Ron CulpFor graduate and undergraduate students alike, internships and fellowships offer an accelerated route to a successful career in public relations.  While the terms are often used interchangeably, fellowships and internships are different.  In this post, we briefly differentiate “internship” from “fellowship” before focusing on fellowships generally and the Grunig PRIME Research Fellowship in particular.  Information about The Fellowship, which accepts applicants until February 25, can be found here.

Typically, an internship functions as an exchange of services for experience between the student and the hiring organization. Students are exposed to the real-life dynamics of the workplace while taking advantage of their internships to confirm their career interests and to earn university credit.  Internships may be “paid” or “unpaid.”

Fellowships are offered generally to those at the graduate and post-graduate level. Many students consider fellowships as a way to augment their academic studies with the experience necessary to succeed in their chosen field.  Nicole Lee, the 2012 Grunig PRIME Research Fellow commented, “My fellowship at PRIME allowed me to see a whole new side of PR that I had not experienced as a professional or academic.” And since many fellowships are “paid,” they enable students to build professional credentials without the extra burden of part-time jobs or student loans.

In the case of The Grunig PRIME Research Fellowship sponsored in conjunction with the Institute for Public Relations, the experience focuses on a very special niche within public relations: the Fellowship seeks to encourage graduate student interest in applied public relations research as a career opportunity.  As such, past winners represent the one-percent of public relations graduate students with a special interest in public relations AND statistics.

The six-week summer Fellowship, which provides a stipend of $5,000 plus walk-to-work housing near PRIME’s Ann Arbor, Michigan office, also delivers an additional $2,500 award upon publication of the Fellowship paper by the Institute for Public Relations.

Past Grunig PRIME Research Fellows have gone on to careers in public relations, academia, public relations research, and beyond.

  • Vanessa Procter, 2010 winner in the United Kingdon, was invited to stay with PRIME and reflects on her Fellowship experience: “Winning the PRIME Research Fellowship in 2010 opened up a gateway of opportunity for me within the world of PR research and communication consultancy. Now, as a Project Manager at PRIME Research, I know that without the fellowship I would never have been able to command the role, responsibility and rapid career development opportunities I have now.”
  • Amanda Stageman, the 2010 Fellow, now works as a film writer and producer.   “My participation in the Fellowship was an ideal learning environment that truly stimulated my professional growth and undoubtedly helped prepare me for my current position.”
  • Owen Kulemeka the original Grunig PRIME Research Fellow in 2009, returned to academia and is now teaching at The University of Oklahoma.  Commenting on his experience, Owen shared, “Winning the Grunig PRIME Award was an achievement that has benefitted me in many ways that go beyond the money.”

As one can see from these examples, the hiring organization benefits as well as the student whether the experience is paid or unpaid.  Internship and fellowship programs in public relations are commonly available through PR agencies and professional associations.

Ron Culp is Director, Graduate PR and Advertising Program at DePaul University. His blog appears at


Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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One thought on “Differentiating Between Internships and Fellowships

  1. Thanks to give a clear idea about Internships and Fellowships. Usually all people have a confusion regarding this. There are many organizational term which create dilemma many times. The above description is enough to solve this problem. Career is very important for all and every one want to lead in future. So every people, employee, employer or management try to keep them update and learn new thing to lead and compete with their competitor. For why coaching and training become a vital part of all organization.

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