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  • Key Factors to Consider When Setting Intern Salaries

    February 07, 2018 | By NACE Staff

    An intern on a job interview.

    TAGS: internships, compensation, salaries, surveys, nace insights

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    A key considerations for employers planning their summer internships is setting intern salaries. During this process, employers take into account major and functional area. Many employers also use the student’s degree and year of study in setting rates.

    Average salaries for interns tend to increase as students persist toward attaining higher degrees and by ascending class years. For example, according to a 2017 compensation guide from NACE, intern salaries across degree and year of study ranged from an hourly rate of $13.94 for first-year associate students to $29.84 an hour for doctoral students. (See Figure 1.) Among interns earning bachelor’s degrees, employers paid hourly wages ranging from $15.67 for freshmen to $19.51 for seniors. 

    Other steps employers take and factors they may consider when establishing salaries for interns include:

    • Understanding interns’ employee classification—Interns typically fall into the “non-exempt” category due to the nature of their positions. As such, they are paid an hourly wage.
    • Having a basis for salaries—Many employers use the salaries they pay new college hires as the starting point for determining intern wages. Intern pay rates vary based on the student’s major and the functional area in which the student is assigned, just as new college hire rates will.
    • Making adjustments for location—If the internship is in a city with a high cost of living, some employers will pay students interning there a higher salary to account for this factor.
    • Otherwise, being consistent—Interns will talk amongst themselves, so many organizations ensure that they apply their pay scales consistently.
    • Establishing this as an annual process—Organizations can ensure they are in line with current intern pay rates by setting intern salaries each year.

    NACE’s 2017 Guide to Compensation for Interns & Co-ops provides wages and benefits information gathered from 276 organizations that took part in NACE’s 2017 Internship & Co-op Survey. That survey was conducted November 21, 2016, through February 17, 2017, among NACE employer members, 26.4 percent of which responded. The 2017 Guide to Compensation for Interns & Co-ops is available to participants through MyNACE; it is also available for purchase on NACEWeb. (Please note: The 2018 internship survey is currently underway; results will be available in late spring.)

    Intern Hourly Wage Rates, By Degree and Year of Study

    Degree Year of Study Percentile 25 Mean Median Percentile 75
    Associate 1st Year $12.00 $13.94 $13.50 $15.00
    2nd Year $13.50 $15.00 $14.75 $15.88
    Bachelor’s Freshman $14.00 $15.67 $15.00 $16.50
    Sophomore $15.00 $17.11 $16.25 $18.00
    Junior $16.00 $18.53 $17.50 $20.00
    Senior $17.00 $19.51 $18.50 $21.58
    Master’s 1st Year $19.50 $24.58 $23.50 $28.49
    2nd Year $20.00 $25.12 $24.00 $29.00
    Doctoral $24.32 $29.84 $29.00 $36.00
    Source: 2017 Guide to Compensation for Interns & Co-ops, National Association of Colleges and Employers