Survey: Wyoming Ranks Last In Internship Pay

The Cowboy State’s average wage for interns is less than $12 per hour

Pictured above is Nick DelDuca, who leveraged his experience as an intern at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody last summer to land a full-time job at Wyoming Outpost Auctions. (Courtesy photo from Nick DelDuca)

By Kristi Eaton

Special to the Wyoming Truth


After completing an internship last summer at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Nick DelDuca hit the jackpot: He secured a full-time job as an auction writer at Wyoming Outpost Auctions—no small feat for someone fresh out of graduate school with a degree in museum studies.

“Working with the [Buffalo Bill] Center led to me getting a job here in [Cody] that’s been wonderful,” DelDuca told the Wyoming Truth. “It was nice to actually be able to bounce straight into a job from grad school.”  

Chrissy Renfro, associate director for career development at the University of Wyoming, wishes there were “more internships for students in the arts and communication fields.” (Courtesy photo from Chrissy Renfro) 

DelDuca, 27, earned $12.50 per hour and also received a $750 housing stipend bonus for the 10-week program. That’s above the average internship pay in Wyoming.

CashNetUSA analyzed internship salary data in over 100 industries to uncover how much interns can earn in every state. The result: Wyoming has the lowest internship pay in the country at $11.92 per hour.  

“I was paid, I think, honestly, fairly well by standards of the museum field,” said DelDuca, who earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Montana State University and completed a museum studies graduate program in New York.

DelDuca worked in the Buffalo Bill Center’s Exclusive Tours program, leading customized tours and assisting at the membership desk. He even created a tour that paired firearms with science fiction to explore how the literary genre wouldn’t exist without the American West. Through this internship and a previous unpaid internship at the Heritage Flight Museum in Burlington, Wash., DelDuca said he strengthened his customer service, networking and time management. 

“If you do pay your interns, you’re a lot more likely to get good quality interns for those programs, because people have to eat,” he said. “In the museum field, a lot of schools don’t have the money to help you get housing. . . .  And if the internship can’t help you, then you have to find another job.”

Chrissy Renfro, associate director for career development at the University of Wyoming, attributed the variation in internship pay scales nationwide to multiple economic factors, including cost of living. UW does not keep data on student internships, but Renfro said the bulk of internships offered are in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) sector.

“If I could be granted wishes from a genie,” she said, “I would wish for more internships for students in the arts and communication fields.”

Renfro noted that Wyoming does not have a lot of tech employers. But in drilling down on the CashNetUSA data, she found that “Wyoming has a decently low percentage of unpaid internships,” she said. “This is a trend that has been somewhat slow to change nationwide, and you can see that some of the more populous states like California have much higher rates of unpaid internships. So in that sense, we’re doing pretty well.”

UW Senior Vanta Coda III earned one course credit as a teaching assistant in an introduction to photography course last spring. Coda, who hails from Duluth, Minn., asked to be paid for his 50 hours of work, but was told credit that was the only option.

“There [are] some people that probably would think that having credits that go along with an internship is like, great and all, but I think having credit and also being paid would be really beneficial to the college,” said Coda, a dual major in environmental and natural resources and communications.

Renfro said paid internships are ideal and preferred, but any internship is better than no internship – especially for liberal arts majors who don’t have a clear pathway into a career.

DelDuca agreed: “As much as obviously paid internships are great, don’t be afraid if you’re in a bind to take that unpaid internship. The unpaid internship I did was very formative for me and honestly might turn into a job later down the road. . . . And it gave me a lot of good experience that I was able to then use to get the paid internship here in Wyoming.”

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