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Unpaid internships: yes or no?


Every year when April rolls around prospective students have existential crises in regards to trying to find an internship. They encounter issues when they have to decide between experience and compensation, an unfair choice.

It seems that the job market requires 10 years of experience, including four internships by the time a student graduates. Though that’s an exaggeration, but sometimes students are left making hard decisions: take an unpaid internship or find an alternative? The answer is simple: Find an alternative.

Personal finance is extremely important to understand, and difficult money situations can be stressful. It is no secret that the city of Denver is changing; highrises are being slapped up all over the city, but rent isn’t dropping anytime soon and groceries still have to be bought.

The summer months, for a lot of students, are an opportunity to work full-time and make money to support themselves later when they are taking classes. If a person isn’t being paid but is still required to work 20 to 40 hours a week, the person is left to find a way to support themselves outside of that unpaid internship.

A person can’t support themselves with an unpaid job. They can’t. Unless a student is a heir to an estate, they cannot afford $1,000-plus a month in rent, not including food and transportation, with no steady source of income. Students then have to work evenings at a job that pays enough, which would mean working about 40 hours a week at a paid job and then an additional 30 to 40 hours a week at an unpaid internship. It’s not worth the struggle. Look for an alternative, like a club on campus in the field or keep looking for a paid internship.

Other alternatives can be extremely beneficial and possibly be put in place of a traditional internship due to experience. For instance, Portfolio Management Group allows for business students to become knowledgeable of Bloomberg terminals, fundamental financial analysis, and managing groups, as well as actually investing capital. The experience almost exceeds that of an internship.

Don’t work to the point of psychosis.  Money doesn’t make anyone happy, but the lack of it can spell misery, so don’t take an unpaid internship.


Every college student has heard this conundrum: To get a job, students need experience; to get experience, students need a job. This dilemma leaves students without even entry level work once they graduate. One of the best ways for students to overcome this flaw in the system is to take on an unpaid internship.

The word “unpaid” usually causes people to draw the line, and for good reasons. College students are busy and many are already working minimum wage jobs for extra cash. However, though the gig is unpaid, internships provide invaluable experience that could be the making or breaking of a student’s future career. Working an internship at a bank during college can pave the path to an accounting job upon graduation.

Students’ time constraints might keep them from going after an unpaid internship, but many don’t realize that the commitment is usually only a few hours per week. Taking a day to work for free may not seem feasible, but the people looking to take on interns are aware that their target market is students and are typically flexible and can schedule around classes and work.

Even those not pursuing a college degree can find unpaid internships that fit their interests. The internships can be used as a tool to garner experience and in many cases can be presented in place of an associate’s degree and even a bachelor’s degree. Many job ads list “a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience” in applicant requirements. The equivalent experience can come from on-the-job training and internships.

Internships provide practical skills that often can’t be taught in a classroom. Having a chance to interact with and explore the environment of their future career is invaluable to students. Combining hands-on experience with lectures and tests is the most effective way to get a well-rounded education.

Though interning for free might seem like a waste of time to the shortsighted, internships can lead to a spot as a paid employee in the long run.

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