Show Me the Money: Are Unpaid Internships Worth Your Time?

Sometimes you have to weigh your options for long-term success

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Within the past year, major companies such as Fox, Hearst and a production company called Charlie Rose have faced major scrutiny about unpaid internships. Whether interns were allegedly overworked, harassed or just dissatisfied with their experience, and with the murky ethics of unpaid internships, we must ask ourselves, is interning for free worth it?

“The negative aspects of an unpaid internship are that you pretty much have to find a way to survive for months with little to no money,” says Donecia Moore, a Miami Heat box office professional. During her time as an undergraduate, Moore has had four unpaid internships.

“I’ve never had to take out a loan, but when my refund check from financial aid ran out, it was tough trying to maintain,” Moore adds. “Unpaid internships leave you with gas, housing, food, and leisure activities outside of working that you would have to worry about paying for.”

Moore suggests students take internships in an area where you have family “… It will be a lot cheaper. If it wasn’t for family, I probably would’ve had to take out a loan.”

Alexander Hanse, a copywriter for digital marketing company, also works as a sound engineering freelancer. He says internships—whether paid or unpaid—provide a valuable experience that could help advance your career.

“[Internships] help you understand the field you’re going to be in after graduation and let you know whether you even want to be in that field,” he adds. “[They] also help you understand the environment your job can take you. Even if you don’t like your internship, at least you’ll know what you don’t want to do.”

Hanse acknowledges that not getting monetary compensation, especially in this economy, can challenging. “The big picture is kind of hard to see on an unpaid internship scale,” he says. “Now, if you know you need money and you don’t want to take that risk, then I would say don’t do it. However, at some point in time you’re going to have to start on the ground floor. Either you can run from it or you can tackle it. It’s all about getting the experience.”

Do you think unpaid internships are worth your time or a waste of it? #SoundOff and follow Jamie on Twitter @JayNHarrison.

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