Mapping The Best Places to Intern in the U.S.
Modern day internships vary wildly by industry, covering anything from coffee runs to working on high-profile projects, and from 90-hour weeks to part-time jobs.
The internship salaries offered also vary wildly by both location and industry. Some are full-time paid positions, others are unpaid, “for the experience” gigs.
Bringing some transparency into the ever-changing internship world, CashNetUSA sourced data in 2022 from listings on Chegg Internships and Zippia, creating a database of internship salary rates by hourly pay across state and sector.
The Highest Average Internship Salary by State
Across the 50 states in the U.S., three stand out above the competition when it comes to the average internship salaries.
Interns in Washington, California, and Connecticut were offered more than $20 an hour, nearly $5 more than minimum wage in each of these states.
On the lower side, internships in Wyoming, New Mexico, and Louisiana pay around $12/hour.
Part of the discrepancy in these figures is the cost of living for each state, with the more expensive coastal states paying more than their interior peers.
Six of the states with the highest average internship salary rates (California, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Oregon, and Massachusetts) are the most expensive states to live in. The reverse is also true, with some of the lowest-paying states matching a lower cost of living.
When adjusting for cost of living, the internship pays in Washington and West Virginia come out better than average.
Sectors With the Best Paid Internships
Looking at the states with the best internship pay also helps highlight the specific sectors which pay their interns well.
Unsurprisingly, tech internships mainly in California and Washington pay the best ($19.77), followed by the finance sector mainly in New York ($18.10).
Both industries are, of course, well-known for high pay packages for their employees. They’re on the opposite side of the spectrum from government internships, which rank last despite coveted D.C. positions paying fairly well.
States with the Most Unpaid Internships
Getting an internship doesn’t guarantee pay, and average hourly pay means little in states which have mostly unpaid interns.
In Delaware for example, nearly one-third of internships are unpaid despite otherwise boasting a high average pay.
New York, Oregon, New Mexico, California, and New Jersey all had nearly one-fourth of their listed internships as unpaid.
Meanwhile, the outer Midwest states, including Nebraska and Colorado, have some of the lowest unpaid internship rates of anywhere in the country. In Kansas, despite having some of the lowest internship pay, only 4.2% of internships were unpaid.
Sectors with the Most Unpaid Internships
The finance sector—also the second highest paying—is notorious for rigorous internships, but nearly one-third of listed finance internships were posted with no pay, and only experience.
That’s nearly twice the rate of the second-most unpaid internship sector: retail.
Interestingly, the tech sector had the second-fewest unpaid internships, despite paying the highest hourly rate. Only manufacturing has fewer unpaid internships.
A majority of students surveyed from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that those who took unpaid internships had a slightly higher positive correlation in networking than a paid internship. However, they also had a negative correlation with both employment and salary satisfaction.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist’s Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.