Volunteer & Unpaid Internships/Co-ops

IMPORTANT: The MAJORITY of internships are PAID. 

Conduct a good search and you will find them.

There is a difference between volunteering and engaging in an unpaid internship.

Volunteering refers to donating time with an organization whose primary purpose is charitable or humanitarian in nature (aka, non-profit), without remuneration or any other type of compensation. 

Unpaid internships do not usually qualify as “volunteer” work. Internships, both paid and unpaid, are primarily offered by the private sector and related to the intern’s major field of study. The U.S. Department of Labor has guidelines for those seeking an unpaid internship.

  1. The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee—and vice versa.
  2. The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions.
  3. The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit.
  4. The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.
  5. The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning.
  6. The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.
  7. The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.

https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm

Not all internships advertised by employers are legit.  Some that look promising are really just part-time jobs available to anyone. Possibly mundane busywork, not helping you develop your skills that matter.

Some tips for spotting "less than positive" internships:

  • The employer doesn’t inquire about your qualifications, experience, background, or interests to determine if you fit the position.
  • They promise quick money and lots of it. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
  • The employer doesn’t ask you to complete a job application before making you an offer.
  • It’s a small organization you can’t find easily online.
  • Their email address is not "company affiliated", they use yahoo.com, gmail,com, etc., the types of emails anyone can get instantly. These are not legitimate.
  • The employer advertises on flyers all over campus.
  • It’s a sales-related job and the pay is based on commission.
  • The offices are in a questionable location, such as a warehouse area or a person’s home.
  • Your instincts indicate something is not right, trust them.
  • You get vague answers to your questions about the work you’d be doing.