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Should I get paid for an internship?

paid internship
CBS News intern Dillion Farneti runs with a decision released by the U.S. Supreme Court, on June 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. Source: Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP

An internship is an exciting introduction to the working world. What’s better is getting a paid internship.

You get to practise the theory you’ve learned so far, seeing how it is applied to generate viable ideas and create products in the field. It’s likely to make you more employable as well— a study found that students who have an internship are 15% less likely to be unemployed and earn 6% more than students who did not. With a paid internship, you stand to get competitive pay, stipends, or even traditional full-time employee benefits.

When you are looking for an internship that will contribute towards course credit, you may come across unpaid internships. Now, these are legal if you agree to it and sign a contract — as long as the job scope matches your academic requirements. Yet they are slowly phasing out as more employers recognise that interns deserve to be paid for time and effort.

Most employers today recognise the value interns bring, even grooming them to join full-time upon graduation. You can expect to be paid for an internship in large organisations, particularly those in the banking, government, accounting, advertising, fashion, and IT industries. Computer science and engineering internships offer the highest salary, while education and arts companies tend to have less to offer financially.

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Healthcare internships may be hectic, but they always pay. Source: Sebastien Bozon/AFP

How do I choose the right paid internship?

A good employer always pays for your work, even if it is the paycheque is small. Many graduates carry this knowledge way past internship days. While exposure and connections are important when starting out in any industry, they do not sufficiently replace financial compensation.

Now, what if the internship offers an experience that you cannot get anywhere else? Then, you should first assess the perks against your career hopes and plans. If you feel a couple of months of experience is invaluable to your cause, go for it, as long as you have financial backing or savings to sustain yourself.

Besides that, you should only shortlist companies that offer tangible salary packages. You should also be afforded sick days and annual leaves — though you may not be entitled to the same basic benefits as full-time staff. When you are sufficiently compensated, you will feel appreciated and further motivated to deliver results. That’s a win-win situation.

Can international students get paid internships abroad?

The short answer: yes. International students bring diversity to the workplace, which is something many start-ups value. At the same time, certain companies are more willing than others to jump through legal hoops when hiring foreign interns.

Multinational companies are typically more willing to go through the process of hiring a foreign intern, which may include applying for a different permit or visa. Confirm the rules with your university, embassy, and future workplace before making any decisions. Good luck!

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