Internship vs. Volunteering: Legal Aspects

Diana Nădejde

9 minutes read

internship vs volunteering. difference between them.

In general, after graduation, the lives of young graduates enter a new phase, namely finding the right job. Since the job search process can sometimes be quite long, candidates discover many other opportunities, such as internships or volunteering, and often do not know what is best for their career.  

Because there are many preconceptions and opinions about each program, it is important to know the differences between internship and volunteering. Therefore, if you are not sure what option to choose, you will find below the main legal characteristics specific to internship/volunteering, so you can make the best decision.

What is the legal framework for volunteering? 

Starting 2014, the Romanian law governing volunteer activities considers that volunteering implies „any activity of public interest undertaken in areas such as art and culture, sports and recreation, education and research, employment protection, health, social work, religion, civic activism, human rights, humanitarian and/or philanthropic aid, community development and social development.”

The volunteer programs are usually conducted based on a volunteer agreement concluded between the volunteer and the host organization. Furthermore, it must be written and accompanied by a volunteer form and a volunteer protection document.

At the same time, the volunteer agreement must contain the following information:

  • identification data of both parties
  • a description of the activities to be performed by the volunteer;
  • the time and period in which the activities will take place;
  • what rights and obligations both parties have;
  • establishing the professional requirements, social skills, development interests, health issues;
  • the conditions for terminating the contract.

During the period of the volunteering activity, as well as at the end of it, the host organization, at the request of the volunteer, will issue a volunteering certificate to which an activity report is attached.

How can volunteering help you?

In addition to being part of humanitarian projects, discovering your passion or acquiring new knowledge, employers can give additional points to candidates who have volunteer activities in their resume, if two or more candidates who compete for a position get equal scores. 

Moreover, the law also establishes the fact that volunteer programs are considered professional experience, and NOT seniority in work, if they are related to your graduation degree.

As you probably already know, volunteering is not a paid job. In this case, if you are at the beginning of your career, you might be wondering: “why choose volunteer activities if there are other, even paid, programs that can help me gain experience?”.

Sure, the list of reasons is much longer, but keep in mind that, according to a study conducted by SEEK Australia, about 95% of employers consider volunteering to be worth as much as a full-time job in a candidate’s resume. 

What is the legal framework for an internship? 

Law no. 176/2018 allows those with an age of at least 16 years old (in some cases, 15 y.o.) to participate in an internship program within a public institution or private company. The main goal is to strengthen professional skills and abilities for a better adaptation to the practical requirements of the job and to gain experience and seniority in the chosen specialty.

Thus, according to this law, internship involves “the specific activity carried out by the intern for a limited period of time within a host organization, who aims to deepen theoretical knowledge, improve practical skills and/or acquire new competencies.”

On the other hand, the term “intern” refers to “the person who performs a specific activity based on an internship contract, within the organization, in order to achieve the purpose mentioned above.”

An internship program can be carried out for a determined period of 720 hours during no more than 6 months, without being able to be extended later. The intern can work up to 40 hours a week and is not allowed to take extras.

The agreement between the intern and the company must be concluded for a determined period. According to this, the intern has the obligation to train professionally and carry out a specific activity for and under the authority of the company. The internship contract will be concluded in writing.

If, at the end of the program, the company decides to continue the collaboration with the intern, an employment contract will be needed. 

Upon completion, it is mandatory though that the intern will be evaluated by the person who guided him/her during the internship. The evaluation report prepared for this purpose must include information, such as: acquired skills, behaviour, if the performance objectives have been achieved, etc.

Should the internship be paid? 

Even though there still is confusion about this, according to the law, companies are required to pay their interns with a monthly allowance of at least 50% of the equivalent of the gross minimum monthly wage. 

In other words, if the gross minimum wage is 2,300 RON in 2021, the allowance of an intern would be at least 1,150 RON. Of course, every company can set up entirely other financial policies. Put another way, an organization can offer 2,000 RON (or more) for an internship allowance, but not less than 1,150 RON.

Do you think that an internship or volunteering program can boost your professional career?

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Written by Diana Nădejde


Originally a legal consultant, but more of a communication person, passionate about writing, digitalization, social media, history and philosophy. At the same time, I don’t think there is a problem that can’t be solved with a good book or a series.

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