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Paid internships more beneficial for students, companies

Wednesday - 4/16/2014, 1:51pm  ET

Rohan Williamson, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Summer is just around the corner, and many college students are looking for internships to gain valuable work experience.

Most students would likely prefer a paid internship. But almost half of all college students have completed an unpaid internship even though they don't lead to full-time job offers as frequently as paid internships, according to Forbes.

Just because students are willing to work for free doesn't mean companies shouldn't pay them, says Mark W. McClennan, a senior vice president with the public relations firm Schwartz MSL and a board member of the Public Relations Society of America.

"From a legal and, more important, an ethical point of view, interns should be paid," McClennan says.

Companies that benefit or bill for the students' work should pay their interns. If the student displaces a regular employee or performs work that a full employee would normally handle, then the company should pay the intern, McClennan says.

Interns are valuable assets to many firms and workplaces, he says.

"Typically it provides them a talent pool from which they can potentially hire new employees as well as leverage, cost-effectively, work that can benefit their companies and their clients," he says.

Allyssa Joseph found a full-time job thanks to an unpaid fundraising internship with the Alumni and Advancement Office at Upper Iowa University. Joseph continued working in the office after she graduated from Upper Iowa in 2012 and will be promoted to director of annual giving and major gifts this June.

"They saw me and saw what I could do," she says.

She was willing to work for free because of the convenience of working on campus. To make money, she worked as a dietary aide at a local nursing home.

Dezmond Richardson, a sophomore at Georgetown University, has worked at both paid and unpaid internships.

"When you're getting paid, the experience is better. In addition to getting money, you are also motivated to work harder," Richardson says.

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