- What is an Internship and How does it Work?
- 24 Awesome Internships for High Schoolers
- How do Internships Impact Your College Chances?
What do you want to be when you grow up? If you’re like most high school students, the answer still isn’t crystal clear. That’s all right, and in fact, it’s 100% normal. The good news is that there are plenty of ways—like internships—to explore your interests and various career fields before you take the leap and commit to a certain program or college major. Internships are a great way for high school students to gain work experience, learn about professional opportunities, and network within career and academic fields.
What Is an Internship and How Does It Work?
An internship is essentially an introductory work experience in a professional career field. It is sometimes paid, though usually at the lowest end of the pay scale, and it is sometimes unpaid. The function of an internship is to gain experience and insight into a certain field while also performing some functional work in exchange for the experience.
For example, if you get an internship in a research lab, usually you won’t jump right into hands-on lab work. Instead, you’ll start with things like cleaning the lab and entering data into spreadsheets. While this might sound tedious, it will also give you the opportunity to connect with the people who work there, learn about the day-to-day functioning of the worksite, and give you an idea of whether or not a career in this field might be of interest to you.
Before you commit to an internship, you should always make sure that you are clear on the expectations. Have a good understanding of the time commitment, the length of the internship, the responsibilities, and whether or not you’ll be receiving anything in exchange. Some unpaid internships might offer other perks like free classes at related institutions, travel reimbursement, or even housing. You should also be certain you understand your responsibilities and that you’re comfortable sticking with them.
Internships are a great way to break into difficult career fields. For students who want to gain experience in research, medicine, law, or other professions normally requiring an advanced degree, an internship is a way to gain some insight and experience without the commitment of a degree. You will learn about the field and forge important connections with people who might ultimately write you a recommendation or even offer you a job.
24 Great Internships For High School Students
Through participation in the USSS Student Volunteer Program, students gain insight into the nature and structure of the Secret Service while gaining valuable personal and professional skills. Students must be at least 16 years old and volunteer at least 12 hours per week. While the position is unpaid, they may receive academic credit.
A BRAINYAC is a program offered through Zuckerman Institute’s Brain Research Apprenticeships in New York at Columbia University. It connects NYC 10th and 11th graders with scientists for intensive summer lab internships including hands-on experience.
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Scholars Program offers valuable hands-on experiences working with full-time AFRL scientists and engineers on cutting-edge research and technology. The program pays a competitive stipend.
The Hutton Program is a paid summer internship and mentoring program for high school juniors and seniors interested in pursuing natural resource and environmental management. The program groups that are underrepresented in these fields and provides students with mentors that sometimes become life-long connections!
The Geosciences Bridge Program is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and is a 6-week paid internship for graduating high school seniors. Participants study and participate in hands-on activities in marine geology, physical oceanography, atmospheric science, marine biology, marine chemistry, biogeochemistry, and remote sensing/GIS.
Undergraduate and high school summer internships at Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI), Cornell University, and the USDA provide an excellent opportunity to gain research experience and explore if a scientific career in plant science research and bioinformatics is a good fit.
This is a fantastic opportunity for just-graduated high schoolers to start gaining professional experience and building networks before attending their first college class. Assignments vary, however, the perks—which include free admission to permanent CMC exhibits, access to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and invitations to select exhibit previews/special events/lectures—are the same for all interns.
The Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) offers a Student Research Internship Program for highly motivated high school students. Interns work with and learn from a multi-disciplinary team of scientists who include internationally renowned investigators in the areas of genomics, bioinformatics, and digital medicine.
Interns use the resources of the New York Historical Society to conduct exciting research and share their scholarship through creative projects. Interns meet with professional staff to learn about careers in the museum, library, and history fields; work collaboratively with fellow students to develop their public speaking and leadership skills; and engage in hands-on work to deepen their understanding of American history and art.
In Microsoft’s high school internship program, students will learn a lot about the world of computer science and programming. Microsoft internships are geared toward STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) students, so if you were thinking of pursuing a degree in one of those fields, Microsoft is the place for you.
Offered through the Constitutional Rights Foundation, the Expanding Horizons Internship provides first-generation, college-bound high school students in the Los Angeles area with an intensive experience of skill development and personal growth that prepares them for college, career, and civic life. The EHI program begins with interactive seminars in the spring and concludes with a paid summer internship at a prestigious law firm, corporation, government agency, or non-profit organization.
