How To Negotiate Your Internship Salary

Heather R. HuhmanCandidate Advice

Image Credit: Job Applicant image from Bigstock.

Image Credit: Job Applicant image from Bigstock.

This year, only 48.3 percent of internships were paid, according to the InternMatch 2014 Intern Report.

The survey also revealed college students who complete paid internships are three times more likely to land a job than those who completed an unpaid internship. This is why it’s important for more college students to get what they want out of internships by negotiating their salaries.

When it comes to salary negotiation, many college students aren’t familiar with the process. Salary negotiation gives you the opportunity to provide your employer with a counteroffer to their job offer. Within your offer, you explain why you deserve more compensation and provide evidence to back up your proposal.

Salary negotiation sounds scary for college students, especially when it has to do with compensation for your internship. Since most employers still don’t pay their interns (or pay them enough), it can be intimidating to bring up this question. Although you might be intimidated to think about salary negotiating, realize that you aren’t alone with this fear because nearly half of all job seekers fear salary negotiation, too.

If you can overcome the fear of salary negotiation, you’re going to get more out of your internship. Especially if you’ve been worried about how you’ll support yourself during your unpaid (or underpaid) internship, salary negotiation can help you increase your chances of receiving the income you need.

If you’re hoping to receive more compensation from your internship, here are some tips to help you get what you want:

1. Do your homework.

To prepare for the negotiation of your wages as an intern, research is going to be your best friend. One of the most important factors of getting what you want out of your internship is knowing you’re worth. Your worth can be determined by researching what other employers are paying interns in a similar position as you.

To pinpoint your value, use websites such as to find out what employers pay their interns. InternMatch also revealed that students believe the fair wage for internships is $12.45/hour.

You can also talk to your campus career counselor and professionals in your field to find out what interns with your level experience are being paid. Once you gather this information, you’ll use it to validate your negotiation when you speak with the employer.

2. Prepare a budget for your internship. 

Everyone knows the biggest challenge college students face when accepting an internship is whether or not they’ll be able to support themselves when they take time off from work.

According to the InternMatch study, 72.6 percent of college students hold a side paid job while attending school. However, students doing internships and holding side jobs is inversely related. This can be due to the fact most internships require college students to work at least full-time, if not overtime. This causes college students to have little or no free time to pursue a part-time job in addition to their internship.

If you’re getting ready to accept an unpaid, full-time internship, you should definitely present the employer with a budget that includes your income and expenses. In these types of situations, your employer should at least provide you with a stipend for travel and housing expenses. When you create a budget, you’ll be able to provide evidence as to why you need to be paid during your internship.

3. Know how to sell your skills and experience.

Employers almost never turn down talent. If the employer sees the value in your current skills and prior experience, they’ll work with you to make sure you can work for them.

Sell your experience to employers by creating a portfolio of your very best work. Your portfolio should contain examples that illustrate a variety of your skills and achievements. You can back up your experience by having confidence in your skills, too. The combination of your experience and confidence will convince employers you’re worthy of a well-paid internship.

4. Stick to your guns. 

During the negotiation process, you must be honest with yourself as well as the employer. If you truly believe you are worth more than what the employer is offering, and you have the evidence to back it up, then you should definitely go into the negotiation with full force.

The odds of the employer rejecting your negotiation altogether can be slim. Sometimes, employers don’t think about costs such as travel or housing for their interns.

One case in which your negotiation would be rejected is if you’ve applied for an internship program that’s highly respected and has had the same compensation for their interns since the beginning of their internship program. For example, if you applied for an internship with the federal government or a very small nonprofit with no funding, chances are you won’t be able to receive much additional help from the employer.

Keep in mind that these types of scenarios are not the majority when it comes to internships. Most employers are open to negotiations and even view negotiation as a strength.

As an intern, you have the power to get what you want out of your internship. All you have to do is know what you want, have the evidence to support your request, and remain confident during the negotiation process. Remember, you deserve to have a great internship experience! Good luck with your salary negotiations!

What tips do you have for interns trying to negotiate their compensation? 

Heather R. Huhman

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.