College students, recent grads, and those looking to transition into new career paths often rely on internships to explore, get their feet wet, and build their resumes.
Personally, I believe internships are most important for that exploration part – they’re understood to be temporary, and the best ones are designed such that both the company and the intern gain what they’re looking for – fresh perspectives, able bodies, new skills, etc.
Internships are not created equally
Unfortunately, the vast majority of internships are underpaid, or even completely unpaid. I’ve personally had to turn down internship opportunities because I couldn’t afford to work for free, and if I hadn’t been lucky enough to earn a (very small) grant from my university, I wouldn’t have been able to work at the publishing internship that set me on my current career path, and earned me some great friends along the way.
While I read and evaluated manuscripts and learned about agency life, surviving on what amounted to much less than minimum wage through a grant, my partner, who had yet to earn his undergrad degree, lived it up with an internship at a big finance organization in New York, earning six times what I did. Granted, he was doing highly skilled work as a software engineer. But is he really six times as skilled as I am?
That’s a tough ratio to swallow.
The origins and reasons behind unpaid and underpaid internships are complicated and longstanding, but some of it is obvious: in the tech industry, money is often readily available; in other industries, not so much.
No short straws here
Glassdoor recently released a new list of the top 25 internships, by median monthly salary, and it isn’t exactly full of surprises. The top ten reads like a who’s who of tech and e-commerce:
10. Google: $6,000
9. VMware: $6,080
8. Yahoo: $6,080
7. Yelp: $6,400
6. Bloomberg: $6,400
5. Apple: $6,400
4. Amazon: $6,400
3. Salesforce: $6,450
2. Microsoft: $7,100
1. Facebook: $8,000
A couple of reminders should accompany this list. First, many of these crazy high-paying internships take place in super high cost of living cities like New York and San Francisco. Not only can rent be laughably expensive, but you can also expect to pay more for everything from food, to parking, to a gym membership.
However, many of these internships don’t pay you only with exorbitant salary. They often offer free housing, transportation, and even meals on workdays. They also come with perks like onsite gyms and fitness classes, and open kitchens with snacks and drinks galore.
Techie students pay attention
So if you’ve got the skills and you want to make a ridiculous amount of money before you’ve even graduated from college, these are the places to focus your techie attention.
It’s worth noting, though, that smaller organizations, though they may offer less in the way of monetary compensation, often offer more in terms of a complete internship experience.
You may have access to people and perspectives within the company that you wouldn’t even meet at a behemoth like Google or Facebook, and you may also have more flexibility to work on what interests you, rather than what your team of interns has been assigned to do.
Either way, you’re bound to get a lot out of the right internship, so if your summer plans are still up in the air, consider spending a few months at a company you admire, learning everything you can.