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2/28/2014
10:30 AM
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25 Most Lucrative Internships: Tech's Big Spenders

Almost $7,000 in pay per month for interns? Yes, at companies like VMware and Twitter, according to a Glassdoor survey on 25 best-paid internships.

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In many industries, interns work without pay, a situation that has prompted a series of lawsuits and a reconsideration of paid internships by many organizations. Unpaid internships are allowed, as long as organizations comply with six criteria set forth by the Department of Labor. However, these rules are difficult to interpret because they're poorly defined.

For example, the Department of Labor rules state that an internship should benefit the intern and require that the employer "derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern." Merely fetching coffee for a movie star on a film set is arguably advantageous to the production company, since anything that makes the talent happy keeps the production running and costs down.

But in the tech industry, where there's considerable competition for engineering talent, interns may be paid well. Of the 25 highest-paying companies for interns, 19 are technology companies, according to Glassdoor, an employment community website.

[Hiring prospects could be promising for interns in IT. Read IT Jobs: Best-Paying Titles Of 2014.]

Among interns reporting their salaries through Glassdoor, the average range is $2,400 to $3,100 per month. The highest paid make more than $7,000 per month, considerably more than the $4,251.42 per month required to reach the median annual US household income of $51,017. These figures are based on companies listed on Glassdoor that have had at least 20 intern salary reports shared between January 24, 2012 and January 23, 2014.

Which company among these is the most generous toward its interns? That would be Palantir Technologies, a CIA-funded maker of knowledge management and data analysis software, where the average monthly base pay for interns is $7,012, or $84,144 for those who manage to stick around for a full year.

That's about four times the salary of someone in San Francisco working 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, for the $10.55 minimum wage set by the city. This may help explain why Google buses have become focal points for protests.

Virtualization company VMware comes in second in Glassdoor's ranking. It pays interns an average of $6,966. Twitter takes third place, paying its interns an average of $6,791 per month.

Generous pay appears to contribute to positive reviews on Glassdoor's website. Calling the experience "the best internship I've ever had," one Twitter intern last summer gushed, "You will ship code used in production, you can have a say in virtually all company decisions, you will be generously compensated, you will learn a ton."

Glassdoor's intern salary list continues: 4) LinkedIn, $6,230; 5) Facebook, $6,213; 6) Microsoft, $6,138; and 7) eBay, $6,126. At position 8), the first non-tech company appears: ExxonMobil, at $5,972. Then come 9) Google at $5,969 and 10) Apple at $5,723.

An Apple intern celebrates the availability of free housing or a $1,000 housing stipend, along with perks like free meals and access to employee benefits, including health insurance, a fitness center membership, and product discounts.

The intern salary list continues: 11) Amazon, $5,631; 12) NVIDIA, $5,446; 13) another oil company, Chevron, $5,424; 14) Adobe, $5,409; 15) yet another oil company, ConocoPhillips, $5,357; 16) Salesforce, $5,158; 17) financial company BlackRock, $5,049; 18) Yahoo, $5,039; 19) a second financial company, Capital One, $4,850; 20) Qualcomm, $4,850; 21) NetApp, $4,691; 22) Autodesk, $4,684; 23) Intel, $4,648; 24) Juniper Networks, $4,648; and 25) oil services company Schlumberger, $4,634.

Nice work if you can get it. And perhaps you can: Coding boot camps have sprung up in the San Francisco Bay Area to sell that dream, at the cost of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars and a few months of intensive classwork. To prevent abuse, the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education recently ordered most of these boot camps to shut down if they cannot meet required educational standards. But that's unlikely to dim the appeal of gold-plated internships.

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
3/4/2014 | 8:57:58 PM
Re: Worse yet
Not one of my internships in college were paid. In fact, I had to pay for two of them because the businesses required they be completed for credits. I was able to live at home those summers, but spent them paying off the $1,000 it cost to get real-world experience.
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
2/28/2014 | 6:21:44 PM
Re: Has it come to this?
@RobPreston

I couldn't agree with you more. Well said!

Coming myself from an IT background, the comparison with a minimum wage worker is sort of strange, to say the least.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
2/28/2014 | 3:36:30 PM
Worse yet
So some people are envious of these younger worker internship salaries. It would be worse if these interns were not being paid at all -- which is too often the case. A well-paid internship lets young people build their portfolios without being dependent on mom and dad for six months -- or working the unpaid internship and a paying job, which many of us have done at least once. 
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
2/28/2014 | 1:07:24 PM
Has it come to this?
So certain tech companies pay their interns very well. Isn't that a cause for celebration? We're told Palantir Technologies pays some of its interns more than $7K a month, about four times the pay of minimim wage workers in San Francisco, and that this inequity "may help explain why Google buses have become focal points for protests." Because minimium wage workers don't make as much as Palantir interns? This envy is just getting bizarre. I would imagine that a Palantir intern is a pretty special and highly educated individual doing some advanced work. I wouldn't expect that intern to make minimum wage, or a minimum wage worker to be making what that intern makes.

 
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