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.
Engage with Oracle president Mark Hurd, NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle, General Motors CIO Randy Mott, Box founder Aaron Levie, UPMC CIO Dan Drawbaugh, GE Power CIO Jim Fowler, and other leaders of the Digital Business movement at the InformationWeek Conference and Elite 100 Awards Ceremony, to be held in conjunction with Interop in Las Vegas, March 31 to April 1, 2014. See the full agenda here.