I am waiting on responses from 3 companies, hopefully hearing back from them all next week. I would be an intern at either of these 3 companies and each is located in a different city.

Based on my research I have determined that Software Engineer/Developer interns are being paid about $22-$25 an hour in larger cities.

What would be the best way to use, ideally, the other offers as leverage in negotiating a small bump in their offer?

I am not completely looking for the highest offer, depending on the line of work I would prefer one company over another if the price difference wasn't drastic. Hence, I would try to get that company I prefer to increase their offer.

My only thought is using Cost of Living as a tool of negotiation. The cities I could be in would be Atlanta, Charlotte, and Chattanooga.

e.g. "I have another offer with Company X, but I would prefer your company. However, they have a higher offer and the cost of living in City Y (your city) is higher than Company X's city."

One of the companies also may be possibly offering a housing stipend, could that be used as leverage?

  • Edited, I would prefer I certain line of work which some companies may tell me I can participate in. Oct 7, 2016 at 15:43
  • The purpose of an internship is to learn. It would seem to me that the most important thing is to choose the position that would teach you the most and the wage being only relevant in that you need to afford to live. Negotiation of wages will be more important when you actually have a career.
    – Chris E
    Oct 7, 2016 at 15:49
  • You should read this too (it's nearly a duplicate question) - workplace.stackexchange.com/a/12811/2322
    – enderland
    Oct 7, 2016 at 16:56

2 Answers 2


Please be aware that you don't have a lot of (or any) power in this situation.

You need to a realize that most companies hire interns for one of several self serving reasons:

  • it's a convenient tax break (in some places)
  • community outreach type of approach (makes them look friendly)
  • they have a lot of simple, repetitive, cheerless, and thankless tasks that they need someone to grind (like performing some very basic testing, or organizing files on their internal wiki)
  • there's a small chance that they might find a talented person who will come back to them as a full time employee
  • some combination of the above.

You are not expected to bring a whole lot to the table. The position marks you - by definition - as the lowest man on the totem pole. For most employees you're only going to be the guy who sits in a corner for 4 months and doesn't do much of anything.

Granted, some companies value their interns a little more, and actually throw some tasks at them, but in any case, you're not expected to make a splash, save the department, or otherwise perform any admirable tasks.

That being the case, why would the employer negotiate with you? They have a whole list of students who would probably perform just as well as you in the limited role of the internship. As far they're concerned, they're doing you a favor.

If I were you I'd keep my head down and strive to get the job which will give me the biggest opportunity to learn, or at least who's name will look best on my resume. When you have 5+ years of experience under your belt and have specialized in a number of technologies, etc. then you may be able to negotiate your rate with a company which really needs your skills.

Right now you're most likely to be dismissed for trying to give them an ultimatum.

Edit For clarification:

Unless you're the teenage version of Bill Gates, and have companies such as Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook fighting over who gets to have you, you will most likely not be able to negotiate a salary increase.

You can point out that the offered pay will make it very difficult for you to afford housing in that city, and they might offer you some sort of aid, but most likely they'll just say "tough luck, are you accepting, or not?".

At that point you may very well end up stuck with whichever offer you can afford to take. It's not fair, but such is life, I'm afraid.

I strongly advise against any sort of trying to get these people into a bidding war for your services. It will most likely get you nothing other than a bunch of rescinded offers.

  • I understand your point of view, but I am also not trying to lose money because of apartment costs in large cities combined with low ball offers from companies. Oct 7, 2016 at 16:18
  • @theblindprophet, if the company has not already factored that into their rate of pay, you're not likely to get them to change. If they don't offer what you believe is enough, don't take the job
    – cdkMoose
    Oct 7, 2016 at 16:23
  • 2
    FWIW, my company goes real work to interns and expects them to present on their project at the end of their internship, but even for us, we pay what we pay and that is that
    – cdkMoose
    Oct 7, 2016 at 16:28
  • @theblindprophet - edited to address the issue of living costs.
    – AndreiROM
    Oct 7, 2016 at 16:44

Be honest: Tell the company that you're interested in that you really want to work for them, but that the wage they're offering will make it difficult to get by. Also mention that other companies have been willing to offer you better compensation. Then ask them to consider whatever compensation level you feel is fair.

Do not give them an ultimatum unless you are willing to follow through on it. Maybe they will offer you more, maybe not. Either way, they've gone through the trouble of making a decision. Finding a new candidate is not free for them, so it's unlikely they'll rescind an offer just because you tried to negotiate, so long as you are respectful about it. I think it's a long shot, but some places do take their interns seriously, and they sometimes offer more to some interns than others.

Whatever the outcome, don't let a low internship wage set the bar for the rest of your career. If this company hires you full time, negotiate for a fair wage again then. Don't fall into the trap that the company is doing you such a huge favor and they'll be horribly offended If you dare to ask for a higher wage. That's not a thing that happens. If it does, then you don't want to work there anyway.

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