Tech interns at Facebook and Snapchat make significantly more than almost all Americans

Nice work if you can get it.
Nice work if you can get it.
Image: Mwichary/Flickr, CC-BY-2.0
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Interns at tech companies make more money on an annualized basis than workers in the vast majority of occupations, according to a new online survey. A lot more.

The survey, conducted by Jesse Collins, a senior at Purdue University and former Yelp intern, asked interns and new graduates in the computer science community how much they were paid. Collins says he posted the survey in programmer-focused groups on Facebook, Reddit, and university listservs, though it was open to anyone. The purpose of the survey, Collins says, is to inform interns as they negotiate their internship offers.

About 300 of the nearly 600 people who responded to the survey said they had received internship offers from big companies like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Goldman Sachs for 2017. On average, the internship recipients said they would be paid $6,500 per month, the equivalent of $78,000 per year (the survey is still open, so results may change). Many also said they would receive more than $1,000 worth of stipends per month for housing and travel or signing bonuses. Internships typically run for a summer, but we’ve annualized the numbers.

If the average intern who responded to Collins’ survey were to work for a year, he would make $30,000 more than the average annual income for all occupations in the U.S., which is $48,000. Of the 1,088 occupation categories within which the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks average income, workers in only about 200 of them on average make more money in a year than the intern would.

As with any small online survey, these results might not be fully representative. The sample size is tiny—for most companies, fewer than 10 people who said they had been offered internships responded—and some respondents obscured their employers’ identities (one entry is listed under “unicorn,” for instance). The survey did not ask for proof that respondents had received job offers at the companies.

Twitter, Facebook, and Yelp declined to comment on the accuracy of the survey. An Uber spokesperson confirmed that the self-reported salary of $7,000 per month was ballpark accurate. The results in the chart above are also consistent with those of an online survey conducted by another former intern several months ago concerning 2016 internships (the creators of both surveys are friends, but both say they didn’t collaborate).

High-paying internships are also consistent with Silicon Valley’s reputation for generous compensation. When Glassdoor, a website where employees can anonymously report their salaries, named the 25 highest paying companies for 2016, 20 of them were technology companies.

Part of this high pay trend is the result of intense competition for talent, which is likely to continue. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that by 2020 there will be only 400,000 computer science graduates for 1.4 million computer-science-related job openings. Internships are a form of recruiting, a way to begin relationships with a batch of tech talent prospects. Paying them well can’t hurt, either.

Image by mwichary, on Flickr, licensed under CC-BY-2.0