Overheard

Singapore intern makes $10k a month in US

A monthly salary of $10,000 would imply a senior manager's role here but some local students are pocketing that for internships at American tech firms - alongside choice perks like tickets to Broadway shows.

One local, third-year computer science student apparently reaped such a lofty sum at a tech giant, while an engineering student studying overseas earned at least $7,000 a month at another famed firm.

They are getting even more than what coveted Wall Street investment banking internships offer, which hover around US$3,000 (S$4,200), going by a report on Goldman Sachs.

The tech gravy train was noted by the Wall Street Journal, which reported last Monday that computer science interns are making more than US$6,000 a month and get free housing. It reported that online publishing platform Squarespace has five interns in its office in New York's SoHo, all earning more than US$6,000 a month.

A spokesman for MongoDB, a database vendor near Times Square in Manhattan, told the Wall Street Journal that its 31 software engineering interns make US$38 to US$42 an hour.

As tech firms want to woo the best candidates, MongoDB's interns not only get great perks like Broadway tickets, but also get to be involved in "solving really interesting technical problems", as one intern said.

It all seems a far cry from the slog of an investment banking internship, which often involves consecutive late nights, intense pressure and impossible deadlines.

Some of them can make more than US$5,000, but at what cost? For instance, a 21-year-old student died after working 72 hours straight at a bank's investment division in London in 2013. Not surprisingly, given the rewards, the competition for a tech firm internship is cut-throat. The MongoDB spokesman said about 5,000 applicants vied for 34 places across its departments.

Some Singapore firms in the financial technology industry lament the lack of coders and IT professionals here, and hope more young people will consider taking up such courses. Interns in Singapore typically get $800 to $1,000 a month, while computer science or computer engineering students can get $3,000 to $4,000 in an IT-related role in banks.

Industry sources say overseas internships tend to offer more, and the $10,000 a month pay is rare.

This could be part of a wider issue that extends to engineers leaving their profession for popular sectors such as banking and finance.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2015, with the headline 'Singapore intern makes $10k a month in US'. Print Edition | Subscribe