24 Awesome Internships for High School Students
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.
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
1. United States Secret Service (USSS) Student Volunteer Program
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.
3. Air Force Research Library Scholar Program
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.
4. Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program
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!
5. GeoSciences Bridge Program
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.
6. Plant Genome Research REU
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.
7. Cincinnati Museum Center Internships
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.
8. Student Research Internship Program at the Scripps Translational Science Institute
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.
9. New-York Historical Society’s Student Historian Program
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.
10. Microsoft High School Internship
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.
11. The Expanding Horizons Internship
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.
12. Smithsonian Internship
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.
13. The Library of Congress Internship
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.
How to find a summer internship
A simple Google search is the easiest way to look for internship opportunities. Start by searching “summer internship opportunities for high school students” or “summer high school internships.” Sites like Indeed.com or LinkedIn are excellent starting points for your search.
Research Specific Companies
Connect directly with a company through its website. Before you call, email, or send your resume, do your research. Companies like to see that you took the time to learn about them, their mission, and what they’ve accomplished. This information is also helpful when interviewing for a internship.
Network through teachers, counselors, family, friends, and even peers. Many companies do not have summer internship programs but are open to having an intern work in their office or remotely. Sometimes a simple phone call sets the path for a quality internship.
Crimson Careers gives students the chance to perform tasks and receive feedback from startups and established companies. Learn more about this program and search for internships through Crimson.
U.S. Secret Service Student Volunteer Program
Students who participate in this internship learn about the nature of the U.S. Secret Service, the purpose of which is to protect the nation’s highest elected leaders. Although the internship is unpaid, academic credit is offered. Not to mention, it’s a great stepping stone for students interested in a career in intelligence.
Prepare your application
As a high school student, you will probably be new to the application process. So, it’s a good idea to start with the basics. Learn how to write about yourself, how to prepare a resume, and how to write a cover letter for an internship. It’s a good idea to run all of your application materials past family and friends. And remember, you’ll want to tailor your resume and cover letter to suit each position you apply to. Even if the positions seem similar, making some adjustments can help maximize your chances.
While the positions on this list are all stellar opportunities, they are not the only ones available. If you’re looking for an internship for high school students, a great place to start would be resources through your high school. Some college counselors might have a list of local high school internship opportunities. You can also try contacting any family or family friends to see if they have anything you could help with.
As a high school student, especially if you don’t expect to be paid, one of the best ways to get an internship is to make a role for yourself. Find a local business or organization and volunteer to do whatever they might be doing. After helping them out for a while, you can ask if you could turn your responsibilities into a formal role, and approach them with a role outline and description of duties. They will typically appreciate your go-getter attitude and be more likely to accept you as an intern.
Apply far and wide!
Since you’re probably new to the job application process, it’s important to keep in mind that rejection is common and to be expected. Remember, all it takes is one acceptance to end your search. You’ll probably have many unsuccessful applications before you land an opportunity. Think of it as part of the learning process; everything you’re doing will help with your career search in the future. Good luck!