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ExPRessions :: Internships

Archive for the ‘ Internships ’ Category


I just want to clarify that I am not against unpaid internships. I am fostering a conversation to get the opinions of my readers since this is certainly an issue they will encounter.

In order to get a decent paying job after graduation, you need previous experience. Often, students gain experience through unpaid internships.

But, what about when unpaid internships are illegal? I actually had never heard of this before reading the article. (Added Nov. 17) I personally like Heather Huhman’s stance. She believes that if a company has the means to pay, they should. But, people should be willing to work for free in order to gain experience if they have to.

Some places can’t afford to pay an intern. They can barely afford their employee’s salaries. But what about those larger companies who don’t pay their interns? From the other side, interns take a lot of time to train. They need to be mentored and their work needs to be monitored. There’s a cost to having interns.

According to the Labor and Employment Law Blog, “…no work can be performed that is of any benefit at all to the company.  That is, you can not deliver mail, sort files, file papers, organize a person’s calendar, conduct market research, write reports, watch television shows and report on them, read scripts, schedule interviews, or any other job that assists the employer in any way in running their business.” Heather Huhman also has a post about legalities and what is considered “illegal.”

During the past several years, I’ve done a lot of free work in order to gain experience or get my foot in the door. With that said, I’ve been paid when I’ve spent a significant amount of time doing work. Since I am paying for college on my own, I need to have some sort of paying job in order to continue my education.

My opinion: Interns should be paid unless the organization, like a nonprofit, can’t afford to pay. The work interns do should always provide some kind of education, especially if they are unpaid. Often, I’d rather be learning and growing than making a lot of money.

Your opinion? I would love to know what PRSA, leaders in PRSSA and others in the field think about obligations related to having both paid and unpaid internships. What do career bloggers think?


Rachel M. Esterline works in public relations and marketing communications. Her blog, ExPRessions, contains her musings about PR, marketing, career and professional development, Gen Y issues, personal branding and more. Rachel also does freelance consulting and writing. She is originally from Genesee, Mich., and will graduate from Central Michigan University in May 2010.