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Getting Paid During an Unpaid Internship

Your highest hope for the summer is probably a paid internship in your field, and that might be possible.  After all, more and more organizations and companies are realizing that interns should get paid.  

But if you didn't snag that paid internship, you just might want to consider an unpaid one.  That's because unpaid internships can give you critical experience in your chosen field that will help you land a job after graduation. 

If you're considering an unpaid internship, however, you're also probably asking, “How am I going to pay my bills?" Every year, thousands of college students face this dilemma. Sadly, many students reluctantly pass on such internships, unaware of potential ways to get around the financial obstacles involved.

Ask Your College or University 

Is a lack of funding standing between you and the unpaid internship you really want? If so, see if your school offers grants for unpaid internships. From Brooklyn College to the University of Chicago, many colleges and universities have  special programs to fund students who want to pursue unpaid work experiences.  To see if your school has a similar program, set up an appointment with a career counselor or financial aid advisor at your college.  

Look for Grants Related to Your Field  

Foundations and organizations offer special grants to help you pay for educational experiences relating to your career aspirations.  For example:

  • The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation provides scholarships to support outstanding students pursue internships at nonprofit organizations.  
  • We Need Diverse Books awards supplemental grants to students from diverse backgrounds to help further their goals of pursuing a career in children's publishing.  
  • The BA Rudolph Foundation offers scholarships to help women pursue internships in public services or STEM.  

Get started by doing some internet research, and asking the organization sponsoring your internship or the career center at your college.  

If you still need some supplemental income, the key is finding a job that will work around your schedule, so click here to get some ideas on finding a flexible or off-hours job.    

An unpaid internship certainly isn’t the best work scenario you’ll ever pursue. But if you're considering taking an unpaid internship to get some crucial experience in your field, it can and often does lead to much bigger and better things: relevant work experience, important personal contacts in your chosen field and, often, a full-time, paying position with either the same organization or another one.