MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Sitting in a kitchen stocked with free food, a handful of 20-something Google summer interns weigh their favorite perks, but where to begin? With bikes, buses, massages, swimming pools, dance classes, nap pods, parties and access to their tech heroes, it's a very long list.
"Unlimited sparkling water?" someone says.
In the end, however, the budding Googlers are most excited about the work.
"The project I'm working on is super high impact, and I'm looking for ways to make my mark," says Rita DeRaedt, 20, studying visual communication technology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
With summer comes an influx of thousands of Silicon Valley interns. Well paid and perked, young up-and-comers from around the world who navigate the competitive application process are assigned big responsibility at firms such as Google, Facebook, Dropbox and Twitter.
Silicon Valley tech firms pay interns more than any other sector in the U.S., according to a Top 25 list of 2014 intern pay by online career website Glassdoor.
Palantir Technologies, a Palo Alto-based cybersecurity firm, topped the list with $7,012 average monthly base pay. Also on the list: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, eBay, Google and Apple, all of which pay more than $5,000 a month, or $60,000 annually if these were full-time jobs.
And that's not counting perks, which at Facebook even include housing in this high-rent region.
It's money well spent in a field fighting for talent, said Keck Graduate Institute professor Joel West in Claremont, who hired interns when he ran his own software company and now helps place students at internships.
"When you're an employer, interns are a win-win, because you get relatively cheap labor and you get a first look at talented and ambitious people," he says. "You get first dibs on them."
Typically, interns are assigned to collaborative teams working on specific projects; a computer science student might write software code to make failed passcode attempts erase data, while a human resources student might create online learning modules for new hires.
Jon Bischke, CEO of San Francisco-based Entelo, a tech recruiter, said interns had better arrive ready to hustle.
"The energy is palpable, and for people who appreciate fast-paced environments, you won't find anything faster than what's going on in Silicon Valley right now," he said.
Google's head of global staffing, Kyle Ewing, expects interns to tackle major challenges.
"Our hope is that we can offer a job to anybody who has a successful summer," Ewing said. "We have a very, very successful pipeline."