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9 Tips for Getting a Paid Internship

by Grace Merritt

A summer internship is a great way to explore a career, network, and build a professional skill set – and getting a paid internship is even better.

The good news is that the number of paid internships is on the rise in many fields, and UConn’s Center for Career Development can help you find one.

Not only are paid internships becoming more commonplace, but paid interns are more likely to land a job and a higher starting salary than unpaid interns when they graduate. A recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that 66.4 percent of graduates who were paid interns received at least one job offer compared to just 43.7 percent of unpaid interns. And graduates with paid internship experience start out making $51,930 per year compared to $35,721 for those with unpaid internship experience.

So how do you find a paid internship? UConn’s Center for Career Development counselors have the following tips: 

UConn student Alex Hooper (left) and Sarah Bookbinder (right) completed internships this summer at Indeed in Stamford.

1. Network before you need it

Before you start your search, network with alumni in the field so you know what you’re walking into. You can find alums to talk to for free through the Husky Mentor Network on the Career Center’s website. Students can use the website to schedule a time to talk with someone and ask them about what to expect from an internship in their field. This is the perfect opportunity to find out whether internships in your chosen field are generally paid or unpaid.

2. Start looking now

The best time to line up internships is in the fall before the following summer because that’s when many industries start recruiting. “They recruit in the fall for the following summer, which always feels really early to students and parents. But if you miss that fall window, you miss a lot of the larger, more established opportunities,” said Ana Clara Blesso, associate director of career coaching and experiential learning. This is particularly true of larger organizations, such as Cigna, that have a more formalized intern program.

3. Where to look

Schedule an appointment at the UConn Career Center to meet with a career coach. They can help you pinpoint your field of interest, direct you to websites like Husky Career Link that list thousands of internships, and guide you through the application process.

4. Cast a wide net

Make connections with faculty who have worked in your field and with alums who are currently in the field you’d like to enter. Check with your academic department and work with your academic advisor to help find an internship. Parents should check their own networks as well. Do their colleagues or customers have internships? How about their neighbors or friends?

5. Go to the Internship Fair

Go to UConn’s Internship Fair held every February in the Student Union.

6. Don’t accept the first internship you’re offered

It’s easy to get excited and just accept the first internship offered to you, even if it’s unpaid. But it’s better to graciously ask the company for a day or two to consider the offer and then talk to a UConn career counsellor. The counsellors can assess the offer and possibly coach you to negotiate for a better deal—or steer you toward a comparable paid position elsewhere.

7. Even if you get an unpaid internship, you can still ask for compensation

Students usually don’t think of asking for compensation beyond an hourly wage. But you can ask—politely—about whether they can be reimbursed for small expenses, such as parking, transportation, or other job-related expenses.

8. Get some financial assistance

Apply to UConn’s new Opportunity Fund, which provides financial support for professional opportunities such as internships. The fund, which assisted 11 students this past summer, is designed for students who want to do an unpaid or minimally paid internship but simply can’t afford it.

9. Consider a co-op

If you want to go a step further than an internship, consider doing a co-op. A co-op is essentially taking a pause from academic work for a semester to work full time for the purpose of gaining real work experience. Co-ops are always paid experiences. Find more information about UConn’s Co-op Program here.

My company is looking for interns. How can I recruit UConn students?

Email the UConn Center for Career Development at career@uconn.edu and go to the employer page for information on UConn’s internship program. Or call Ashley Browning, assistant director of corporate partner relations, directly at the Career Center at 860-486-3013.

Support the career journey

Help continue career programs and resources like the Opportunity Fund at UConn with a gift to the Center for Career Development.

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