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I have received summer internship offers for two locations within the same company. One offer is roughly 2.3x the salary of the other, but I would prefer to work with the people at the lower paying location. Personally I don't care about the money, but my parents are paying for a large fraction of my tuition and I know they certainly care about my summer earnings. How can I negotiate this effectively? In particular I would really appreciate advice on how to word the email to the internship coordinator (or perhaps a phone call is better?). Should I contact the HR people at both locations, or only the location that I want to work at?

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    Is there a seemingly logical reason for the discrepancy? For example, it might make sense to pay substantially more to people living in New York City over those living in Davenport, Iowa because of differences in the cost of living (particularly for internships where the stipend is intended to cover food & housing but not much more). – Justin Cave Jan 29 '15 at 18:35
  • Yes, I believe it is a cost of living issue (US vs. a location in Europe). However, I'm an American student and have to pay for American tuition. I believe my housing is either covered or significantly subsidized at both locations. – eagle34 Jan 29 '15 at 18:38
  • I would recommend breaking your second half into a completely separate question. Though they are related to the same job search, neither answer relies on the other. – David K Jan 29 '15 at 20:05
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    If this is an internship you should make the decision on how you want to advance your career, or by what will give you the most career opportunity, not by pay. Don't worry about pay now, you will get paid well later if you get the experience and contacts early in your career. – maple_shaft Jan 29 '15 at 20:13
  • So you're saying I shouldn't even try to negotiate? Is it typical to not negotiate for intern salaries? – eagle34 Jan 30 '15 at 0:33
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As a general principle, polite negotiation is OK. Yes for intern salaries, as for almost anything else. However, there can be a gap between the general principle and reality that only you can survey.

You can call up the person offering you the internship at the more desirable location and explain, politely, the situation. No 'ordinary' person is going to have any problem hearing that, much as you would like to work with them, money is attractive. You are asking a question, 'can you bridge this gap?' You are not, if you take my advice, demanding more money or saying, 'I'll go there if I don't get more.' The person on the other hand will understand the possibility well enough.

Possible outcomes:

  1. You get some more money
  2. You get an education as to why the disparity is what it is
  3. You have a very unpleasant conversation, because the person you are talking to is not 'ordinary', and views you as presumptuous pond-scum for asking.

So, ask yourself -- do the conversations you've had tend to suggest that (3) is likely? If not, have the conversation.

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  • Thanks for the advice. I received an email from the internship coordinator and it was essentially #2. She didn't suggest there was any room for negotiation. My potential supervisor was cc'ed on her response and I haven't heard from him since - so I hope his reaction is not #3. – eagle34 Jan 31 '15 at 19:38
  • I wouldn't mull over it. If you politely asked for a salary negotiation because there was a clear steep difference in pay, that's a totally valid question to ask. He was probably CC'd just to be in the loop. If she wanted to show him your email in a get a load of this guy manner, she would have BCC'd him. – Lil' Bits Jan 31 '15 at 22:01
  • Thanks, that makes me feel better. I don't have any experience with internship negotiation and wasn't sure what was standard. I've decided not to press further with the negotiation since it seems that they're not open to it. – eagle34 Feb 1 '15 at 2:31
  • @eagle34 to be fair depending on location the cost of living could be WAY different. For example there is a role here is typically pulling something 70-85K, but in Washington state the same role is worth roughly 105-120K. The cost of living is WAY higher in Washington housing costs alone are literally 400% the cost here. That said once you factor in cost of living you actually come out ahead here when it comes to "dollars in the bank" (but when you factor in the cost of benefits the roles in Washington tend to come out slightly ahead) That said if I ask for Washington pay, not happening. – RualStorge Feb 13 '15 at 17:45
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I would start with someone who knows something about both locations. This is probably an HR person. Ask if there are any different requirements between the two internships that may explain the discrepancy in salaries. Local competition could be a big factor. I don't know about other parts of the world, but in the US, I'm not sure the cost of living of the highest locations (New York, San Francisco) is 2-3 times higher than the lowest (some rural college town).

You'll have to decide based on their answer if you want to negotiate. You may find that they will give a reason why the salaries are fixed in place, so there's no negotiating with interns.

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Yes, I believe it is a cost of living issue (US vs. a location in Europe). However, I'm an American student and have to pay for American tuition. I believe my housing is either covered or significantly subsidized at both locations.

You should really have added this to the original question.

Given the above; there are multiple reasons that would make up for the difference; two that immediately jump to mind are:

  1. The local regulations might differ and dictate what can be paid to interns; especially if its considered something other than an internship (for example, if its called vocational training due to regulations).

  2. Taxes.

The fact that you have to pay American tuition (whatever that means) has no bearing on what the company will offer you - unless of course, your internship terms include tuition reimbursement.

Consider what you are saying if you start negotiating on your stipend (its not really a salary) - it can be perceived as someone there for the money rather than for experience; on-the-job training and a possible future career with the organization. Not really the best of light.

Feel free to inquire as to why (after all, you are an intern and there to learn) there appears to you such a large difference - this might get you the best response. One that tells you the reasons behind it, and more importantly insight into how multinationals work.

Worry about salary when you are offered a salaried position :)

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You mention in your contents that one location is in the US and the other is in Europe. Salaries are quite different between the US and Europe. Assuming you are from the US, then paying you a US salary in Europe would be an expat arrangement. This is typically a highly prized prized arrangement. It is unlikely something they would do for an intern, especially if the European lovation is used as a way to reduce overall costs in the company.

Note that cost of living in central and eaten Europe is lower than the US and good companies will offer their employees there a locally competitive salary. In western Europe, you will generally get a much better benefits package with the lower salary than you would in the US. You are probably seeing an offer for a locally competitive salary.

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You can always negotiate, but arguments based on comparing apples to oranges are never valid negotiation arguments!

If you compare 2 locations on the 2 sides of one city, it makes sense. If you compare 2 locations in 2 different countries, you're basically comparing apples to oranges.

There are hundreds of factors that contribute to different wages, from live costs to the availability and qualifications of the workforce. Maybe that 2 filiae are doing completely other things, one only simple work, the other something that requires high skills? Maybe one location is where life costs on average $1000 a month and the other where it costs only $100?

If you want to earn more, and have choice, choose the location that pays more. The fact you don't want to do that should make you aware that there are the factors in play that makes such difference reasonable.

Please note, that in payment negotiations you have, unless you're top class specialist, only a very limited place to play. You can negotiate 10% more, maybe 20%, but twice as much is much beyond the negotiation margin in any company for the lower occupations, especially interns.

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