The Smithsonian offers a wide variety of internship opportunities ranging from centrally funded opportunities that place interns throughout the Smithsonian to specific opportunities available at each of the Smithsonian’s various museums, research centers, and other units. Participants can find roles in art history, business and administration, museum conservation, and much more.
There are many internship opportunities available at the Library of Congress and they range in focus from the Geographic Information Science Program to the Young Readers Center Program and the Manuscript Division.
Designed to introduce underrepresented and low-income high school and undergraduates to careers in health, Kaiser Permanente’s KP LAUNCH program provides paid opportunities in Oakland and across Northern California. Through the program, interns build professional and community leadership skills, as well as the practical skills needed for employment in health professions.
This eight-week summer program exposes Baltimore-area high school students from underrepresented backgrounds to careers in the neurological sciences. Participants receive hands-on research experience under the supervision of a mentor and are given educational resources and encouragement for pursuing a pathway to a profession as a researcher or clinician scientist at the highest level.
NASA offers a multitude of internship opportunities for high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors over 16 years of age. Internships are designed to increase the capabilities and diversity of the nation’s STEM workforce and provide participants with the opportunity to perform research under the guidance of a mentor at a NASA facility. Learn more about the NASA internship and how to apply in our blog post.
Rising juniors and seniors from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut can connect with professionals in the fields of art, museum, and creativity at one of the world’s finest museums—The Metropolitan Museum of Art—with this awesome paid internship. Over the course of this program, students will develop professional skills, build a network, and gain work experience.
This eye-opening internship allows Chicago high schoolers to engage with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) fields while preparing for a variety of careers. Participants are given space for personal growth and scientific experimentation while connecting with peers from around the city.
This paid internship connects a diverse group of socially concerned high school juniors and seniors with non-profits to serve their communities and build leadership. Participants leave the program with a firsthand look at how non-profits, governments, and businesses collaborate to meet local needs and the skills needed to bring about positive change.
This awesome internship opportunity offers exposure in biomedicine and behavioral science to students from underrepresented populations. Participants in the program will undertake projects with a mentor, such as laboratory-based research, computer-based database research, or clinical research.
High school students 16 years of age or older can participate in this internship and provide front-line support for social issues in India, without having to leave the comfort of their home. There is a wide range of internship opportunities and students are paired where there’s the greatest mutual benefit for locals and for them. Interns can expect to help with everything from writing reports to fundraising to creating content for social media.
Stanford Compression Forum interns are given the chance to pursue research projects over the summer under the mentorship of students, faculty, and staff of the Stanford Compression Forum. Project themes are numerous and include the science of information and communication, engineering, the arts, linguistics, psychology, biology, neuroscience, computer science, technology, philosophy, and design.
Unpaid internships are available at all four Carnegie Museums—Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center, and The Andy Warhol Museum—allowing high schoolers to either work in public-facing or behind-the-scenes positions. No matter where interns are employed, they’ll leave with an incredible work experience, a host of skills, and a bolstered professional network.
This internship for students with an interest or background in the performing arts helps participants build professional skills and gain an understanding of arts management. This is an unpaid opportunity, however, interns are invited to attend many Washington Performing Arts performances for free.
How Do Internships Impact Your College Chances?
Extracurricular activities play a considerable role in the college admissions process and are an excellent opportunity for applicants to stand apart from a field of academically equal candidates.
In general, any internship is beneficial to your application, but some are more influential than others. For example, the more high-profile and selective the opportunity, the better it looks to a prospective school. Similarly, the more responsibility and leadership a student demonstrates in an internship position, the more likely it is to catch the eye of an admissions office.
CollegeVine’s free chancing engine is an easy way to learn the strength of an extracurricular activity and gain a better understanding of your odds of admission at hundreds of schools across the country. Give it a try to get a jumpstart on your college strategy!
Looking for more great internships? Check these out:
- 15 Paid Internships for High School Students
- 14 Computer Science Internships for High School Students
- 12 Business Internships for High School Students
- 10 Law Internships for High School Students
- 10 Remote Internships for High School Students