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Want an Insane Tech Internship Salary? Go Into STEM

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If you're a brilliant STEM-focused student close to graduating, good news: You could make as much or more than the median American household income as an intern for a tech company. According to the Census Bureau, for the average American, that was a little over $4,000 per month, or $51,371, in 2012.

If you’re a brilliant STEM-focused student close to graduating, good news: You could make as much or more than the median American household income as an intern for a tech company. According to the Census Bureau, for the average American, that was a little over $4,000 per month, or $51,371, in 2012.

(Photo Credit: Michael/officelovin.com)

Companies like Quora, Pinterest, and Dropbox are allegedly willing to pay between $8,000 to $10,000 a month over the summer to see if you’re a good fit. (That would work out to $96,000 to $120,000 per year, for the non-STEMmers in the room.) The (unverified) list was first compiled by Jessica Shu, a 19-year-old soon-to-be intern, who asked for numbers from Reddit, colleagues, and other contacts before making her decision about where to spend her time.

Why are these kids, yes, kids, some of whom are still in high school, making such bank as interns? One theory is that there is stiff competition for great talent in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields (STEM), so the cream rises to the top and as such, they deserve the money and perks.

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“The demand for STEM skills is increasing virtually exponentially while we aren’t turning out graduates at the same rate,” says Ross DeVol, chief research officer at the Milken Institute, in Marketplace.

To a tech company that relies on groups of people, not just individuals, to solve problems, it might not be crazy to throw thousands of dollars at a young person over an internship to see if they are a good fit. The alternative is to hire someone, invest months of training at an even higher rate, and then possibly find out they don’t mesh well with the rest of the team, and have to start over. An internship is a good way to avoid that.

Dissenting voices claim there is no shortage of STEM majors graduating here in the US and that, in fact, the US STEM shortage is a myth, pointing to a paper from the Economic Policy Institute that seems to break down a lot of the fog surrounding the STEM shortage. In this theory, the story of the STEM shortage was created to give permission for companies to seek cheaper overseas workers for jobs that could have been done by stateside workers, only at a higher salary. 

Tell Us What You Think

Would you go into STEM just for the salary? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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