Last month, I posted a brief list of tech internship salaries that had been bouncing around the Web, setting off a wave of self-loathing among those of us who decided to do something with our lives other than code. Now, the folks over at BetaBeat have published a much longer “master list,” as they put it, compiled with the help of Dan Zhang, a Ph.D. student studying computer architecture at the University of Texas. Along with fellow computer science students at Texas and the University of Michigan, Zhang surveyed members of Hackathon Hackers, “a 9000+ member Facebook group for some of the country’s most talented college-age coders,” as BetaBeat puts it, and ultimately got 183 responses. They’ve put together a great interactive chart, as well as the graph below of the 30 companies that offer the highest base pay to software development engineering interns. Dropbox: It’s nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you spend an inordinate chunk of your teen years playing with code.
Like I said last time, I generally think it’s a good thing that companies are paying their interns on par with full-time employees (remember, some of these kids are getting housing stipends, bonuses, and other benefits on top of pay). For that, I got chewed out by Samantha Allen at the Daily Beast, who argued that these salary packages were one more example of how the tech world’s labor practices are perpetuating inequality. Her argument was a bit long, but in essence, she points out that companies like Facebook hire outside contractors to drive their shuttle buses or work in their cafeterias, and often, those contractors don’t pay their employees very well. She rages: “To bestow six figure salaries on interns before taking on contract workers as employees or, at least, raising their wages, sends a clear message to those who do the tech industry’s grunt work: your wellbeing is our lowest priority.”
I’m all for Silicon Valley paying service workers more money. But singling out rank-and-file tech workers, and interns no less, seems a bit strange, given what we know about the ways companies like Apple and Google attempted to fix wages with agreements not to poach each other’s employees in the past. We should want tech behemoths and startups competing hard with each other for talent. And high internship salaries are one sign that they’re doing just that.