The Best Internships for High School Students: The Ambitious Guide

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Internships aren’t just for college students anymore. Internships for high school students, many of which take place over the summer, provide an opportunity to learn, network, gain experience, and build your college application resume.

What Is an Internship?

An internship is a short-term job that introduces the intern to a certain profession. Interns work for a company or organization to gain hands-on, practical experience in a field of interest.

Internships can last anywhere from a few weeks to a year, maybe part-time or full-time, and can be paid or unpaid.

An intern performs duties similar to that of an entry-level employee. You may work with customers, employees, other interns, or a combination, and you’ll likely have a supervisor who will assign you work and help you adjust to your responsibilities. There is a good chance you will experience the same or similar onboarding process as “normal” employees for the company that brings you in as an intern.

Benefits of High School Internships

Traditionally, people think of internships as opportunities for college students. But they can be great for high school students as well!

Here are a few benefits of completing an internship in high school:

  • You’ll learn more about a career (or careers), which can help you solidify your plans for the future. You can use this knowledge in future courses and at future jobs.
  • You gain hands-on experience that can be valuable for future employers.
  • Being able to identify your strengths and weaknesses in a work environment will give you a jumpstart when it comes to your personal and professional development.
  • Networking with employers and leaders in your career field of interest allows you to build valuable relationships that may jumpstart your career later.
  • An internship is impressive to not only future employers, but to colleges and universities as well. This shows that you’re motivated, dedicated, and genuinely interested in your chosen field.
  • If it’s a paid internship, you’ll earn a paycheck. You can use the check for extra spending money or even to help you save for college.

Not every internship is perfect. At the very least, internships let you explore other career options and see how you react to different management styles.

How to Find Internships

If you’re interested in an internship, start by checking at your school. Many schools have programs that help students find internships, or perhaps a counselor can provide a list of places where other students have had good experiences as interns.

You can also make a list of companies you’re interested in learning more about. Then contact these companies, either by email, phone, or in person, and ask if they have internships for high school students and how you can apply.

You may need to be persistent in your outreach when inquiring about internship openings. A lack of response to an email or phone call doesn’t equate to a “no” just yet. Take an extra step and follow up every seven to 10 business days.

When a company says they don’t have internships available, fear not. If you’re open to an unpaid internship, mention that in case they don’t want to pay interns (but don’t want to explicitly state that). This could encourage them to reconsider your application.

A Google search can also yield helpful information. Try searching “Internships near [your town],” “Internships for high school students,” or, “Internships in [career field of interest].”

Although internships are increasingly available for high school students, many are offered exclusively to college students, so try the first two options before turning to an Internet search. You may also want to check out internship.com, where you can search for high school internships by location.

10 Top Internships for High School Students

Now that you know the basics of high school internships, we’ll share some of the best internships available for your age group. While some of these internships are available for students across the country, others are location-dependent.

As you browse this list, keep in mind that the very best internship for you will be one that fits with your academic interests and future career goals.

Bank of America’s Student Leaders Program

Through the Student Leaders Program, 225 community-minded high school juniors and seniors are connected with paid summer internships at local nonprofits. Selected interns also attend a national leadership summit in Washington, D.C.

If you’re a leader with a passion for improving your community, you might be a great fit for this internship.

Applications open up the fall that precedes the summer you’re applying for. You’ll need a recommendation letter from a teacher, counselor, or administrator at your school.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s high school internship program allows students to learn about computer programming and computer science.

However, if you want to participate in this program, you should:

  • Be comfortable with email and Microsoft Office
  • Have a working knowledge of HTML
  • Be willing to work full-time (40 hours per week) for 10 weeks
  • Provide a letter of recommendation and a resume
  • Live in or be able to get to the Western Washington state area

If you’re interested in STEM fields and have a passion for computers, Microsoft might be just the place for you!

NASA

NASA’s internship program is another exciting opportunity for students interested in the STEM disciplines. The program provides students with “unique NASA-related research and operational experiences.”

You’ll work with a mentor while contributing to the operation of a NASA facility and to the advancement of NASA’s missions.

NASA interns must:

  • Be 16 or older by the start of the internship
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Have a minimum GPA of 3.0 on the 4.0 scale

Currently, internships are offered in during the summer, fall, and spring.

