What’s Typically Included with an Internship Housing Stipend?

What’s Typically Included with an Internship Housing Stipend? was originally published by Urban Bound.

Okay, college student: so, you’ve applied for an internship that offers a housing stipend—and you’re wondering what that actually includes. It’s an excellent question, but not one with a simple answer. When it comes to internship benefits—including housing stipends—there is no one-size-fits-all.   

The bottom line: employers structure their internship arrangements any number of ways, with regards to housing, wages and more. And while internships offer many benefits—they’re terrific life experiences that will likely kickstart your post-academic career—it’s important to know the financial ramifications upfront. 

In short, before you accept an internship, you should know if and what will cost or compensate you at the end of the day.

How do you figure that out? By getting a grasp of the basics, asking the right questions and then putting the pieces together. Because housing is generally an intern’s greatest expense and concern, that’s a great place to start. 

Ideally, your employer’s relocation provider will not only make sure that you receive your housing stipend on a timely basis, but help you make the most of it—while providing expert guidance as needed.

When employers partner with an expert in intern management, it’s a sign that they care. By extension, by weighing an employer’s internship benefit package—from housing stipends and wages to expense management and assistance—you can gauge their commitment to ensuring a terrific internship experience.  

Anatomy of the Internship Housing Stipend

A stipend is a fixed amount of money that employers provide to interns to offset their living expenses. A housing stipend may not only cover your rent, but (depending on the arrangement) may also be used to pay for food, commuting costs and other living expenses. 

According the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), about half of U.S. employers offer an internship housing stipend. However, the amount varies depending on the employer, the cost of living in the host city and the availability of short-term housing.  

The method of payment also varies. While lump sum payments are the most common, some employers elect to make weekly or monthly payouts or reimbursements. 

Tip: when evaluating an intern housing stipend, don’t just focus on the dollar amount. View it in terms of local housing costs, availability and how much assistance the employer will provide in helping you secure your living accommodations (we’ll come back to this point later). Housing stipends offer the most flexibility to interns and require very little management for employers. 

Another Alternative: Corporate Housing  

According to that NACE survey, about one-third of employers offer corporate housing in lieu of—and sometimes in addition to—an internship housing stipend. Corporate housing may take the form of company owned or rented apartments or—in university towns—college dorms.   

Corporate housing has a few benefits when compared to a housing stipend. For one thing, you won’t need to hunt for short-term housing—it’s prearranged. For another, because multiple interns are housed together, it offers built-in opportunities to socialize. 

There are advantages to dorm living, too: it’s most-likely a familiar environment, the buildings are generally secure, and it may include a meal plan, which simplifies meal planning and food costs.

While corporate housing removes the need to hunt for short term housing, it can require more management for employers, provides interns with less flexibility on how they want to spend their money and may be the more challenging option (depending on the circumstances) in the current housing market. 

This is why working with an expert in intern management is important. We can help guide you on the best solution for your unique business needs. 

Weighing the Total Internship Benefit Package

When evaluating an internship offer, nailing down the internship housing stipend is only one piece of the puzzle. Other important questions include: 

Is It a Paid Internship?

An increasing number of employers—nearly 61%—offer paid internships as opposed to unpaid positions. According to NACE, the average hourly wage for 2022 is just under $21 per hour.

Paid internships not only ease the challenge of covering housing and living costs, but set college students up for greater post-academic success, since paid interns receive more job offers than unpaid interns and those who skipped internships altogether.

Are Relocation Benefits Covered?

More than 46% of employers cover the cost of their interns’ round-trip travel costs—either as a lump sum or reimbursement. With gas and airfare costs on the rise, this is an increasingly-important consideration. 

Does the Employer Offer Tax Gross ups?

You know your wages are taxable, but did you know that intern housing stipends and relocation benefits are taxable, too? For this reason, some employers “gross up” their benefits to cover the cost of these taxes. Either way, it should be part of your cost calculation.

By Center for Cooperative Education and Career Development
Center for Cooperative Education and Career Development