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Paid or unpaid?

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The questions surrounding paid or unpaid internships and placements have been around a long time and are unlikely to disappear in the near future. 

This page gives you some insight into the current discussions, issues and guidance on internship salaries. We have also included information on the current legislation so you can come to a decision that’s right for your situation.

Paid internships and placements

Most hosts pay, on average, a salary of between £13,000 to £23,000 dependent on the sector and skills of the intern. However if the internship or placement is part of your course, salaries are not compulsory. 

If you are classed as a 'worker' while on placement, you should be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW) which for those aged 18 to 20 years would equate to £10,358 per annum based on a 40-hour week.  

For more information about work experience and the NMW, visit the Gov.uk website.    

 

Unpaid internships and placements

In certain sectors such as advertising and the creative industries there has been a tradition of internships being offered on an unpaid basis. For many students and graduates this can be the only way to get experience of working in their chosen career.

Some see this as discriminatory for those who do not have access to the resources to support themselves during an internship period.

Your employments rights and eligibility to receive the National Minimum Wage are determined by your employment status as either a worker, volunteer or employee. The Government provides some useful advice about your rights as an intern in this article.

 

Questions to consider

Ultimately the decision is yours but you may want to consider the following questions before making your mind up.

  • How many weeks can you afford not to be paid? 
  • Do you have the status of a worker and are you entitled to payments of at least the National Minimum Wage? Is your host breaking the law? See below.
  • How will you cover the financial basics of accommodation, food, bills and local authority charges?
  • Could you take on a paid part-time job as well as an internship to help with your finances?
  • What will you miss out on if you don’t take up the opportunity and do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Planning your finances

Try to save money well in advance through part-time or summer work, as funding is hard to find. 

Research funding as soon as you start looking for work experience. Organisations have set dates for the submission of applications and the allocation of funding, and you cannot usually apply retrospectively. 

Use Turn2us for any other possible funding depending on your circumstances, location and requirements (eg. extracurricular activities, gap year, clothing and equipment to start work, travel).

 

 

Recent articles, reports and information

University of Nottingham policy statement
Covering paid and unpaid internships PDF file icon

Gov.uk
Employment rights and pay for interns

Gov.uk
National Minimum Wage: work experience and internships

Gov.uk
National Minimum Wage: Worker checklist PDF format

Gov.uk
What is the minimum wage?

TARGETjobs
Unpaid internships: are they worth it?

Associated of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS)
Internships policy statement PDF format

UK Arts Council
Internships in the arts PDF format

NB - Articles in this section may not necessarily represent the views of the University of Nottingham.  

Careers and Employability Service

The University of Nottingham
Portland Building, Level D
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3680
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 3679
email: careers-team@nottingham.ac.uk