The 5 Best Fields for Paid Internships

You need experience; they need new recruits. For companies and college students, paid internships are a win-win if you're lucky enough to land one.

You can tap college career counseling centers and job-hunting Web sites to find the right spot in the industry or profession of your choice. But with companies scaling back and offering unpaid internships, finding a high-paying gig has become harder than ever.

Bankrate can help you start your summer job search. Based on the number of available paid internships, compensation packages, the anticipated growth of each field over the next decade and advice from career experts, here are the five best industries for finding an internship with a paycheck. When choosing one, be sure to factor in housing costs if the job isn't near home.

Banking

Despite the financial meltdown in 2008, internships with banks are booming, says Yazad Dalal, executive vice president of Vault.com, a career counseling Web site with a database of more than 800 internships.

"Even now, the internships that tend to pay the most are in the financial sector," Dalal says. "We're listing more than 50 (paid) internships in that category and we're seeing more coming in."

Even with banks downsizing, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists financial examiner as the nation's fifth fastest-growing occupation, behind biomedical engineers, information technology workers, home health aides and personal care aides.

Financial internships are not only growing, they also are lucrative, Dalal says. Students who land an internship with firms like New York investment banks Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. can expect to rake in $30 or more an hour. Start your search by targeting local and national banks and by searching job-hunting sites like Monster.com.

Government

If you're looking for fast cash in a summer job, see Uncle Sam. Federal and local governments are among the top places where students should start a search for paid internships, says Michael True, head of the internship search site InternQube.com and internship center director at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa.

"The federal government offers excellent opportunities for students in a wide range of majors, even liberal arts," True says. "Everyone from the NSA to the CIA hires interns, so there really are some major opportunities."

True says the pay range is wide -- from $10 to $25 an hour, depending on the internship and skills required. Government internships also can open doors to high-paying jobs. Start your search for a government position at Studentjobs.gov and find paid internships, ranging from engineer to financial auditor.

Communications and Social Media

Communications interns weren't a hot commodity until social networking exploded.

"There's been a big increase in small businesses relying on students to start up social media marketing," says Gary Alan Miller, assistant director for university career services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "This has been a big area of growth, particularly for younger workers."

While average intern pay hovers around $11 an hour, Miller says students who have social media skills may have more bargaining power. Where most paid internships are designed to give students real-world experience, companies without a social media marketing program may tap students raised on Facebook and Twitter to show them the ropes. Students should check out their college career center and specialized Web sites like Mediabistro.com, CreativeJobsCentral.com and JournalismJobs.com.

Accounting

"We may only have about 20 accounting majors every year, but there's never a question about whether they'll have paid internships," says Jennifer Rowley, internship coordinator at Loyola University in Baltimore, Md. "Accounting is one of those fields that requires a specialized skill set, and firms generally pay pretty well to get it."

According to PayScale.com, a Web site that tracks compensation for more than 7,000 jobs, the average accounting intern earns from $10 to $18 an hour, but Rowley adds that top firms like Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers can earn more than $25 an hour.

In addition, plenty of options exist at small firms and in accounting departments of hospitals and libraries. To find these jobs, students should head to their school's career center, call local firms or use internship search sites like Monster.com, CollegeBoard.com or InternJobs.com.

Information Technology

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says two of the top 20 fastest-growing occupations fall in the computer science field. According to Monster.com Vice President Eric Winegardner, paid internships are booming here, too.

"Over the last 90 days, the top category for internships has been for computer specialists. This is where you'll find your programmers, Web developers and engineers," says Winegardner.

Among the many technology-related internships, students can find the most lucrative ones at big firms like Dell Inc. or Cisco Systems Inc., both of which made Bloomberg BusinessWeek's top 50 internships list last year and paid from $19 to $29 an hour. While job-search sites will provide plenty of options, students can find specialized positions through their college computer science department and through government jobs offices.

No matter where you begin your internship hunt, Vault.com's Dalal advises students to start early, tap local resources and check out their school's internship fairs.

"Starting in winter, if you're looking for a summer internship, is crucial in getting a job in this economy," says Dalal. "Students have to cast their nets wider and earlier."