Time to End Unpaid Internships

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Increasingly, intern job descriptions are sounding more like full-time jobs. Case in point:

Job Responsibilities

• Create and organize media lists

• Media monitoring of media placements and organize clippings

• Research competitor PR activities and media coverage

• Create social media content and maintain media calendar

• Maintain monthly analytics report for all media channels

• Coordinate schedule of posts and monitor social channels

• Help fulfill media requests for materials and information

• Accept additional duties and responsibilities as assigned.

And the clincher: The internship is unpaid.

Yes, I know, many firms with unpaid internships simply are taking advantage of university programs that provide students with academic credit for intern experiences. (This policy needs to be reevaluated, too). Unfortunately, many other firms are just plain cheap. They hire interns to do work that otherwise would be performed by full-time, paid employees.

Interns should be paid if they are doing jobs that are being billed to clients or relieving workloads of others who are billable. Only nonprofits get a “pass” in my book, and even some charities are beginning to pay their interns.

While I’m on the soapbox, let me restate my firm belief that many firms need to reassess their pay scales for interns. Far too many interns are paid $10 or less an hour, while they are being billed out to clients at $35 to $90 an hour. A few enlightened firms recently have increased intern salaries to $15+ an hour.

2 comments on this post.
  1. Robert Windon:

    Candidly, I was skeptical from the title as I have found unpaid internships (or lowly paid) to be very useful in my career. But I hadn’t thought of it from a billable hour standpoint. I completely agree interns should receive a fair share of what rate the firm bills out their services. There should be an industry standard range for sure.

  2. Culpwrit:

    The average hourly intern wage for bachelor’s degree-level interns in 2015 is $17.20, the highest dollar amount seen in six years and the largest increase observed since 2010. In 2014, the average hourly wage was $16.35. However, intern compensation is not keeping pace with inflation. See NACE survey: https://www.naceweb.org/s05132015/2015-hourly-wages-interns-co-ops.aspx?land-salres-lp-1-spot-hrwgs-05222015

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