Paid or unpaid internship in the United States
What’s best for you?
Of course, each student would choose the paid internship for two identical or similar internship offers. This is not a question. But that’s where the dilemma starts. If everyone prefers the paid internship, it will be difficult for you to get the job. The greater the competition, the greater the selection of applicants for the company. This means that the company can set stricter criteria in terms of qualifications and experience for the internship applicant. If a company is already offering an internship salary, the company would also like to benefit from the intern.
In the case of international interns, with exception of a few global multinationals, the focus is not on the pre-selection of future junior employees. From the company’s point of view, so to speak, test an intern to see whether he or she will later be considered for a permanent position. This is very unlikely, especially for US companies, because there are many visa hurdles in the way of hiring a foreigner and the intern must be willing to start his professional career in the USA.
But even as a «one-time» intern, a foreign applicant means more bureaucratic work than a local student. Together with a US Visa sponsor, a detailed training plan, the so-called DS-7002, has to be developed and the foreign intern can only start his internship in the USA if he has effectively received his J1 visa. The company is also often asked to help find accommodation.
The increased effort for the company to hire an international intern means that most companies only take on this if the intern stays in the United States for a longer period. Many American college students only do shorter internships during the summer holidays, while the company can employ an international intern for up to 12 months and a trainee for up to 18 months. This again makes hiring a foreign intern interesting for the company.
Duration of the internship is decisive for a paid internship
If you only have a shorter period of 3-6 months available for the internship, then the decision is rather not up to you whether paid or unpaid. You will have no other option due to the lack of short and paid internships in the USA to accept an unpaid internship.
The more flexible and qualified you are, the higher the probability of a well-paid internship
We often hear from applicants the unconditional request of a specific internship location, whether city or state. If there is also the fact that it must be a paid internship, it becomes difficult to find a placement and you should consider whether the location or the payment is more important for you.
In contrast, the mostly specific requirements regarding the internship content in the study regulations limit the selection of suitable positions in technical internship fields. Here you can be happy to get an internship in the USA that meets all of these study guidelines. Fortunately, technical internship positions are often well paid. In contrast, technical degree programs often have tighter study plans without much leeway and require mandatory internships of only 4 months.
It is best to think over a cup of coffee and write down the importance of the study-related and personal requirements for the internship in the USA on a piece of paper. E.g.
- Content and time requirements given by your study regulations
- Your personal content and time preferences
- Requests regarding the internship location
- Necessity of payment to finance your stay in the US
- Other requirements
Something should come out for everybody, e.g. «It must be a paid internship of 6-12 months in the field of …., but only in the US states of ….”
Another example: “it can be an internship somewhere in the USA, but it has to go at least 16 weeks and must be in the field of ….., payment is not absolutely necessary.”
Then you just have to look for an internship which covers all those requests or you pass these requirements to you placement provider to arrange something suitable for you.