The Incredibly High, Totally Justified Salaries of Silicon Valley Interns

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
July 8 2014 11:23 AM

The Incredibly High, Totally Justified Salaries of Silicon Valley Interns

138046913-sign-with-the-like-symbol-stands-in-front-of-the_1
Who doesn't like it when companies pay their interns fairly?

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Silicon Valley is a giant fjord flowing with cash, and like everyone else in the tech world, the interns are making out pretty well. Bloomberg is out today with a piece marveling at the competition for young coding talent that has companies like Facebook and LinkedIn recruiting high schoolers for their summer programs while handing out luxe perks (Microsoft booked Macklemore and Deadmau5 for a concert) along with big salaries.* Per Bloomberg:

It’s become standard for engineering interns to snag free housing, transportation and salaries of more than $6,000 a month, according to job-search site Glassdoor Inc. That compares with the $4,280 average monthly income for U.S. households in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Of the top 10 companies paying the most for interns, all are technology companies except for Exxon Mobil Corp. Glassdoor said in February.
“It’s kind of insane that as a 19- or 20-year-old, you can make more than the U.S. average income in a summer,” said Daniel Tahara, 21, who interned at big data startup Hadapt Inc. last summer and mobile-security startup Lookout Inc. the year before. Tahara, who declined to say how much he was paid, started a job with online storage startup Dropbox Inc. this month.
Advertisement

Some might retch, but this is actually one of the happier stories about the tech industry’s labor practices. Essentially, it means hot companies are paying their interns like normal employees. Given how much time we spend worrying about unpaid interns, this seems like a good thing.

Here’s Bloomberg’s graph of Intern pay. Members of Twitter’s summer class might make $7,000 a month, which multiplied by 12 comes out to $84,000. Meanwhile, Glassdoor tells us Twitter software engineers make between $84,000 and $165,000 per year. Considering that many tech-industry interns are asked to deliver professional-caliber work, or close to it, that seems only fair. As a point of comparison, consider that the law firm Jones Day (and many others) pays its summer associates—who are, essentially, high-class interns—more than $13,000 a month, which basically matches an annual $160,000 paycheck. A summer law associate probably isn’t half as productive as a good software engineering intern.   

screen_shot_20140708_at_10.21.18_am

From a recruiting perspective, it’s also completely rational for companies to offer interns a preview of the kind of lifestyle they can expect if they one day take a permanent job at Google or Facebook. If that means high pay, massages, and an in-house laundry service, good for them.

*Correction, July 8, 2014: This post originally misspelled the name of performer Deadmau5.

Jordan Weissmann is Slate's senior business and economics correspondent.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.