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What it's like being an intern at Elon Musk's Tesla and SpaceX

Space X CEO Elon Musk
Photo by Kevork Djansezian
Space X CEO Elon Musk

Elon Musk is one of the most influential billionaires in Silicon Valley and a highly admired leader among other entrepreneurs. So having one of Musk's companies on your resume almost automatically makes it more impressive.

Landing the gig doesn't come easy though. Even for interns, the work is tough and the days are long.

But the pay is good: Tesla Motors interns make a median monthly pay of $4,480 and SpaceX interns make a median monthly pay of $4,080, according to jobs website Glassdoor. (Other Silicon Valley tech companies pay more. Facebook, for example, pays its interns an average of $8,000 per month.)

Here are anonymous firsthand accounts of what it's like to be an intern at Tesla and SpaceX. The comments were submitted to Glassdoor and have been edited only for length and clarity.

Interning at Tesla: What's it like?

"Cult-ish"

"Working at Tesla is a lot like drinking from a firehose of sorts; you will be pushed beyond your comfort zone, be given an immense amount of responsibility, and learn a ton in a very short amount of time. I would consider all of these 'pros' of working at the company, since these are the conditions under which I thrive the most. But, understandably, not everyone likes to be constantly under the pressure of unrealistic deadlines or working more hours than you would at most other companies. It is, though, a great place to grow in a very short amount of time, and it sure does look good on a resume.

"I am as big a Musk fanboy as anybody, but working at Tesla does sort of have a cult-ish feel to it. Everyone is a fanboy and Musk's word is law.

"For most people, the lower-than-average salary might not justify the immense workload."

Electrical engineering intern in Palo Alto, Calif.

"Unrealistic deadlines"

"Fast-paced, dynamic work environment with employees that are incredibly enthusiastic about what they do. Communication is key and they focus heavily on making sure everyone is on the same page so projects get completed efficiently and surpass expectations.

"Some projects had unrealistic deadlines, which was somewhat discouraging."

Manufacturing test engineering in Fremont, Calif.

"There's really nobody ... doing as exciting stuff"

"It is a company filled with energetic and bright people who are the best at what they do! The products are exciting and there's really nobody else in the Bay area that's doing as exciting stuff as Tesla is.

"Long hours and hard work but anything that's worth it doesn't come easy! The pay and perks aren't as great as other surrounding companies in the Bay but that will soon change when [Tesla] Model 3 takes off! I have strong faith in the company's long term success."

— Engineering intern in Fremont, Calif.

"Love the free breakfast"

"I absolutely love it here! Everyone shares the same vision and works so hard voluntarily. Love the free breakfast and unlimited juice and fountain drinks. Haven't met a single person who's an a*****e here, everyone is super helpful and nice. Interns get treated like a full-time [employee], given the trust to take on major projects.

"Long hours are often needed to get work done but not required. The parking situation is frustrating. Toilet stalls are always full in the office. Conference rooms are hard to book."

Hourly intern in Fremont, Calif.

New Tesla store opens every week, San Francisco opens today

A post shared by Tesla (@teslamotors) on

Interning at SpaceX: What's it like?

"You see Elon Musk in person"

"Pros: Comprehensive industry exposure, real responsibilities, future employment opportunities, working close to production, good pay, inside look at Mars efforts, living and working with other interns, subsidized meal prices, seeing Elon Musk in person, free frozen yogurt.

"Cons: Long hours, steep learning curve, some self-teaching, little room for error, strict deadlines, not in a great part of LA, free frozen yogurt."

Hourly intern in Hawthorne, Calif.

"Pretty much everyone is overworked"

"In general, the expectations are stressful and demanding but the work is awesome. There is no other company that parallels. You will learn a lot as an intern.

"Pretty much everyone is overworked. The days are long and the work is intense. Workers are expected to be self-reliant. For that reason, management sometimes is less involved. Could be a pro or a con depending on what type of worker you are."

Propulsion development engineer intern in Hawthorne, Calif.

View from the fairing during SES-10 mission. #EarthDay

A post shared by SpaceX (@spacex) on

"You go to work every morning at a rocket factory. Just think about that for a second"

"The culture here is just amazing. The bulk of the Hawthorne office is laid out with an open floor plan, so you're working in the close vicinity of hundreds of other engineers who are just as passionate as you about the company. Just standing up from your desk, you can look across the entire office floor and see the hustle and bustle of everyone working on different things.

"You are working alongside some of the most talented engineers in the world. Find any employee to talk to and it is guaranteed they have swaths of knowledge to share with you of which you knew nothing about before.

"Great employee benefits. Subsidized meals (and you never have to eat the same thing twice) and company swag, free coffee and froyo?! This one speaks for itself.

"You go to work every morning at a rocket factory. Just think about that for a second. ...

"Starting at the company can be a little bit intimidating. Everyone is extremely focused on their work so there's somewhat little in the way of guidance. To really succeed here, you need to be motivated and take the initiative to ask questions to understand how the company operates."

Intern in Hawthorne, Calif.

"You make history"

"You build rockets. You make history. SpaceX is one of the most high profile companies that you can work for, and there is nothing cooler than seeing all the progress that you make being talked about around the world.

"Saying that you're surrounded by smart people is an understatement. You are constantly challenged to be the best that you can be, and you will always have to be innovating to keep up. I've learned so much in such a short amount of time it's amazing to think that I've only been here for a few months.

"Three-year anniversaries are treated like 30-year anniversaries. Highly intense work comes at the cost of high employee turnover.

"Prospects of moving up are also very low. You will most likely be stuck in your current job unless there is a shakeup or your superior leaves."

Intern in Hawthorne, Calif.