Over the past few months, a number of firms have come under fire for mistreating interns. Conde Nast shuttered its internship program in October following lawsuits by former interns who alleged that their unpaid work was illegal. In June of 2012, a court ruled that FOX Searchlight should have given unpaid interns on the set of Black Swan at least minimum wage. Even Mother Jones, a media outlet that has criticized unfair labor practices, was hit for having advised their underpaid interns to apply for food stamps.
Northwestern's Medill Journalism School essentially turned students into indentured servants by requiring them to spend roughly $15,000 in tuition for the opportunity to work at a media company, then taking the students' earnings for themselves. Just today, the CEO of TopShop's parent company said that former interns who complained about not getting paid "spoilt it for thousands of young people," who will no longer have the privilege of working for free. TopShop will now pay its interns, but has cut its program from 400 to 30 interns.
But some interns do get paid, and on occasion they get paid very, very well. According to job and salary-tracker site Glassdoor.com, a number of companies pay interns a monthly salary that exceeds those of the average American ($53,000 per yer per the most recent census). Palantir tops the list, offering interns a salary of $7,012 per month. VMWare offers interns $6,966 per month and Twitter pays $6,791 each month. That's $84,144, $83,592 and $81,492 per year, respectively. Without revealing too much, we'll say we're jealous.
According to Business Insider, Palantir is a data analytics startup worth $8 billion, so they really should be paying their interns a full salary. A post on Palantir's website describes a typical internship at the company:
Our software engineering interns are full members of the development team from the day they arrive. During their time with us, they design, implement, and test their projects while alongside the full time engineers. We believe in hitting the ground running; in fact, before you get your badge on the first day, you must commit code.
The top-paid interns don't necessarily work at the best company for interns, according to the reviews they submitted to Glassdoor. An earlier Glassdoor.com ranking listed the best companies to work for, and the lists don't totally match up.
According to reviews, of the top twenty companies to work for Hewlett Packard has the easiest interview process, followed closely by Intel. The ratings all come from interns who voluntarily submit information to Glassdoor.com, so they are subjective.
The fact that some interns work 70-hour weeks and make nothing and others make more than at least 50 percent of Americans is, obviously, concerning to us. Internships that underpay (or require interns to pay employers for work) make it extremely difficult for poorer young Americans to break into certain internships, promoting a cycle of inequality that contributes to the growing gap between America's wealthy and the rest of the country. Paying interns a reasonable amount seems like a good way to break out of this system, but that doesn't seem like it's going to happen any time soon. In the meantime, we hear Palantir is hiring interns.