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Pay May Be Poor, but Some Internships Throw In a Car

FLEXIBLE hours, casual dress, approximately $320 to $480 a week, plus subsidized housing, round-trip travel, a rental car, and a gym on-site.

Sound like the perfect job description? Perhaps. But there's one prerequisite: Only college sophomores through seniors may apply. This is the internship program at Microsoft, the computer software company based in Redmond, Wash. And it made the top 100 list in a new book entitled ``America's Top 100 Internships'' (Villard Books, 367 pp., $16), that includes such information as compensation, selectivity, and application deadlines.

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``America's Top 100 Internships'' was researched and written by two recent graduates of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. Mark Oldman has a degree in English literature and Samer Hamadeh graduated with degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering. Between them, Messrs. Oldman and Hamadeh have served nearly 10 internships with such organizations as MTV, the US Supreme Court, and Chevron Corp.

More and more, the internship is becoming the key to permanent employment. Last year, 26 percent of all graduates hired by companies had worked as interns, versus 9 percent the year before, according to an annual report on corporate hiring by Northwestern University in Chicago.

Current source books and databases are vague and incomplete, Oldman says, and they often are written by people ``who are out of touch with the needs and desires of young people. We're in the best position to write a book like this because ... we know specifically what young kids are looking for,'' Oldman says.

The book's 100 top internships represent 75 different professions and nearly 12,000 positions. After thousands of surveys and hundreds of interviews with former interns and program coordinators, the authors evaluated companies' programs under the following criteria: quality of life; number of meaningful work assignments; amount of contacts; prestige associated with the organization; and compensation.

Of those programs selected, compensation ranges from $730 a week at the Washington Post to zip at the White House. And mainly big-name organizations made the cut, such as: Intel, Arthur Anderson, Boeing, the Wall Street Journal, and Walt Disney Studios. Others border on trendy, such as Rolling Stone, MTV, and the Late Show with David Letterman - the latter offering no pay and little substantive work, but the contacts are the best for those hoping to break into entertainment, Oldman says.

``With the best internships, there's a lot more than the job per se,'' Oldman says. ``There's usually high quality of life, and lots of social and career activities.'' Interns at the National Basketball Association eat lunch with NBA executives; those at Boeing can test-fly planes on the company's flight simulators.

Many students assume that such a list is only for those sporting a top grade-point average. ``Unlike what you think, most of [these organizations] weren't necessarily looking for top grades or top schools,'' Hamadeh says. Most are looking for personality and initiative.

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From their top 100 list, Oldman and Hamadeh compiled a list of top 10 ``nirvana'' internships: Abbott Laboratories, Apple Computer, Boeing, the Coro Foundation, Intel, Lucasfilm, Microsoft, the National Tropical Botanical Garden, TBWA advertising, and the Washington Post.

A 1995 edition is scheduled to debut this August, which will include such new entries as the US State Department.

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