I am studying in an engineering co-op program where employers and students are matched after one interview, in a process set up by my university. This is outside of the United States, and unpaid internships are not common. I have completed a technical degree related to my field, as have most students in my institution, so there is a certain expectation in terms of remuneration.

I feel uneasy bringing up remuneration in a first interview with a business when the interviewer(s) do(es) not to it themselves, so my previous mentality has been to keep my head low and take opportunities that interest me.

However, I have had a negative experience with being significantly underpaid (according to public mean intern salary data provided by my university, and considering indirect remuneration and additional costs for me) in an internship that did not turn out as interesting as I expected. I don't think I would have accepted the match if I had known about the salary beforehand. Although I appreciate the learning opportunity, I feel disadvantaged when having to make a choice between multiple offers, and "at the mercy" of employers looking for "cheap labor", or who simply do not know the value of an intern in my position.

In the future, I am thinking of asking about what the business would offer in terms of remuneration, or bringing up the university's mean internship salary if I am asked my expectations, if I feel that the interview has gone well, but that this information could influence my decision. This would help me make my decision when faced with multiple matches, and I am not considering negotiating directly.

Would this be appropriate, and if so, how should it be framed in order to avoid making a poor impression?

  • 1
    Very dependent on culture. In the eastern cultures, a 'lowly' intern bringing up the money subject might be considered as insult. After all, you are doing internship to learn the real life business, outside academia. And whatever they are paying you is what you are expected to be happy with. In more westernized cultures, it is totally normal to ask what they are thinking about paying you during your internship. But in my opinion, companies have set budgets for interns and what you demand may not determine what you get. You will just know what you are getting beforehand
    – MelBurslan
    Apr 4, 2016 at 22:19
  • Good points; I live in the West. My main concern or goal is to stay away from positions that are not very interesting to me, and that offer poor compensation compared to what is expected from my situation. I do not necessarily want to negotiate, but rather to bring up the question so that I can know what the company is offering (because they do not always say), and if not, at least to make them aware of the information that is available, to avoid being significantly lowballed and kept in the dark until I have committed to an internship, especially when I have multiple matches to choose from.
    – Demat
    Apr 4, 2016 at 22:34

2 Answers 2


Try to research what you can expect in your field, location and station in your career beforehand. Ask others about heir internships etc.

Bring it up! I would straight up ask near the end of the interview. I assume that most companies have fixed rates for interns anyway. So there's not much room for negotiating and so not much to do wrong: "What payment can I expect when I intern here?"

This is also a good time to ask other questions about working conditions you might have. Asking questions in an interview is good. Internships are about practicing all that grown-up, awkward professional stuff you need in any workplace. Asking directly about money feels awkward to you? Practice!

  • "I assume that most companies have fixed rates for interns anyway." - this is true in the companies I've worked for, and I expect it's probably true in any company that regularly hires interns.
    – mhwombat
    Apr 5, 2016 at 14:00

I would not bring it up during the "core" of the interview. However, if the interview went well and they get to the "so do you have any questions about the role?" part, it might be appropriate to bring it up, particularly if it's unclear if there is any remuneration.

That said, especially in larger companies the person interviewing you well may have no idea about the compensation. All things being equal, I would advise that you wait until you have a solid offer on the table, and that if possible, you get offers from several companies so that you have a stronger negotiating position.

Also remember that the primary value of an internship is not the money paid out during those few months, but the experience earned and the doors it opens to a well-paid future job.

  • This seems like a good general guideline. Your last line is definitely one to keep in mind. In my situation, though, there is no possibility of negotiating after receiving an "offer". Interviewers and interviewees are matched through an online system, so the first interview is the only chance to evaluate a position. As a result, it can be difficult to make a decision when there are multiple options. And given the choice between two equally interesting positions, I think anyone would prioritize the one with better work environment and compensation, even if it's a touchy subject for internships.
    – Demat
    Apr 5, 2016 at 12:51

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