Nowadays, the theory is that an education plus job experience prepares a student for the real-world job market. Good jobs after graduation are hard to come by, and those students who have a strong education and experience in their fields certainly have an advantage. One way students are getting the work experience they need is through internships. Some academic programs even require that students in the program complete an internship as part of the graduation requirements.
Are Interns Paid?
Let's say you want to (or, sometimes, you have to) do an internship. Internships can be paid or unpaid, for academic credit or not. As you investigate your internship possibilities, it is possible to find one that pays money, so always look for this option first. Start looking early—if you need a summer internship, start looking during the fall semester. Start by applying only for those internships that pay money.
Most colleges and universities have an internship or career services office. That's a good place to start investigating internship options. Academic departments and area businesses might also have internship possibilities that aren't advertised through the college internship office. Take the initiative to stop by and find out.
In addition, the U.S. State Department and other federal agencies in the United States offer internships (most of which are unpaid) to undergraduate and graduate students. Applications for these are due each year by November 1 for summer internships, March 1 for fall, and July 1 for winter. State and city governments have many internship possibilities that often get overlooked. Jobs that require working with members of congress or state government are also available through governmental internships.
Some students go directly to selected businesses and ask if they would be willing to create a paid internship opportunity (or convert a summer job into an internship) for them. When the right student makes inquiries to the right company, it can be a match made in heaven—because in such a case everybody wins, both the intern and the company!
When Internships Do Not Pay
If you are required to take an internship that does offer monetary compensation, you may want to inquire at your institution's financial aid office, dean's office, and/or career or internship office to see if there are grants or cash stipends available. You may not be getting paid, but a little money is better than none. With a small stipend you may be able to at least afford to get some of your resulting internship expenses covered.