Should you pay your interns? Should you look for paid internship?

Let’s make some assumptions at the beginning — we aren’t discussing any particular job market, as these tend to differ a bit depending on the country. I myself, because I’m living in Poland will have a bit different experience when looking for internship or trying to hire interns than somebody doing the same on the US or India job market for example.

Let me make a statement — all internships should be payed PERIOD

I’ll explain in the few key points below why I think so:

  1. People have different circumstances, not everybody has parents / family that can provide for them during the internship — and they usually work better when they don’t need to care too much how they will pay for their lunch next day or if they can make till the end of the month without needing to cut on groceries, medication etc. you get the idea right?
  2. Essential part of internship is to learn — but often times employers forget that this learning should also include a bit about how working really feels like I mean to be paid for exchanging the time and effort for the monetary “equivalent”.
  3. You are showing respect to these people, to their time and their effort. Remember this — money can be made, exchanged, returned… time is non renewable resource — they are paying you their time to teach them.
  4. You should have general idea what you expect for the intern to do — if you don’t see the value in paying them maybe the job they will do is really worthless — then don’t take interns, it’s just a waste of everybody's time.
  5. Think of providing internship like it’s a very early employer branding. These people will go out in the world later on and if you leave a good impression they will be your ambassadors. Also it might happen that when the internship ends and you cannot offer them anything permanent they will start working for somebody else, but will try to get back at some point, because of how you treated them during the internship — congratulation you might have just earned a very loyal, good employee that you would not get otherwise.
  6. Remember first impressions can last a lifetime so why not try to make it a positive one.
  7. In some areas of IT good, experienced employees are a scarcity and they tend to cost mountains of “gold”. Sometimes it can make sense to look for somebody willing to learn it from scratch. Paid internship might be a viable option to do this properly and then considering an offer to keep intern at the company as junior developer. Who nows maybe you can find a hidden gem that way, that would not be discovered otherwise.

How not to write your internship offer / what not to expect for intern to have in their skillset.

And a word for those looking for internship to spot and stay back from offers like these.

During research for this article I went trough some of the internship offers on several portals like etc.

There are hundreds of internships offers there that want to exploit the interns without really giving back , they are basically a job offers without any compensation because if you take a look at the requirements, they are not for na intern— let me give you and example, first from these hundreds:

Only passionate people should apply for below responsibilities:

- Assist the backend team by owning a part of the existing roadmap
- Craft clean, manageable code and maintain proper documentation
- Create, test and deploy the applications on production servers
- Continuously discover, evaluate, and implement new technologies and frameworks to maximize development efficiency

Required Experience:

- Must have experience in PHP
- Experience with writing REST APIs and microservices architecture
- Good understanding of Databases like SQL
- Should have understanding about GIT
- You care about scale, quality, structured readable code (preferably in MVC patterns), cross-platform and cross-browser issues, and module reusability, even before approaching the problem.
- You have a knack for experimenting and trying out the latest technologies
- Desire to learn and grow as a software engineer

This is basically a job posting for junior developer — a least they haven’t stated that experience in PHP and SQL needs to be like 1 year ;)

If you know how to write REST APIs with PHP while implementing microservices architecture with data stored in relational database you’re at least a junior developer.

So how to write that internship offer properly — let’s say for the sake of simplicity we are looking for exact same skillset person than in that quoted ad above.

First of all start with some basic requirements like:


  • Basic understanding of PHP. SQL, GIT
  • Willingness to learn during working hours, openness to critique and feedback culture (there will be code reviews, but we review your code not your ego)

Nice to have:

  • Some experience / understanding (even theoretical) of microservices architecture, API design, MVC (and/or other software design patterns)
  • Possibility to spend some time outside of working hours on self study (we don’t require this — but we think this would be the most beneficial for you)
  • Experience with open source, maybe you had a chance to contribute to some projects?

And you should probably also state upfront working hours and the fact that this is a paid internship ;)

I hope you found my ramblings at least somewhat useful. In any case I would be thankful for you leaving any kind of feedback in the comments, constructive critique is always welcomed.

Got more than 16+ years of experience in software development.

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