pr writing, publications

Should You Negotiate Your Internship Salary?

This blog was written as part of my internship at Indiana INTERNnet. It was originally published here.

Receiving an offer for an internship can be exciting, but what happens if you’re not sure you can afford to accept it? As was discussed in a previous blog post about how to choose between multiple internship offers, you shouldn’t accept a position that doesn’t fit you financially. However, you may be able to negotiate with a potential employer so that the internship opportunity works with your budget.

Although unpaid internships are becoming less common, plenty of these programs still exist. It’s important to note that if a company posted the internship as unpaid, you will likely not be able to convince them to change their minds. If you know that an unpaid position won’t work for you, you should be transparent with them – just don’t expect the company to comply. You may need to accept that it’s not a good fit.

Negotiating for a higher internship salary can be uncomfortable for three main reasons:

  1. A lot of us need an internship to graduate, so we don’t want to say or do anything to risk our chance of getting one.
  2. It seems taboo to ask for more money when a lot of internships don’t pay at all.
  3. It’s our first time ‘negotiating’ any type of benefits and we’re not confident about trying it.

So, should you negotiate your internship salary? Surprise! It depends. Different companies have different expectations of what is and is not appropriate for potential interns. Company budgets also vary greatly, and sometimes the employer cannot afford to pay you any more than their initial offer.

The best way to determine whether or not you should ask about the pay is to do your research. Websites such as can help you determine how much other interns or entry-level employees at the company make, which can help you decide whether their offer is fair. Additionally, PayScale can help you determine what the average salary of someone with your title (for example: an ‘architectural intern’) is in your geographic area. If you believe that the company offered you a lower amount than is fair or your budget could do with an extra dollar or two per hour, you should consider sending them a counteroffer using the tips below:

Have Confidence

Professional protocol says that you should wait until the company has offered you a position before you ask about what the position pays or if they’d be willing to increase it. Not only is this considered polite, it will also help you gain some confidence. Once you have their offer in hand, you know that they want to hire you. Use this knowledge to boost your confidence as you approach them with your counteroffer.

Know Your Number

If you want the company to pay you more, be specific about an amount that would work for you. If you are vague in your response to their offer, you might come across as ignorant on the subject. Failing to give them a number, or range of numbers, could also keep you from getting the raise you hoped for. For example, if the position was offered at $10.00 per hour but you are seeking $12.00, the company might offer you $11.00 if you don’t tell them your ideal amount. Also understand that large jumps, such as asking for $15.00 when they offered $10.00 may not be appropriate.

Utilize Leverage

When negotiating, it’s important that you make it clear why you’re a good investment for the company. To do this, you could emphasize the reasons why you will excel in your position. If you’re fortunate enough to have multiple internship offers available, you could utilize the offers as leverage, too. If two companies agreed to pay you a certain amount but the third fell short, let that company know that you’re evaluating two other offers that pay more. This showcases both your personal confidence and also the fact that you are such a great candidate that multiple places want to hire you.

Negotiating for a higher internship salary may not be something you feel comfortable doing but if you think the company offered you less than what they can afford to pay you it might be worth considering. For ideas on how to word your counteroffer, check out these email templates from iHire.

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