The Truth About Paying for Internships

The Web site Gawker released an article last week “Do Not Pay for Any Internships (Especially Not in DC)” that revealed an unusual reality: some people are actually paying for internships. Not only are they paying for them, they are also paying exorbitant amounts. Sometimes the companies that host these programs call the fee an “enrollment fee” and students are paying upwards of $3,000 per summer to do so.

A similar New York Times article states the same thing is happening and that many students are paying for prestigious internships they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to get without connections.

Warning Signs About Your Internship

1. The company you will be working for asks to take a payment or an “enrollment” or “deposit” fee from your first paycheck, before you even arrive for the internship

“If you haven’t met an employer personally, but he/she insists of having funds or paychecks direct-deposited, this could be a way to get a hold of your bank account information,” InternAlert.com says.

 2. You’re applying for an internship where the company is listed as “Anonymous”

If the job listing says Anonymous company, there’s a good chance it is not what you think it is.  InternAlert.com says unprofessional job listings are a primary tip-off to let you know the ad may not be as great as it seems. “Watch out for strange sentences with a lot of exclamation points, misspellings and grammatical mistakes in the internship listings. Some scammers can sometimes become confused and post a job with a title that doesn’t match the description,” the Web site says.

3. Using someone else besides the connections you have made at school or your university’s career department to find an internship

If you choose to use a placement service to make your search easier, be wary about the fees that may be involved. You can do your own internship searching at many bigger sites, such as Indeed, and find the results you were looking for, without handing over your paycheck to a service.  

In the end, there are many internships out there you don’t have to pay for. These will still make excellent resume and experience builders. You might land an unpaid internship, but that’s certainly much better than having to pay the company. Overall, be cautious about the intern programs you are looking at; unfortunately, not all are as reputable as the owners would like you believe.

By Kelly McLendon. Kelly is studying Environmental Policy and Journalism. She can be reached at mclendon.kelly@gmail.com.

One thought on “The Truth About Paying for Internships

  1. This is a really informative post, I had no idea there could be so many nefarious activities surrounding an internship. I am in the process of looking for an internship and your first two points never even crossed my mind. It’s hard enough trying to find an internship without people trying to scam innocent job hunters. I am going to make sure an internship is legitimate before I invest time in applying for it.

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