Forget backpacking through Europe. Scoring an internship during a break from college is key to landing a great job once you graduate.
"They are more important today than ever before," said Jill Tipograph, co-founder of career coach firm Early Stage Careers in New York.
And for some of the top internship spots, you can almost double what the average full-time worker earns.
Tech companies, in particular, are using internships as a pipeline for hiring and that means offering competitive salaries to find talent, said Amanda Stansell, an economic research analyst at job website Glassdoor. "These interns are not making copies."
During the most recent recession, employers dramatically scaled back. With fewer workers, "you needed to have people who could perform," Tipograph said. Factor in increased automation and some entry level jobs no longer exist, she added, "that means you need experience and exposure before you graduate."
Now, about 69% of the college Class of 2019 has completed at least one internship, according to the latest report from iCIMS, a talent acquisition software company.
With unemployment near a 50-year low, "the job market is tight and employers are trying to grab students," added Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at Wharton.
As a result, fewer internships are unpaid, as they were a decade ago. While some positions provide college credit, college internships are increasingly salaried — and handsomely.
"Students are in the driver's seat," Cappelli said.
In a report by Glassdoor on the highest-paying internships for 2019, based on salary reviews reported by interns between March 1, 2018 and Feb. 28, 2019, the most lucrative positions were in the tech industry, followed by finance and consulting.
Top 10 highest-paying internships for 2019
Interns are making the most overall at Facebook, where the median monthly pay is $8,000, according to Glassdoor. If these salaries were being paid full-time, interns would be bringing home approximately $96,000 a year, well above the U.S. median salary.
However, scoring one of these opportunities is also incredibly competitive, Tipograph added. For example, one company Tipograph works with recently had 14,000 applications for 100 internship spots, she said.
And, ideally, candidates would have three to four internships by the time they graduate college, according to Tipograph, although that doesn't mean it must be one of the coveted spots at Facebook or Amazon.
Whether it's working on a research project with a professor or being actively involved in a club on campus, "an 'internship' can be interpreted in a lot of ways," she said.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.