Benefits of An Unpaid Internship

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Internships. While most of us might think that being an intern just consists of fetching coffee for people and doing the annoying tasks that nobody else wants to do, internships are wonderful opportunities for growth, exploration and yes, even failure.

Internships serve as the exciting, intimidating and sometimes stressful period in many college students’ lives where we substitute our scantrons and textbooks to head out into the real world and gain hands-on experience before graduation day.

Some of you have already secured and survived several internships, while others are in pursuit of their first. Whatever stage you’re at in finding an internship, you have probably seen an internship posting for an “unpaid internship.” While most of us moan and groan at the thought of working our fingers to the bone while not getting compensated, unpaid internships often pay you in unique ways. Here are reasons you should consider an unpaid internship.


You cannot put a price on experience. Stepping out of the classroom into a hospital, agency, sports field or whatever it may be and getting to work with professionals in an everyday setting is worth every second. Internships teach us things that we simply cannot learn in a classroom. It would be nice to earn a paycheck every two weeks but earning that degree will make that unpaid internship worth it.

Making a name for yourself.

Unpaid internships can lead you to the most important and influential people that may help steer you in the right direction. We all know the status quo – it’s all about who you know.  Now, flip it around. It’s about who knows YOU. Don’t think that your internship is any less important because it’s unpaid. If you dress up, show up and work your tail off, you will make a name for yourself that will carry you through the duration of your college career and land you where you’re meant to be.

Connections and friendships.

People know people and those people know other people. The connections that internships can bring simply cannot be measured. You’re not in the classroom anymore, you’re with the big dogs in the real world. Professionals have been in your shoes before and recognize hard work. As mentioned above, making a name for yourself and developing connections is huge, especially when it comes to needing references.

You can also develop long-lasting friendships at your unpaid internship. I’ve personally met some pretty amazing people at my unpaid internship and quite honestly, I look forward to going to work every day because of them. Developing friendships will make going to work more enjoyable and you won’t even think about not getting paid.


When you’re working with a group of other interns, chances are they’re in the same boat as you in terms of not getting paid. You’re all there to learn, grow and enjoy the ride. Internships, or any job for that matter, are supposed to be fun. This is your time to show the world what you’ve got to offer.

I can without a doubt say that my unpaid internship was the most fun I’ve ever had at a job. It didn’t feel like working, because I loved what I was doing, I loved who I was working with and I wasn’t worried about getting paid.

So, now that you have some things to think about in terms of unpaid internships, what are you waiting for? Apply! I encourage you to visit the PRSSA Internship Center and explore the wonderful opportunities that are out there waiting for you!


Riley Nordquist is a senior at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He serves as the vice president of strategy and content for his Chapter, as well as the director for his Student-run Firm, PRestige. Riley was also a 2016 PRSSA National Conference attendee. In his free time, Riley enjoys baseball, writing and listening to country music.

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