Renewable Energy Internships: Unpaid Internships May Pay Off

Renewable Energy Internships: Unpaid Internships May Pay Off

renewable energy internships

Reasons to Consider Unpaid Internships.

Many students ignore summer unpaid internships. Let’s face it, you need the money, and it just seems wrong to work and not get paid, right?  However, the following reasons convince many students to accept unpaid internships (and many of them now work in renewables!):

  1. If this is your first internship, you have a lot to learn “beyond the classroom”. The company will be teaching you that and that’s costly (to them) and valuable (to you).
  2. If this is your first internship in renewables, it is huge. They’re hard to get, and it is the single most important thing you can do to get a job in RE upon graduation.
  3. Good unpaid internships will give you knowledge, skills and credentialing. You’re paying your school for this now! Getting it free beats that.
  4. If your alternative is not working this summer (or taking classes), an UI is a better option in most cases.
  5. No one says “paid” internship on a resume or LinkedIn. The optics of paid and unpaid internships are the same; they open future doors.

Important Questions to Ask.

Now, not all unpaid internships are worth it. In fact, some should be avoided, especially if you have a decent plan B.  Accordingly, here are some questions you need to ask:

  1. Have previous students worked in the posted position? If so, can you talk to them to hear their opinion of the role?
  2. Is the unpaid internship just a glorified sales “cold calling” role? Your development here will be narrow – largely limited to toughening you up.
  3. Who will be your supervisor, how much time will they spend with you – doing what? Will he/she serve as a future reference?
  4. Is there a training program? How does it work?
  5. What skills, knowledge and experience will you have gained at the end of the internship?

Morality, Equity & Practicality.

There are many critics of unpaid internships.  Moreover, these critics cite compelling (in our opinion) moral and socioeconomic reasons why unpaid internships should be prohibited, not the least of which is that unpaid internships tend to go to wealthier students who can work without getting paid and that unpaid internships magnify the growing wealth divide.  We agree with these criticisms.  However, for now, we are where we are.  Unpaid internships are an option for you, especially if you are able to make an investment.  Therefore, you may want to look upon unpaid internships more like taking a class than working in a job. If it improves you professionally, it’s worth it whether or not it improves you financially.

The is the one of four articles on on getting an internship in renewable energy:  Landing that Perfect Summer Internship in Renewable Energy:  Tips & Tricks  |  Renewable Energy Internships:  Unpaid may Pay Off  | Far Away from Home?  Be Open to a Road-trip Renewable Energy Internship  |  Should You Take an Internship in Renewable Energy After Graduation?