What are the costs of an internship in the U.S.?

What should you consider when budgeting your internship in the USA and have no experience with the cost of living there?
cost of internship usa

When planning for an internship abroad one of the most popular destinations are the United States. An important aspect while preparing your stay is to know most of the particular costs you might have to expect when going abroad.

You may be asking yourself questions right about now, such as: How much does my internship cost?

The budget of your internship varies depending on the internship length, location, lifestyle, the exchange rate as well as the flight costs. This article breaks down the costs of living in a big city in the USA.

After reading this article you should have a more realistic understanding of how to prepare your budget for your internship in the U.S.

Be realistic about your budget.

As per our experience, the most popular cities to intern in the USA are New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco.

At the beginning of the process, students only focus on the upfront costs, the sticker price they see for the J-1 visa or placement service. But this will be only a small piece of your overall expenses. Food, housing, transportation, travel, activities, etc. need to be considered as well.

Small expenses can add up quickly – your morning Starbucks coffee that is $3, or ordering off Uber Eats another $15.

These expenses seem insignificant but at the end of the month it could add up to $100+ dollars.

We highly suggest keeping track of each dollar you spend and plan to save more money than you might think you need.

Compare your budget with your home country currency.

Understanding the local currency is a very important step when it comes to setting yourself a budget. Use a currency converter to calculate your budget.

Some students have never gone to the U.S. and don’t know the concept of the U.S. Dollar. Use the converter to better gauge how much money it costs on average. Normally, costs are given in U.S. Dollar, but in your head you may calculate with your local home country currency. Convert the US Dollar budget to your local currency to have a much better idea of what the equivalent is in your home country currency.

For example, an internship budget of $17,000 is around €15,500 or KRW 20,500,000. You might be surprised to realize that you have already saved more than you expected. And if note, now is the time to get creative and save a bit longer.

Upfront costs for a 6-month internship in the USA:

  • J-1 Visa Fees Intern / Trainee  around 1,100 USD
  • SEVIS fee, DS-160, etc. around 350 USD
  • Placement Program
  • Plane ticket around 1,200 USD
  • Health Insurance plus deductible around 430 USD
  • Miscellaneous travel costs (baggage fees, taxi, etc.) around 210 USD


The preparational costs for a 6-month internship in the USA would be a total of about $4,640 or $773 USD for each month of internship. When you compare the $773 per month with other academic fees such as college tuition, course fees, or a language course, you can see that the internship abroad is financially very lucrative given the high return on investment (it just looks great on your resume!). 

The cost of living in New York City per month:


For living in a fancy place like Manhattan an Intern must expect around 2,500 USD total per month. Think about alternatives in other parts of NYC and consider a longer commute with the subway or train.

Cost of living in Los Angeles per month:


When planning to live in an upscale neighborhood such as Santa Monica you must expect rent of around 1,900 USD total per month. Think about rental alternatives in other parts of LA.


Important: Your cost of living will always be the same whether you are studying, interning, volunteering, or visit a language school.


Total estimate for a 6-month internship: $17,000 – $20,000

Total estimate for a 12-month internship: $34,000 – $40,000

It is important that exchange visitors, such as interns, plan ahead when it comes to financial security. This budget calculator estimating the costs of living in different regions of the United States provided by the Economic Policy Institute may be helpful to you: Family Budget Calculator 

Also, please note, when purchasing items in the U.S. expect an additional sales tax. This differs from state-to-state but is usually between 8 to 9% of the cost of the item.

Lastly, make sure that you also save a certain amount of cash for potential health care issues that come up, and general emergencies.

Don’t forget about bank and credit cards fees.

Before you leave your home country, call your local bank to double-check if you can get a card with no foreign transaction fees. If this isn’t possible with your home bank, a smart thing to do is to set up a bank account in the U.S. as soon as possible. This will save you a lot of money in foreign transaction fees during your stay.

Conclusion: An internship pays off big time but preparing well is key!

The average student looking to do a 6-month internship in New York or Los Angeles spends between $17,470 – $19,732 on average.

After seeing these numbers, consider that only 12% – 14% of your total costs of a 6-month internship is counted towards the most important part, the internship placement.

When choosing a J-1 visa & placement partner, look beyond pricing. Pay attention to quality, reliability and efficiency. In other words, can they ensure your placement, and have they placed successfully to many others before you. Don’t trade quality for a small cut in costs. After all, it is the agency that will be key in making your whole experience possible. Now that you know the costs of an internship, make sure you decide what’s best for your future.

Be realistic and plan accordingly. If you find an internship in a big city out of your price range, consider reading our article “Why you should consider an internship in Middle America”.

Adding an internship to your resume will always give you an advantage over your competitors in the job market. With an increasing amount of young people attending university, you need to find other ways to make yourself stand out.

An internship abroad is a wonderful option to do exactly that. Change your life for the better and invest in yourself!

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