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Should You Get Paid For An Internship?

Should You Get Paid For An Internship?

It’s finally the start of summer for college students and students following the western school calendar. Summer means family trips, staying up until 3 AM binge-watching a new series, leisure reading, and for some, internship time. Internships have only grown in popularity over the years. More commonly known as OJT, even high school students these days are eager to immerse themselves in the workforce.

Internships are no doubt a lot of work. From searching for companies, applying, and especially the job itself. Many students often ask: “Should I be paid for an internship?” Luckily, we got you covered with three scenarios.

Scenario 1: Yes, you should get paid.

If you already have prior internship or employment experience, you would know that contracts are one of, if not the most important thing for you and your employer. Make sure to read the fine print to check if you should be getting hourly pay or a stipend. Is financial compensation explicitly stated in the contract? Make sure to find out the exact amount and ensure your employer delivers.

If you have contributed immensely to revenue, you deserve a paycheck. Additionally, heavy workload without pay may actually classify as exploitation. One must also note that the field in which you are working does matter as some industries and companies tend to have more funding. For instance, pay is expected if you are working for huge, well-established companies.

On the other hand, start-ups and non-profit organizations have little funding. Which brings us to our next scenario.

Scenario 2: What if you’re not getting paid?

As stated earlier, some companies have bigger budgets when it comes to financial compensation. Newer companies, non-profits, and advocacies tend to have smaller budgets, meaning there is a high chance you will not get paid. However, this does not mean it wouldn’t be a great experience. It’s still a good opportunity to network and garner knowledge and skills from colleagues.

Another instance is when you are simply being trained or shadowing someone. When you aren’t doing the same job as a regular employee, you may not be paid. The scenario of merely shadowing someone means you won’t be doing hands-on work, but rather you’ll be observing how the person goes about their job. Shadowing is typically for interns who have no prior experience, yet they’re given a chance to see what it’s like to work at a certain company or industry.

A rule of thumb when deciding on an unpaid internship is to ask yourself: Can you afford it?

If you will not be getting a stipend, how will you afford transportation to the office? Do you have to relocate for this? How much experience and networking can you get from this opportunity? Will it truly be mutually beneficial for you and the employer? Will you eventually be paid? These are some points to review to avoid compromising your finances.

Scenario 3: Maybe. It depends on the company or your job.

Factors that come into play in this scenario are how far you are in your career and how much work experience you’ve garnered in the past.

For instance, you took an internship at a huge company when you were in high school and took an internship at a small start-up company in your third year of college.

It’s expected that the older you get, the more skills you’ve obtained, making you more competitive in the job market. With previous experience under your belt, chances are you should be getting paid, since you bring much more to the table.

Another factor to consider is if you’re given a stipend. Stipends are much smaller and act as an allowance rather than hourly pay. Some companies opt not to pay interns and instead give them a stipend to cover food and transportation.

Universal Scenario: How do I ask if I’m getting paid or not?

Internships are a peek into the real world. Well, it is the real world but you have less to gamble at this point.

Confused as to whether or not you’re getting paid for an upcoming internship? Make sure to ask for a contract. At the end of the day, text in the fine print is above any hearsay. Having a contract also allows you to understand what is expected from you and what type of mentorship you can expect from your employer.

Unfortunately, unpaid internships continue to foster privilege. Unpaid internships from huge companies where individuals can truly garner skills and competencies are often out of reach due to financial constraints. If you find yourself in that situation, don’t be afraid to negotiate an agreement for a stipend or minimum wage. 

BONUS: Here’s another guide for Filipino students looking to get paid internships.

If you’re a senior high school student wondering where to even begin, we’ve got an internship guide for you to check out! Don’t forget to check the other articles on the Job Hunting section on the Edukasyon.ph blog!

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