 50-70% of employers offer stipends or hourly wages to their interns, averaging about $10/hour (some of the premier programs listed in the Corporate & Non-Profit Internships section have stipends that far exceed that number). While this may not seem like much, it is certainly more than you’ll make at the ice cream shop or as a lifeguard, and you’ll gain valuable experience on top of the weekly paycheck.
Aside from the benefit to your bank account, there are a number of other benefits for an internship for pay. In some cases, you can earn college credits for a paid internship, making your summer extremely productive for your career and degree. While these are a bit outside of the norm, they are out there and you may even be able to appeal to your college to offer credit for a paid internship that they would not otherwise do, if the internship tasks fulfill a pre-existing credit requirement, or if you are willing to do a little extra work to incorporate academics into the work.
Paid interns are often held to a higher standard, which may make your job tougher, but will also boost your practical, hands-on experience. As a paid intern, you are an employee of the company and therefore subject to all of its policies and procedures; the unpaid interns are more likely to be viewed as students or visitors from the college and possibly not treated as employees.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of a paid internship is the opportunity to learn about money management, and the value of a paycheck. Because many internships will be different from previous jobs you might have had, the experience gained from working in the kind of environment you can expect in your future career. Nothing quite matches the feeling of receiving that first official check for one to two weeks of a job well done.
Logistically, paid interns often get similar fringe benefits to paid employees. While this probably won’t include health insurance or a 401 k, there are other perks to be had. Many companies have pre-tax deductions for travel related expenses, which you should be able to take part in, particularly if you are working hourly as opposed to on a stipend. You will also be entitled to days off, and might even get some paid holidays (like the 4th of July and Labor Day) if the office is closed. These vary from place to place, so it is best to check with the Human Resources Department about specific benefits if you are unsure. Just be sure to do so after you’ve asked all of the other more important questions; you don’t want to look like you are more interested in the perks than you are in the job itself!
Paid internships may seem like the best of both worlds, offering experiential learning along with the paycheck. But the benefits go far beyond the money you’ll receive, giving you even more reason to start researching the best place to do your internship.