Some people feel very strongly that internships are unfair simply because everyone should be paid for their work. However, internships create opportunities for you to gain work experience and exposure to industry leaders, add to your resume, and get new professional references. Some believe that these and other benefits of unpaid internships greatly outweigh the disadvantages.

5 Benefits of Unpaid Internships That Make Them Worth It

An internship can open up a world of opportunities for you within your industry’s job market. Some interns have reported being able to work at small businesses that wouldn’t be able to afford their services otherwise, but even an unpaid intern is entitled to some type of compensation for hard work and dedication. Here are five forms of compensation that can be considered benefits of unpaid internships after graduation:

1. College Credits – Some graduates have plans to take their higher learning education even further. If you plan to stay in school to earn your Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree, your internship credits can count towards work experience and credits towards your degree. Have a talk with the employer to be sure the company offers college credits. Then check with your school to ensure the employer meets internship requirements.

2. Networking – Who you know in any industry can be even more important than what you know in certain circumstances. When completing an internship, the people you work with and the people you work under all become parts of your professional network. Connecting with the right people can lead to graduate school, professional references, scholarships, more internships, and lucrative job offers. Plus, the more industry experts you network with, the more you’ll learn on the job.

3. Perks & Incentives – These are two more benefits of unpaid internships. Although you won’t receive monetary compensation for your hard work, you may get other types of compensation that makes it worth your while. Free bus passes, transportation expense reimbursements, use of company facilities and/or equipment, free coffee and/or lunch, and tickets to events are some popular intern perks. You may even be able to get others to help you with homework, papers, and projects.

4. Job Experience – This is one of the most common benefits of unpaid internships. If your internship doesn’t promise to help you learn new skills and gain hands-on, on-the-job experience, then it defeats its own purpose. As an intern, you should also be learning tips and tricks and gaining knowledge from current employees and management, as well as all about the industry as a whole. Diversify your skills by volunteering to take on new tasks or help others perform tasks you haven’t been exposed to yet. All of these skills can be added to your professional resume.

5. Job Prospects – Any internship, paid or unpaid, can help you land a job within the industry. Internships expose you to various job opportunities. This exposure extends past the company where you do your interning. You may stumble upon job prospects who are customers, vendors, even competitors of the company. Connecting with job prospects is one of the most popular benefits of unpaid internships. According to a Brigham Young University report, 30% of graduates are offered jobs before graduation, on average. However, when students complete internships, that number increased to 58%.

Internships help your personal growth while helping you gain exposure to various job opportunities. This helps to increase your marketability among potential employers, making you an asset to the industry. Check out the F.I.R.S.T. Institute Graduate Spotlights to discover how others are succeeding after graduation.