I am a student who will be graduating this August from Carnegie Mellon University. I was offered a full time internship for the next 6 months with a big company. However, the compensation offer was really low. I really like the job and the work environment, however the salary is not even enough to cover my rent and transportation. I sent a counter offer stating that I need to cover my housing and transportation costs but I received a response saying this is our final offer. How should I respond back?

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    what field yre you in, are underpaid internships common? Do you have other options to enter work? (Should have asked before writing my answer)
    – mart
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 10:07
  • What you looking to do, given that the company expects only either a "yes" or a "no" from you? You have a pretty good idea what they'll do to you if you keep arguing, right? Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 10:07
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    Do you like the job enough that you will run in the red for 6 months to get it?
    – Myles
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 13:23
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    "How should I respond back?" Something like "Thank you, but I'll be pursuing other offers." seems appropriate.
    – GreenMatt
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 15:39
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    You get an internship to gain real world work experience. The fact that you get paid is a bonus. Actually, most internships for college students pay quite well compared to what they'd get paid working a typical summer job like at Mickey D's. The time to get an internship is while you are in school, not after you graduate. You'd probably be thinking the pay was pretty good if you did it that way versus expecting to be paid closer to a entry level full employee position because you graduated. If you had the work experience you probably wouldn't be getting hired on as an intern.
    – Dunk
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 19:04

5 Answers 5


Companies are rarely open to negotiation for entry level jobs and internships. They have clearly stated that they won't be increasing the offer, so you only have two choices.

Either accept the offer and report to work, or reject the offer. I am afraid they are extremely unlikely to change their mind no matter what you try.


I'd assume that is, indeed, their final offer and look for another job or internship. Unless your are willing and able to work extra, borrow money or fall back on your family so you can afford to work there. Even if this is possible, I would think long and hard about wether you really want to work for less than living wage. Do you want to be in debt in half a year, with no guarantee of proper employment? Do you want to bother your family (if this is an option) even after earning your degree? Can you actually work full time plus another job to pay your bills?

Edit to add: If you want to go that route, ask your self what you will actually gain. I don't know you, your field, your area, and what is customary. It may well be that you work in a field where the only route to employment is via an underpaid internship - journalism is like that, in some areas. Even if this is the case, look hard for alternatives. Als ask yourself, if you indepbt yourself or do whateer to work the internship, what then? Are you guarantueed a permaent position afterwards? In all likelyhood not. Try to find out how many interns get permanent positions etc., if you're still focused on this position.

So how should you respond back? Not at once. Find a job that indeed pays and hopefully also fits with your career and life goals. Once you have found one, you curse loudly about these non-paying, exploitative misers and then write a polite letter, or call politely, and thank them for their time, their kind offer. Tell them you'll be pursuing other opportunities and you'd be happy to meet and talk again some time later.

  • "Find a job that indeed pays", easier said than done for many new graduates these days. New graduates often have to re-align their expectations with the realities of the job market, especially with so many professionals having lost their jobs in the last few years
    – cdkMoose
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 15:35
  • Yes, you could absolutely be right. I've asked the OP (comment) what field their in, so far they didnt answer so we don't know.
    – mart
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 20:03

Internships are frequently underpaid positions, with the understanding that the 'pay' comes largely from the experience in the workforce aiding your future job search. Unfortunately, this means they're not a reliable source of income, as you've already found out.

You've already made it clear that their compensation isn't enough for you to make ends meet, so you have two options:

  • Accept the low-compensating job and find another means to pay for your living necessities for the next six months - borrow from relatives, get a part-time job, find a roommate to share the cost of rent, or find some other way to reduce your living expenses.
  • Politely reject the offer, stating your reason clearly and leaving on good terms.

The company has already made it clear they won't be re-negotiating their offer, so these are the only two choices left to you.


I think you should be comparing the offer to market value, not your expenses. I would expect an internship to be a little below the market value for a full time entry level position. The company is going to make an offer based on their existing salary ranges and you likely won't be able to do anything about it.

Without knowing your specific situation, I would say you may need to re-evaluate your expenses. Do you have a roommate? Do you live in a more expensive neighborhood/town? I am actually not surprised that an internship rate of pay is not enough for someone to live alone in a nice neighborhood, that is just the state of our current economy. Many people just getting out of school have to make adjustments to their "ideal" living arrangements to make there finances work for the first few years.

FWIW, where I live, even a full time entry level job would probably not be sufficient for you to live alone.


First of all that is really good that you got offer before complete graduation. Like just after your graduation you will have internship. It will help you a lot in your career that you was not idle after graduate. Also for entry/fresh level position most of companies have fixed salary scale so no meaning to ask them to provide more salary at start.

Second thing is if company is big , you love environment then you should not look at salary scale. Once you get real work experience then on future obviously you will have salary as per your expectation. so here you should give priority to this job.

I know its not easy to manage things when salary is too low but some time experience is more important than salary, once you will have good experience and talent then salary hike will be always there. And also according to your described things like you will be fresh graduate then you should accept offer and give importance to internship opportunity rather than salary.

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