Compensation & Guidelines for Unpaid Internships

Paid verses Unpaid

Internship Compensation

student lounging on campus

Internships: Paid and Unpaid

Compensation for time spent in an internship depends upon the employer and the project. Many government and non-profit organizations offer unpaid internships, while most for-profit internships are paid, although there are exceptions.

Typical wages for undergraduates range from minimum wage to $17 per hour and are usually determined base upon academic year (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior). Engineering and computer science intern compensation range of pay is slightly higher and averages $17-$23per hour.  See below for more details:

  • Undergraduate range: minimum wage to $17/hour, with the exception of computer science and engineering positions which average $18-23/hour.
  • Bachelor's Degree average: $17/hour
  • Master's Degree average: $23/hour 
  • Unpaid internships with for-profits must meet Department of Labor criteria.

Unpaid internships with for-profit companies are subject to the U.S. Department of Labor's guidelines in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and are meant emphasize the necessary ethical and educational aspects of an internship to the employer, and to distinguish an intern from an employee.

In addition to observing state and federal mandated labor practices, PSU Career Services uses the following guidelines to ensure that unpaid internships with for-profit employers are meaningful, educational opportunities for students. These guidelines are derived from the National Association of Colleges & Employers criteria for unpaid internships as well as the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries standards for unpaid training.

Guidelines for Unpaid Internships with For-Profit Employers:

  • The internship is highly educational, supervised and mentored and benefits the intern
  • Learning objectives are established at the start of the internship and are revisited regularly to ensure consistency.
  • The unpaid Intern does not displace a paid employee
  • The employer derives no immediate financial advantage from the intern
  • No more than approximately 30% of the intern's time should be spent on clerical or repetitive tasks
  • The internship is a substantial learning experience, such that a faculty member would approve the internship as worthy of earned academic credit if desired by the student
  • Unpaid internships with for-profit employers are limited to approximately one academic term or ~ 10 weeks

For information on Internship Program Best Practices for Employers, click here.