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Hiring Unpaid Interns & Volunteers

On occasion, individuals who are not employees may donate their time and services to Northwestern University. Schools and units must conduct a careful review to determine if the intern or volunteer arrangement meets the criteria to qualify as unpaid.

To determine if a proposed unpaid internship or volunteer arrangement is within the guidelines established by the Department of Labor, please familiarize yourself with the Intern and Volunteer Criteria. These are the legal guidelines that define the instances in which an individual may "intern" or "volunteer" at Northwestern, rather than being considered an "employee."

Please note that Postdoctoral Fellows cannot be employed as interns or volunteers. Northwestern has a separate policy and process for the employment of Postdoctoral Fellows.

Background checks

Once you have determined that the arrangement does meet the criteria to be an unpaid internship or volunteer assignment, a background check will be required. To request a background check please complete the online Background Check Request Form. The individual may not start in the department until the background check has been successfully completed. Minors and Northwestern Students are generally not required to complete a background check.

 Required forms

Work with the Intern or Volunteer to complete the following required forms. The department is responsible for filing these forms along with emergency contact information for the Intern or Volunteer within the department.

  1. Volunteer and Visitors Lab Use Agreement Form
  2. DCFS Mandatory Reporter Form
  3. Unpaid Intern and Volunteer Acknowledgement Form

Tools and resources

Intake Form: The Unpaid Intern and Volunteer Intake Form is available for you to use as part of your internal review/approval process. This form may serve as a guide to help gather information needed to determine if the unpaid internship or volunteer arrangement should be approved.

Research Interns/Volunteers: If the individual will have access to research subjects or their health information, you are responsible for obtaining additional approval of the arrangement from the IRB Office.

Visa Considerations: If the intern/volunteer is on a visa, you are responsible for obtaining additional approval of the arrangement from the International Office.

Wildcard: If your Intern or Volunteer requires a Wildcard, visit the Get a Wildcard page and follow the instructions for Part-time/temporary employees.

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions or contact Human Resources if you have questions about unpaid Interns and volunteers.