For many university students and graduates, getting a foot in the door to many industries requires a tough shell and a willingness to work for peanuts (or for free). Unpaid internships are on the rise, and many students struggle to pay the rent and secure a job in their chosen field, especially in shaky economic times.

Not all internships are unpaid, however, and, at some top companies, an intern position can represent a golden ticket away from ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese. The highest paying internships are often in the tech industry as tech giants battle for the best and the brightest from a small pool of candidates, often trying to secure interns before they graduate from university. Here are five of the top paying internships along with their average monthly salary:

SEE: Experience Or Education: Which One Lands You The Job?

Microsoft- Research Intern ($6,746)
Microsoft almost always rates in the top 10 companies to work for and its intern positions are well-compensated. Interns are hired to work at many research locations around the world, including Cairo, Bangalore and Beijing. According to the company's website, most of the research interns are PhD students, but they sometimes take on Bachelor or Master's students with advanced research skills.

Google- Software Engineering Intern ($6,463)
Tech giant Google, is not only an employer but it has created a whole little universe in Silicon Valley. The head office boasts 18 restaurants and cafes, free breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and a wide variety of other perks to capture and keep the loyalty of its staff. Software engineering interns are hired for locations across North America. They are involved in product development and testing, site reliability and productivity engineering.

SEE: 4 Wild Company Headquarters

Facebook- Engineering Intern ($5,400- $6,800)
Facebook, the new kid on the Silicon Valley tech block, is also engaged in the battle to find new engineering and computer science students. On top of a competitive intern salary, some interns report that the company also pays a housing stipend of up to $1,000 a month. With Facebook's recent initial public offering, the company will continue to expand rapidly and its need for intern should grow with it.

Amazon- Software Development Engineer Intern ($5,552)
While Amazon's core business is significantly different than Google, Microsoft or Facebook, its need for talented computer students is the same as it maintains its monstrous online ordering network. Amazon often rates lower on lists of the best companies to work for, including those based directly on intern feedback. Its location in Seattle may be attractive to students who don't want to professionally reside in Silicon Valley, however, Amazon competes directly with Microsoft for local students.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers - Advisory Services Intern ($4,702)
The only non-tech entry on the list is PriceWaterhouseCoopers, one of the "Big Five" accounting firms. The company often hires student interns for the summer or for co-op work experience semesters. The advisory services team deals with management consulting, finance and business planning, among other areas. The company also provides an international intern opportunity in offices around the world.

The Bottom Line
Not all industries offer paid internships and those that do pay don't all offer big bucks. The highest intern salaries are found in industries with significant competition and with a limited supply of graduating students. These arrangements benefit the company by allowing it to hire the best of the crop, and the company benefits the students by allowing them to launch their careers in their chosen fields while still being able to pay living expenses and student loans.

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