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Federal government internships paying $50K, $60K, even more for ‘student trainees’
February 24 2023, 08:00

The federal government is advertising a slew of top-tier internships at several agencies that pay as much as $50,000 or $60,000 a year or even more – matching and in some cases exceeding the U.S. median income for adults.

The government this week was advertising a handful of internships that pay nothing and many that pay $16-$18 an hour. But many others list the pay as an annual salary, and the top-tier internships listed on the government’s website site offer more than $60,000 per year if students can work a combination of part- and full-time schedules during the year.

Those salaries are above the median U.S. income of about $54,000 as measured by the government in late 2022.

Several of these internships are listed as part of the government’s "Pathway Program," which looks to entice top students for careers in the federal government.


One internship is for an IT student trainee at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in San Francisco, which pays a salary that is "starting at $66,333 per year" and as high as $131,367 per year, but the listing does not explain how a salary within that range is decided. It says the student who is selected "will be offered an indefinite appointment in the excepted service" and must be able to work "year round" in the San Franciso office. It asks for full-time work during the summer and 20 hours per week during the school year and breaks.

The Development Finance Corp. in Washington, D.C., is looking for a "student trainee" who will earn a salary that starts at $64,957 per year and may reach as high as $84,441 per year, in a "portfolio monitoring" internship that lasts as long as 12 months. This position is also looking to take on a student who may be converted to a career appointment at the agency.

A student nurse technician internship at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Fresno, California, is offering $63,758 per year for a position that last no longer than 12 months and indicates a need for 9.5 hours shifts. A student who wants to be a "visual communication specialist" at the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General in the nation’s capital can make $53,105 in a year at this "full-time paid internship" that lasts one year.


And a writer-editor in that same office at the Department of Transportation can also earn $53,105 in a year as an intern, although this is listed a "full-time paid summer internship," indicating that the salary attached to this post will be pro-rated to reflect that the job only lasts part of the year. However, this post also says after the internship expires, the student "may be converted to a permanent or TERM appointment," and says "extensions to this appointment may occur."

The Office of Personnel Management did not reply to questions from Fox News Digital about how internship salaries are set.

One budget expert said the government is likely offering high salaries to interns partly to overcome the lengthy and complicated process of getting a job in the government.

"Such high pay for short-term interns almost certainly reflects the burdensome nature of the federal hiring process as well as the impact of inflation and worker shortages on the overall labor market," said Rachel Greszler, a research fellow on budgets and entitlements at the Heritage Foundation. "The federal government’s lengthy and bureaucratic process puts it at a competitive disadvantage against private employers who can place candidates into positions within weeks instead of months."


She said the high wages also reflect the overall inflationary environment caused by both COVID and the federal government’s response to the pandemic, which involved record levels of inflationary spending.

"Since the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have struggled to find workers, and the federal government is no exception," she said. "That’s caused employers to have to raise wages and provide signing bonuses and other incentives to attract workers."

Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, said the government’s elevated intern pay also reflects the simple fact that federal officials are used to spending whatever they like.

"You can never expect money will be spent wisely when they’re not spending their own money," she said. "The government is going to not care about spending money wisely."