Why offer an unpaid internship?

Labor market, industry standards and employers’ budget constraints may drive the offering of unpaid Internships.

What is an unpaid internship?  

An unpaid internship is a fixed, short-term (at least 5 weeks and 80 hours in a given semester) work experience in a professional setting that does not provide monetary compensation.  

Benefits to the Employer

  • The student and faculty network employers gain through the relationship can provide a consistent talent pipeline and support faculty collaboration efforts.
  • Employers gain access to new and innovative talent, mentoring UNC Charlotte students and engaging students in project-based work.

How to comply with unpaid internship standards

Employers providing unpaid Internships may advertise those opportunities on Hire-A-Niner. However, the posting must clearly state that the internship is unpaid prior to the position being approved and available to students. Although the Career Center staff will review and approve each posting, it is an employers’ responsibility to ensure that the unpaid position meets the criteria for acceptable unpaid internships, as established by the US Department of Labor in FSLA Fact Sheet #71.

We encourage students considering unpaid internships to participate in Academic Internships for Credit. Through the program, faculty can help students assess the position to be sure that it will provide transferable skills and knowledge and adhere to labor standards.

Program Requirements

The University Career Center, through its Hire-A-Niner recruiting system, serves as a “clearinghouse” for collecting and distributing postings of all experiential learning opportunities (internships, cooperative education, internships for academic credit) for UNC Charlotte in order to provide a fair and equitable way for all students to access opportunities.


The Employer Relations Team will review internship descriptions for the following criteria:

  • The experience must be an extension of the classroom: a learning experience that applies knowledge and consists of substantive responsibilities that a regular employee would not routinely perform.
  • The skills or knowledge learned must be transferrable to other employment settings.
  • The experience has a defined beginning and end and a job description with desired qualifications.
  • There are clearly defined learning objectives /goals related to the professional goals of the student's academic course of study.
  • There is supervision by a professional with expertise, educational, and/or professional background in the field.
  • There is routine feedback by the experienced supervisor.
  • There are resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals.   

Additional Guidelines for Unpaid Internships

Employers providing unpaid internships may advertise on Hire-A-Niner; however, the position description must adhere to U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division standards for Internship Programs under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The UCC requires an internship to be a minimum of 80 hours/5 weeks in length in a semester for consideration. UNC Charlotte students can work up to 40 hours per week in the summers and 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters.