Will your summer intern earn more than you?

Silicon Valley students can reportedly demand an annualised $81,000

This year's batch of Silicon Valley summer interns might earn more money than you.

The median monthly base salary for an engineering-focused summer intern at some of the big technology companies is $6,800 (€6,003). Annualised, that’s $81,600 a year, according to data collected by Rodney Folz, a former University of California Berkeley student and soon-to-be Yelp intern.

The national wage index is $46,481.52, according to data last compiled by the Social Security Administration in 2014.

Looking to put together a data set of what his peers earn, Folz sent a Google survey to a variety of computer science and technology groups and listservs, including groups for women, the LGBT community, and African Americans. He also solicited reports from friends with technology company internships. His survey was answered anonymously by 503 people who said they landed internships in software or electrical engineering, product design or management, industrial design, and programme management. The students were placed at dozens of technology companies, including Apple, Google and Uber Technologies.


Bad data?

As with any online survey, there's room for bad data. Three future interns said they landed internships with Snapchat, the social network based in Venice, California, with pay ranging from $9,000 to $11,000 a month, which Folz's network had doubts about. "A couple [of] people had mentioned they didn't believe the Snapchat offer," he said.

Four responders said Groupon, the e-commerce company that provides discount deals, offered interns in Seattle and Palo Alto benefit packages worth $13,000, which Folz said was also met with scepticism among his peers.

“Groupon, I saw jokes about that on Twitter.”

Snapchat declined to comment, and Groupon did not reply to a request for comment.

The $6,800 median monthly salary mentioned above was pulled from only the 18 companies that received the most replies, a total of 298 responses.

Based on that sample, the monthly intern haul ranged from $9,000 at Pinterest, an online bookmarking platform based in San Francisco, to $4,500 at Tesla Motors in Palo Alto, California.

Folz’s survey also asked about other cash benefits that companies offered interns, such as housing and travel stipends. Those ranged from nothing all the way to $10,500 at Twitch, the live-streaming video platform based in San Francisco.

Respondents said Twitch’s stipend went for corporate housing and travel expenses. Twitch confirmed that number.


"Google offers a competitive compensation package to all interns and employees," said Roya Soleimani, the company's corporate communications manager, in an e-mailed statement.

Folz’s research found that Google pays interns a median $6,666 per month, along with a median $9,000 stipend.

Salary website Glassdoor reports similar numbers for Google software engineering interns – an average of $6,757 per month. Google was ranked third on Glassdoor’s list of highest-rated companies for internships last year.

Folz's data showed that Pinterest interns earn a median $9,000 per month, but Glassdoor's average put the number a bit lower, between $6,574 and $7,675. Pinterest spokesperson Jamie Favazza said the company does not disclose compensation details but added, "We offer competitive salaries to all candidates. Our engineering interns start writing code in their first week and are an important part of our growing engineering team."

Twitch's spokesman, who uses only the first name Chase, confirmed the survey data, which found that interns make $7,200 a month. Intuit said the median monthly salary of $6,000 determined by the survey was an underestimate but declined to say what it paid interns. The tax preparation software company said corporate housing is also offered to interns.

Other companies mentioned in this article declined to comment or did not reply to request for comment.

Full-time responsibilities

Folz said he created the survey in an effort to ensure young workers in the technology industry did not “undervalue themselves”. Silicon Valley interns can find themselves working on live projects that have the potential to earn substantial money for the company.

“The roles they offer to interns, they’re basically full-time responsibilities but for three months at a time,” Folz said.

“A lot of the products that these student interns [work on] end up being part of the core product that these companies own.”

Though responders attended a variety of universities and studied at a various levels, they had one thing in common: The vast majority said they did not attempt to negotiate their salary.

“I think the idea of being courted like this, being paid so much, being offered so much responsibility at a new job doing real things, is really exciting, especially when it’s never happened to you before,” Folz explained.

“They don’t want to ruin it by trying to ask for more.”