Recently, The Public Relations Society of America Board of Ethics and Professional Standards released updated guidelines on the ethical use of PR and communications interns.
Many students, specifically those at ASU’s Cronkite School, are required to participate in an internship as a part of their degree while other students simply choose to participate in internship opportunities to build there skills as PR practitioners.
The new guidelines advise agencies to be cautious with the use of unpaid internships and to use formal payment for interns or “develop creative means for compensation and reciprocation.”
It could be argued that the skills, experience, and knowledge acquired through a successful internship holds value itself. However, the PRSA believes it to be ethically wrong to employ anyone who adds real value to an agency or employer without compensating them for their work — whether that compensation is monetary or in the form of educational credits. If an intern is performing billable work, he or she deserves some form of legal compensation.
With the economy on the decline, it seems that the industry would benefit substantially from utilizing unpaid interns. Nearly 30 percent of recent college graduates who are unemployed said they are willing do whatever it takes to secure a job in the industry, even if that means working long hours for no pay.
As a result of this debate, PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS) developed a set of guidelines, recommendations and best practices. These guidelines outline what the PRSA feels is ethical when it comes to the use of paid and unpaid interns by public relations firms, businesses, government agencies and other organizations. It’s all part of Professional Standards Advisory PS-17: Ethical Use of Interns.
So will the industry as a whole change their use of unpaid interns as a result of the newest guidelines?
Read what others have said on this issue.