I am currently a major in computers and information technology with a concentration in web development. I have the education but I don't have much work experience. Right now the only web development internship I can find is an unpaid one. I am aware that unpaid internships are not considered legitimate work experience for jobs but will it help me get a paid internship in the future? Or is just a waste of time?

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    The value of internship isn't counted in how much money you get but in how much you learn. Unpaid internship in a good company would be worth much more than paid one in a crappy org. Commented Jul 20, 2012 at 21:16
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    @redelman431 - Who told you that an unpaid intership doesn't count as legitimate work experience? If you go into a place of business ( even your own home office ) every single day and perform a job function then that is llegitimate work experience. Yes...an unpaid internship is a signed of experience, great way to get a mentor, that can help you navigate the field.
    – Donald
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 12:57
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    @PawelBrodzinski, A good company by definition woulnd't be offering unpaid internship. Can you imagine Google offering unpaid internship? It's detrimental to their "company status". They call it abusing internship kids.
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 8:58
  • What country are you in? In many countries unpaid internships are illegal unless there is a significant educational component (illegal for them, not for you). Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 19:43

6 Answers 6


Internships of any kind (paid or unpaid, full or part-time; even volunteer work) are absolutely considered legitimate work experience for jobs and for other internships. That's the whole point of the unpaid internship-- your compensation is in the form of work experience that you can use to give yourself a leg up when you apply for either jobs or paid internships.

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    I wouldn't be so sure. If I read that he was paid to do something, I know that someone deemed him worth to be paid to do a job. That's quite different from him volunteering doing it for free.
    – o0'.
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 17:40

An unpaid internship is by better than having done no work at all. At the very least, you will have references to vouch that you are a good employee.

The kind of work you do will determine whether future potential employers consider the internship "valid work experience." You'll want to be able to show them that the projects you worked on in the internship prepared you for the work you would do for them. If the internship consisted of coffee-fetching and typing, then it might be a waste of time you could be using to work on your portfolio.


See whoever told you that unpaid internships doesn't matter is completely mistaken. These days, many internships are unpaid but more than anything, it’s the experience that matters. Hiring Managers value a candidate having valuable experience. Yes, you should put your internship project work on your resume, as long as it’s relevant to the position in which you are applying. Here you need not to mention in your resume that these jobs were unpaid. So just include what you did and believe me nothing is mere waste.


I think an unpaid internship is a bad idea. If you can't find a paid internship in your country, maybe try abroad (if this is something that interests you)? I know in my home country the economy is failing, so people do get the sense that an unpaid internship with the potential for a job is better than nothing, but in the country I currently live in, nobody, and I mean, NOBODY, with a CS degree (or working towards it) would accept that and no self respecting company has the gall to offer it. The only way one would work for free is if they were doing their own startup as another poster pointed out.

Also, if you have the discipline, instead of working for free, you can use your time to contribute to open source or do personal projects or read programming books. Someone with a good github account or open source experience is a very attractive hire, if not in your home country, then where the action in CS is at.


Unpaid internships are a great way to show your work ethic to a company you actually want to work for and it's great for networking. You also get hands on experience, as an unpaid intern, few expect you to know everything about the technical aspects of a job. So, several people are willing to help you learn and establish your career. From my unpaid internship I wasn't looking for a paycheck, I was looking something that I could you to give me a step up in my career and what's in my bank account doesn't do that. It's the knowledge I learned from my internship, the connections I made with managers, who did help me get a well paying job and continue to invest in my success. For me that was more valuable than a paid internship.

  • This is kind of a rose-tinted way to look through things, imo. The people are not "willing to help you learn and establish your career" -- let's not forget they are getting free labour -- who's to say they are actually going to help you learn from their experience with tutorials, pair programming etc? Just because something is unpaid, doesn't make it more pure somehow. Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 8:38

This will not be a popular answer, but it may be one some personalities need to hear. It is rooted in hard truths and offers cold comforts.

I would never work for free in this industry and would never hire anyone that offers to. The liabilities are simply too great to ignore. From an employer's perspective, unpaid interns are risky because they offer very little in return for the access they gain to trade secrets, business strategies, strategic conversations, etc. Their mobility makes them a liability, as they are just as likely to accept an offer from hundreds, if not thousands, of other companies looking for talent as they are your own. Maybe even a competitor.

You're getting a degree in one of the hottest industries on the planet; you'd do well to start your own business and pick off low hanging fruit the larger companies ignore. Worst-case scenario, your business fails, and you'll have made the same amount as an unpaid intern but learned 100x as much. The experience will give you a HUGE edge over people competing for the same jobs. You just bring so much more to the table - scrappy ideas, network of go-getters, and maybe even customers. Plus, if you're working in an industry-specific field, you'll know the customer base MUCH more intimately than peers that spent their time interning. You'll find more hiring managers ultimately favor and want that real-world experience on their team, and you'll likely be poised for faster career growth as well.

  • But what if I get another internship that is paid after that? Commented Jul 22, 2012 at 21:48
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    @ajax81 - After his current internship. Your advice is pretty poor. Your suggestion is to start a company, and more then likely fail at doing so, since he has no experience in the field. He has not even finished school, how is an unpaid internship a waste of his time, if the only other thing he could be doing is working outside of his field? Lets remember this likely is a summer internship.
    – Donald
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 13:00
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    @ajax81 - I'm with Ramhound. He has no experience and can't get a paid job. No one is going to hire a company he starts up to do any work if he has no experience. The skills required to start a software development COMPANY are not the ones taught in courses on how to develop software. I found your answer unhelpful and rude. Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 15:06
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    @Ramhound: I disagree. What would he learn from a free internship that he wouldn't learn about by starting his own? There is inherently more value in a developer that has experienced first hand the business of developing software. Its not all about algorithms -- half of the job is managing deadlines, relationships, etc. Especially in this case, where he probably isn't going to learn about these things in school, or be put in a position during an internship where he actually has to deliver.
    – Dan
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 19:17
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    I had to up-vote this one. If nothing else, it's a different tactic on getting into the business. There'd be absolutely nothing wrong with taking some work from Craigslist or one of the "gig" boards. My first IT gig was a short one that I found in the classifieds. It paid little for an IT job but still more than my regular job. I learned stuff about the legal industry, about managing expectations, and had something to show for it. It gave me confidence in myself without the need for "the company" getting work for me. It's helped me to avoid being an "average frustrated employee."
    – Xavier J
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 16:22

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