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All You Need to Know – Paid and Unpaid Internships

6 min read

By Jalaj Tokas

Published On: September 16, 2021, at 13:01 IST


It is famously said that “Internships are just like footprints in the sand, where each step signifies the journey taken.”

Nowadays, internships are more widely being used as a means to acquire soft skills by students to help bridge the difference between classroom learning and its practical application in real life.

An internship basically works towards establishing a link between ‘learning about the world of work’ and ‘being a part of the world of work’. It therefore becomes absolutely necessary, as a student/employee, to understand as to what aspects of these experiences make them the most worthwhile.

Initially, incorporated as an essential part of practical training in various degrees as well as short-term programs, internships offer a wide range of advantages for those aiming to gain outside world exposure in their respective field of interest.

Primarily, facilitating in holistic personality development of an individual, internships are nowadays available in different forms, be it virtual or full-time. However, interns often find themselves perplexed when it comes to choosing between paid and unpaid internships.

Wondering what course you should adopt while applying for an internship? Well, here is a write-up mentioning and analyzing all perks and factors elucidating the importance of internships, both paid and unpaid, which you must consider before opting for one!

What are Paid Internships?

Paid Internships, as the name suggests, refer to internships which pay in return for the intern’s work or services rendered for a specific period of time. Paid internship, as a concept, strives to bring out the very best from the person hired based on a work-based learning experience. A paid internship is much more than just money. However, paid internships, as you may be surprised to know, aren’t all sunshine and roses. Every responsibility comes with its own set of expectations and tangible challenges.

Intern gets paid for his/her services rendered. There is no denying that money certainly opens up avenues and is a crucial factor for most of us while deciding on an internship.Money, in some cases, acts as a means to lure interns into programs that focus less on personality development and more on completion of work.
A paid internship tries to bring the best out of you channelizing your abilities better.There is less space for creativity which reduces the chances for showcasing your talents and polishing your skills. Less stress is paid on honing the skills of an intern.
A paid opportunity fills the person with a sense of accomplishment which acts as a morale booster in the long run.While, choosing an intern the employer might ignore students on the basis of being inexperienced.
Gives an actual taste of outside world and its competitiveness.A person is shortlisted on the basis of his skills rather than his/her aptitude for learning.
Paid internships help in building your CVs much faster. The very fact that you drew a paycheck is likely to tip the scales in your favor for a future opportunity vis-à-vis an unpaid intern.Chances of a holistic personality development are less vis-à-vis an unpaid internship.
In continuation, a paid intern has better chances of landing a job than his counterpart, if applying for the same.Paid internships are prone to have strict work programs and schedules. High workload coupled with pressurized deadline completions adds to the menace. Prioritizing on getting paid, some interns compromise on the field and nature of internship. Thus, embarking on a different road altogether. 

What are Unpaid Internships?

Unpaid Internships are unpaid, non-permanent work experiences that enable an individual to participate in, and observe a professional work environment. Unpaid internships are most commonly offered to students who wish to develop their careers in its initial years. Unpaid internships can be a great way to start building your professional network, develop skills and receive valuable feedback from professionals. Let’s be honest: Having to work but not getting paid for it doesn’t sound appealing. Given the choice of paid internships or unpaid internships, most students eagerly jump at the first. But, what if I told you that an unpaid internship pays you better than just money?

Unpaid internships bring a wealth of experience with them. In addition to this, unpaid internships are much easier to bag.Not many of us are motivated to work for free. Devoting precious time from one’s curriculum and still not being paid for the work, goes as an argument against unpaid internship.
Even though no incentive is paid, yet it accounts for skill development which, for a learning intern, is of utmost importance.Interns, who find it difficult to make ends meet, might opt out of such internships due to financial constraints.
An intern’s holistic skill development is of primary concern. Mentors pay undivided attention to their needs and rectify them whenever needed. Compared to paid internships, there is less pressure to perform and deliver on time. Thus, putting minimum constraints on the intern.Working for free can negatively impact a student’s self-esteem. There are instances when full time employees look down on them for being unpaid interns. It can be tempting for full time employees and mentors to dump all of the tedious, menial tasks onto the intern, especially an unpaid one.
An unpaid internship gives an opportunity to feel free, explore, experiment and learn. These aspects are hardly touched upon in a paid internship.Inconsistent work hours, sometimes.
Unpaid internships are a good opportunity for testing the waters. They provide a taste of the course of one’s career. They also give an insight into one’s own field of career while working which helps us in deciding better for ourselves. 

After weighing up the positives and negatives of both, paid and unpaid internships, we draw a conclusion that the main perks of an internship remain the same either way. Internships are useful tools for employers as they provide them with a means of screening and recruiting potential hires. Through them an intern can learn about various career fields while being a part of the system.

Gaining the experience of working with professionals adds to the cause. An internship is an ideal approach to gain an understanding of your chosen industry or field. All in all, an internship is an opportunity not to be missed!

Suggestion and Conclusion

Every internship opportunity is unique, and so is every student. An internship can provide career building experience and could be a stepping stone to your dream job. It plays a vital role in advancing or enhancing the chances of a bright future.

In an internship, while an employer prefers experience as criteria for selection. On the other hand, as a student, it is a catch 22 situation. As a student you need the internship to get the experience but at the same time you also need the experience to get an internship.

What adds to this chaos is the option of choosing between a paid and an unpaid internship. Paid internships differ from unpaid ones in terms of workload and flexibility. If you are being paid for an internship, you may be treated more like an employee. It thus makes you more obligated to the work assigned to you, no matter how tedious and repetitive it may be. While, money is a crucial factor to take into consideration, one must also not forget the purpose for which the person opted for an internship.

For students, as most of the mentors at Law Insider India suggest, priority should be on skill development whether paid or unpaid. Monetary benefits, for most of the students, shouldn’t be a priority but an added benefit. It is also important to note that resources must also be respected in an internship. Finally, an internship is an opportunity to make the most out of your time, while still in college.

While it’s challenging, I think it’s crucial that students develop thick skin here. Don’t let your paycheck dictate your self-esteem. You have value just for being you. Remind yourself you will make it to a well-paid job eventually. You’re just doing what it takes to get there.