When looking for your next internship opportunity, whether it’s pre- or post-graduation, it’s important to carefully consider which to pursue. There are certain factors that you will want to think about before applying, beyond employer and location of work.

Pay close attention to the attributes listed and the filters you can use on Handshake to fine-tune your search. Your first internship experience is just as important as your first time in an entry level position. It’s also a great opportunity to break into the industry or career of your choice. This is your time to be as selective as you like, as it can be easier to be flexible with your first opportunity. 

But before you initiate your quick application, take into account the benefits of both paid and unpaid internships.

Many internship experiences are paid

It’s not always the case, but current employment trends favor paid internships. This makes finding a paid opportunity a lot easier than it once was, especially with tools like Handshake that indicate if an internship is paid. Whether you’re looking to work at a Fortune 500 or a recent start-up, you won’t be short of an opportunity.

Still, you may find an unpaid internship available from time to time. It may be worth considering an unpaid internship, depending on the kind of experience you’re looking for. An unpaid opportunity at your dream employer will provide a more valuable experience than a paid opportunity that is unrelated to your career goals. 

When to consider an unpaid internship

While the benefits may not be as obvious, an unpaid internship at the right company can offer significant value

The first benefit is attainability. An unpaid internship will require much less from its prospects than a paid internship. This may be a great option for you if you don’t yet have relevant experiences (yes, some paid internships require previous experience). 

The second is the low-risk, practical environment. By nature, an unpaid internship allows you the chance to grow and learn about the job and industry without some of the expectations of a paid role. 

The third is the potential for college credit. Some internships partner with your career services center to evaluate your experience and potentially award college credit toward graduation. This is an opportunity for students to combine college completion and employment experience.

When to consider a paid internship

The first benefit is obvious… Pay.

You’ll notice that many internships opt to pay an hourly wage or salary. But you might also find some that pay weekly or monthly stipends. The average hourly wage of an intern tends to fall between $15.67 and $19.51 for freshmen and seniors in college, respectively. The number of hours can also vary depending on the employer. Expect to have at least 20 hours of availability a week, and possibly up to 40 hours.

The second benefit, which may be the key factor in choosing a paid internship over unpaid, is the higher likelihood of a job offer. According to U.S. News, 65.4% of paid interns were offered jobs upon completion while only 38% of unpaid internships received job offers.

Trouble deciding?
Take your time with the process. Think about the pros and cons of making each decision. And if you need someone who can provide advice, consider stopping by your career services center and/or finding a career advisor.