How to know if your internship will drug test candidates

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Understanding whether your internship will drug test candidates is a crucial piece of information that is often left out of the early recruitment process. It can be the difference between landing your dream summer job and missing out on a golden opportunity. 

You can find out if your internship will drugs test by asking indirect questions during recruitment, using online resources, and speaking to previous employees. You should always avoid directly asking if they drug test as it comes across as suspicious and unprofessional which could hurt your chances of getting the job. 

Texas has the highest drug screening rates in the country with 7% of jobs requiring you to submit a test. But generally, the rate of testing is incredibly low and most office-based jobs don’t require a drug test for you to start work. 

If you are looking to check whether you have drugs in your system prior to starting an internship, I’d recommend completing a home drug testing kit that checks for 12 of the most common drugs.

Let’s take a look at how to know if your internship is likely to require a mandatory drug test and how you can find the information as quickly as possible. 

Understanding whether your internship will drug test

It is important to understand whether our internship will drug test potential employees because it can be the make or break for a life-changing experience. Fortunately, if you have an internship in the tech sector you are in luck as tech companies dont’t drug test their software engineers. However, the same can not be said for other industries which can be far stricter. 

There are a few things you can do to understand if the business you are applying for is likely to test for drugs. 

Type of internship 

As we have mentioned tech internships don’t tend to drug-test their employees. It’s not common practice in this type of workplace and doesn’t typically align with the office culture. 

On the other hand, if you are interning in a government or military position, drug screening tends to be mandatory for these types of jobs. The same is true for any roles with the Department of Transportation across the U.S and those in healthcare. 

The type of company you internship with is likely to be the number one determining factor in whether they require mandatory drug screening. Most standard office jobs won’t require one but it can be common in banking and finance. 

Online Resources

The internet is your friend when it comes to finding out if your internship is going to drug test you before offering a job. Using anonymous social media platforms like Reddit is a great way to find out information from others who have done the internship. The question and answer platform Quora also makes it easy to find out whether companies drug test, you can create a dummy profile and ask anything you want. 

For internships at smaller companies, this information isn’t likely to be available online. Not enough people will have completed the internship for them to report back on it. One option is to use LinkedIn and find people who have completed the internship in the past. If you don’t want to use your real account you can create a dummy account to ask sensitive questions. 

The Law

In the UK, a company can’t force interns to do a drugs test and it can only be requested in limited circumstances. In the U.S. the laws are different in every state so where you live depends on how much an employer can get away with. 

Ohio limits drug screening until a job offer has been made. While North Carolina can drug test their candidates without restriction. Take a look at the employment drug testing laws in your state to see whether an internship is even allowed to administer a drugs test.

Employer Information

Every internship you apply for will have a knowledge pack that they send around to potential candidates. It normally contains information on the type of work you will be doing, as well as working hours and benefits. 

In addition, these documents will usually contain information on a companies drug screening policy. Asking for the employer handbook is an easy way to get the information you need without raising any red flags from a recruitment perspective. 

Asking Indirectly

We’ve spoken before about asking companies if they drug test employees and what a bad idea it can be. You can indirectly ask the company you want to be an intern for about their drug screening.

One option is to call anonymously and feign interest in a different role and try to get the information this way. The worst-case scenario is that they reroute you to another part of the business.

A better option is to ask about the next steps of the recruitment process. Ask for a breakdown of the different stages of the interview and what you should expect. It makes you sound organized while getting the information you need. Or take the approach of asking about specific onboarding events you need to make yourself available for. usually, this is enough to get the answers you need.

Do unpaid internships drug test candidates?

In the tech sector, unpaid interns are unlikely to drug test interns because they don’t extend the same treatment to their full-time employees. Silicon valley jobs don’t drug test because of the culture of the companies. The same is true for office jobs in general. However, unpaid internships in healthcare, aviation, transport, and education are likely to drug test candidates.

But they do usually have a clause in their contract to be able to drug testing employees if they suspect drug use on work premises. If you come into work drunk or on drugs most employers reserve the right to test you.

Internships are short bursts of work experience that offer interns real-life experience and allow you to apply theoretical knowledge in a practical environment.

For all intents and purposes, you are a full member of the team for the duration of your internship, so the same rules apply. If you are working at a company with mandatory drug testing expect to be tested, even if you are working as an unpaid intern. Even though you aren’t being paid some of the tasks you will be undertaking may require a clean bill of health to complete. 

If you use recreational drugs and are thinking of applying for an unpaid internship you may have a decision to make. Your best bet is to cut out drug use prior to your job application and throughout the entire process. You won’t have to worry about working in a drug-free workplace and it will lower the overall stress of the interview stages. 

However, if you do want to continue using drugs it is worth checking out the company’s testing policy. More importantly, you should be aware of the type of drugs you will be tested for in an internship, and how to get them out of your system.

What drugs do internships test for?

Internships will test for the exact same drugs as a typical pre-employment screening. These include but are not limited to cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, meth, amphetamines, and opiates. You can request a copy of their drug testing policy ahead of time to get a clearer idea of what you will be tested for. 

Your best bet is to assume that every drug test you do will be wide-ranging in the substances they test for. It’s best not to risk it.

To check whether you are likely to test positive for specific drugs, I’d recommend a home testing kit to check for the most common drugs.

If you are currently on prescribed medication this won’t count against you in the drugs screening as federal law prevents discrimination on this basis. It’s best not to mention prescribed medication beforehand. Although companies aren’t legally allowed to discriminate against you, the practice remains behind closed doors. You don’t want any medical history to count against you when they are deciding on an intern. 


Knowing whether an internship is going to drug test you before offering a contract is important because it enables you to prepare correctly. The best way to determine if they drug test is to brush on state drug policy law and utilize the power of the internet to get the answers you need.

Don’t assume that paid internships won’t drug test you because you are unpaid. The opposite is true. For the time you work the company you are essentially a fully-fledged employee.