Internships are a common way to gain hands-on experience in the workplace. But how do you know if an internship is paid or not?
Sometimes this information is listed on the page describing the opportunity, sometimes it’s not. In this article, we’re going to walk you through how to ask if an internship is paid or not.
First off, let’s start with a couple of key definitions:
An unpaid internship means that the intern will not be compensated monetarily for their time and work. The employer may provide non-monetary pay in the form of education and experience.
A paid internship is one where those who are chosen for the role will be compensated monetarily for their time and work.
Now that those are out of the way, how do you go about asking if an internship is paid or not?
How to Ask if an Internship is Paid: Straight up ask
You’re looking for an internship, so be upfront, yet not rude. Assertive, yet friendly. It’s perfectly ok to ask questions, especially whether or not you’ll be financially compensated. After all, how else will you pay your bills?
It’s important not to be too assertive when asking about payment for an internship. For example, if you’re too aggressive, it could cost you the position.
It also shows a lack of gratitude towards being offered the position—which could lead them into taking a pass.
In other words, don’t say something like, “Are you paying me or how are we doing this???”
Be aware of your tone, and how it comes across.
Wait for “Do You Have Questions for Us?”
There’s always a portion of the interview where the hiring person asks the interviewee if they have any questions. This is the perfect time to ask if the internship is paid.
You ask things like:
- How long is the internship?
- What are some tips to stand out, if I get the position?
- And…is this a paid role?
NOTE: If you don’t get a chance to ask during or after your interview, reach out via email. Be sure to include how much you are looking forward to working with them! Also mention how grateful you are for being considered for the position—and of course, politely inquire about how payment will be handled.
4 Potential Questions to Ask About Pay
One: The Direct Question About Pay
“Hi, I noticed that this internship requires a lot of work and time. Is there any financial compensation for it or is the experience enough to get by on its own merits? Thank you very much!”
This question is good because it’s straightforward. You also want to thank them for their time, and be appreciative of the opportunity in front of you.
Two: The Non-direct Question About Pay (Before You Apply)
“I am hoping to gain clarification about the internship at your company. Is there any financial compensation involved? Thank you!”
This question isn’t invasive, and allows you to ask before you apply. This shows how much you value the internship itself, and that you’re willing to go through all of the trouble before applying—just to make sure it’s worth your time.
Three: The Non-direct Question About Pay (After You Apply)
“What may I hope to gain from this internship with your company?”
This is a great way to get them talking about how the role will help you, your career, and the company. While they’re at it, there’s a good chance they’ll give you a how and why about payment that’s not just “experience.”
Four: Ask Other (Current and Former) Interns
Get on LinkedIn, and find those who are currently, or have previously, interned under the company.
Reach out to them via direct message, and ask how they’ve benefited from their internship with this particular employer.
Also, inquire about how payment was handled (if it’s available). This also shows how much you value your time and effort—and how dedicated you are to getting a job done.
Bonus: The Direct Non-direct Question About Pay (After You’re Hired)
“I really appreciate your offering me the internship position! I’m excited to work with you. What can I do to make sure I’m doing a good job? Is there anything you would like to see from me over the course of my internship?”
This question is perfect for how hard it can be to make yourself heard at work. By letting your boss answer this, they might give you some insight about how well they think your performing.
Asking this breaks the ice and opens up the opportunity to ask about compensation.
Don’t Want to Ask? Here are a Few Tips
Do Research Before Applying
You probably have a few different internships on your list, so open up their website and search whether or not they pay their interns.
If you find out that they do, it’s a great way to see how the company rewards hard work and how much value they place on helping young talent get ahead in their career!
Include Pay In Your Cover Letter or Resume
Ok, this one is a bit bold. Including requested salary on your cover letter is a way to stand out and get them thinking about how you’re a serious candidate looking for the right opportunity.
Example: Requested Salary of $1200 per month (This isn’t asking if it’s paid, but showing you’re requesting salary)
Key things to remember:
- Don’t Ask About Pay (in the CV/Resume)
- Mention You Are Willing To Work For Free (for the right opportunity)
- Ensure you have education or experience for the role(s) you’re applying to get
NOTE: This might be your best option if it’s not something they mention on their website or during an interview.
Just Don’t Ask
Don’t misunderstand. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask whether an internship is paid or not. That said, if you’re too uncomfortable to do so, it’s also okay to skip the question altogether.
Just know that you’re not exactly leaving money on the table if there is no financial compensation.