How To Get Paid For An Internship

Having an internship over the summer is an excellent first step on your career path. It gives you a chance to network, learn new skills, and get a taste of what it’s like to work in your desired field. 

The common perception of internships is that they are unpaid, and this is usually the case. However, paid internships do exist and give you some financial security while undertaking your internship. But how do you get paid for an internship?

Below, we’ll provide some tips on how to get a paid internship, as well as provide some insight into what industries are more likely to pay their interns. 

First, let’s take a closer look at the difference between paid and unpaid internships.

What Are The Differences Between Paid And Unpaid Internships?

There are three key differences between a paid internship and an unpaid internship.


Unpaid interns do tend to have more flexibility with their schedules. You can let your employer know what your preferred schedule is, so you can fit your internship around other commitments such as school or part-time jobs. 

Meanwhile, paid interns are normally required to work the hours fixed by their employer. However, paid interns who do have classes and other responsibilities to juggle can normally work out a schedule with their employer, so they can accommodate their internship.


Interns are usually given manual, time-consuming tasks to complete. Unpaid interns may have more freedom to say no to tasks that don’t directly correlate to their job description, i.e. doing coffee runs.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor states that those with unpaid internships should only be given responsibilities that are related to their area of study or career path. 

Meanwhile, as paid interns are receiving monetary compensation they are normally required to complete all tasks assigned to them. 


In terms of visibility, both paid and unpaid internships can be beneficial, although this all depends on the company. 

For example, unpaid interns may be more visible and on the radar of upper-management, who want to mentor them, and provide opportunities to shadow various positions. 

Meanwhile, paid interns are more akin to a full-time employee, which makes them more visible to the company as a whole, and they may be seen as more of an equal. In this way, paid internships give you even more of an idea of what it’s like to work at the company you’re interning with. 

Tips For Getting A Paid Internship

Tips For Getting A Paid Internship

Get A Head Start On Networking

Before your search begins, try to network with alumni in the field, so you have a better idea of the field you want to get experience in.

It’s also a great way to find out more about internship opportunities in your desired field, and if these internships tend to be paid or unpaid.

Start Looking Early

The best time to start looking for internships is in the fall before the following summer as this is when most industries start looking for interns. 

This may feel early, but this is when there will be plenty of opportunities to choose from. If you leave your search too late, you miss really exciting internship opportunities with established companies, especially those with formalized intern programs. 

Like our networking tip, it’s a good idea to establish connections with faculty who are currently working in your desired field as well as with alumni.

Look to your academic advisor for guidance on finding internships, and do some digging in your academic department. You can also ask your family to check their own networks too. Do their friends or colleagues know of any paid internships you’d be interested in? 

It’s also worth going to an internship or job fair to broaden your search.

Carefully Consider The Internships You’re Offered And Don’t Be Afraid To Negotiate

We understand how exciting it can be to be offered an internship, and the desire to accept the offer right away, so it doesn’t pass you by.

But it’s best not to leap on the offer straight away, rather thank the company for their offer and ask if it would be possible to have a day or two to think it over, and discuss the offer with your career counselor or academic advisor. 

They can potentially coach you on negotiating a better deal for your paid internship if needed, or help you find a comparable paid position somewhere else. 

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Monetary Compensation

Many students starting an internship don’t think to ask about compensation beyond an hourly wage. But you can also politely ask about being reimbursed for minor expenses like parking, transportation, or other relevant expenses.

Seek Out Financial Assistance

There is definitely financial assistance out there for those who want to have unpaid internships – or internships with a low wage – but can’t afford it. 

Consider A Co-Op Over A Traditional Internship

A co-op is usually considered a step-up to an internship, and means that you take a break from classes during the semester, so you can gain real work experience by working full time for a company. Unlike internships, Co-ops are always paid. 

What Companies Offer Paid Internships?

Most Fortune 500 companies provide paid internships, mainly because they can afford to. They also know how valuable it can be to train an intern who may develop into an asset for the company by the time they graduate and enter the workforce. 

The private sector also offers several paid internships, and these include non-profits and solo practitioners. Other industries that are known for offering paid internships are accounting, advertising, banking, fashion, government, IT, and public relations. 

What Industries Usually Pay Interns Well?

According to NACE (the National Association of Colleges and Employers), the highest internship salaries were in the computer science and engineering fields. 

Unfortunately, internships in the fields of education, liberal arts, and social sciences usually pay the least. 

Final Thoughts

When deciding what internships you want to pursue, one of the first questions you’ll probably ask yourself is whether you want a paid internship or an unpaid one. Most people would opt for a paid internship to give them a little financial security while gaining experience. 

But it is also important to consider what experience you’re going to get, how this experience will look on your resume, and what opportunities will be available to you after graduation, as well as whether the internship pays.  

We hope that the above tips have given you an idea of how you can get a paid internship, and what industries are more likely to take on paid internships. When it comes to getting a paid internship, it’s all about being prepared and carefully considering your options.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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