Until I started searching for internships at the end of my freshman semester, I hadn’t put much thought into paid versus unpaid internships. As my search began however, I quickly discovered most internship opportunities, at least for PR, don’t offer compensation. Although there is an abundance that will gladly provide you with college credit, there is a huge absence of paid internships.
The debate over paid versus unpaid internships continues to rage in the United States and United Kingdom where hundreds of thousands of college students are not receiving fair compensation for they work they do. An incident that occurred just last month has further fuelled this debate. Arcadia, the company that owns popular fashion brands including TopShop, sent dozens of its former Public Relations interns backdated payments.
In the United States where the prevalence of internships has been growing rapidly, it is estimated that $600 million dollars is saved by the U.S. firms employing unpaid interns. Although there is no official count of how many unpaid interns there are throughout the country there is evidence that supports the idea that the number of unpaid internships are on the rise.
According to its set of guidelines, recommendations and best practices, PRSA believes it’s “ethically improper to employ anyone who adds real value to a public relations agency or department without compensating them for their work – whether that compensation is monetary or in the form of educational credits. If billable work is being performed by an intern, he or she deserves some form of legal compensation.”
Does this mean that there will eventually be a movement to abolish the use of unpaid interns? Personally, I don’t think so. But it is nice to hear that this issue is gaining some attention.