Student Research Internship Program at the Scripps Translational Science Institute

Highly motivated high school students with an interest in genomic/genetic studies and translational research may apply for an internship at the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI).

Interns work with and learn from a multi-disciplinary team of scientists, including “internationally renowned investigators in the areas of genomics, computational biology, and mHealth research.” The program aims to prepare young scientists to be future leaders in the field of translational science.

You’ll work in a lab and be assigned a mentor based on your individual interests. You will attend weekly seminars, develop an independent research project, and ultimately present your research.

To qualify, you’ll need to:

  • Be 16 or older
  • Complete a background check and drug screening (if 18 or older)
  • Commit to a minimum of 8 weeks with the program

Aristotle Circle Marketing and Communications Internship

If you have a strong interest in a journalism or marketing career, an internship with Aristotle Circle might be just right for you.

Interns report and write regular articles on the company’s blog, update social media, pitch story ideas and topics, and work closely with the marketing manager. Interns who perform well are often asked to write full-length features, and their work is promoted in the company’s newsletter.

Blog subjects are mostly education related, so you’ll also have the opportunity to interview and learn from a variety of college admissions professionals.

Applicants must:

  • Be a high school junior or first-semester senior
  • Write a letter about where you attend high school, what grade you’re in, and what days you’re available, as well as why you’re interested in the internship position
  • Provide writing samples

Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program

The Hutton J.F.B. program is described as “a paid summer mentoring program to educate and inspire high school students about fisheries science and management.”

Sponsored by the American Fisheries Society (AFS), the program matches selected students with mentors who provide hands-on with fisheries science in a marine and/or freshwater setting. Students who successfully complete the program receive a $4,000 scholarship.

Interns are matched with a mentor in their area and might take fish population surveys, establish aquatic vegetation and fish habitat, assist with children’s educational programs, snorkel, examine specimens under a microscope, test water quality, and much more.

The program is particularly interested in groups underrepresented in the fisheries professions, including women and minorities.

Applicants must:

  • Be willing to work 40 hours weekly
  • Participate in the program for a minimum of 8 weeks
  • Submit transcripts and a letter of recommendation

This is an exciting opportunity for students interested in natural resource and environmental management, especially women and minorities.

The Smithsonian

The Smithsonian offers a wide variety of internship opportunities, including in areas such as natural history, art history, public administration, human resources, visitor services, and much more.

You can apply to specific opportunities or to the General Smithsonian Internship Pool (if you’re interested in interning at the Smithsonian but unsure which program is the best fit for you). These programs are highly competitive, so be sure to apply to any opportunities that interest you.

Interns receive hands-on learning experience guided by a mentor, and they may be appointed for up to six months. If the internship goes well, you can even be reappointed for an additional time period.

Applicants must:

  • be 14 or older
  • students under 18 need signed permission from a parent/guardian
  • live near or be able to relocate to Washington, D.C., where the internship work will take place

The Constitutional Rights Foundation

The Constitutional Rights Foundation “seeks to instill in our nation’s youth a deeper understanding of citizenship through values expressed in our Constitution and Bill of Rights and to educate young people to become active and responsible participants in our society.”

Through the CRF’s Expanding Horizons Internship program, first-generation, college-bound high school students in the Los Angeles area are placed in paid summer internships at local law firms, corporations, government agencies, or nonprofits. The internship doesn’t cater to any single subject—interns are placed according to their individual skills and interests.

Applicants must:

  • Submit a transcript and two letters of recommendation
  • Write an essay
  • Live in the Los Angeles area
  • Provide proof of participation in Free/Reduced Meals Program
  • Complete interviews

Students selected for this internship will also receive free SAT prep and get advice from experts about college admissions.

South Middlesex Opportunity Council

If you’re located in the Massachusetts area and interested in working in social/human services, you might want to intern at the South Middlesex Opportunity Council.

SMOC is located in Framingham, Massachusetts and seeks to “improve the quality of life of low-income and disadvantaged individuals and families by advocating for their needs and rights; providing services; educating the community; building a community of support; participating in coalitions with other advocates and searching for new resources and partnerships.”

High school students can apply for internships in areas including behavioral healthcare, nutrition services, childcare, homelessness and community services, and more. Interns typically work 5 to 20 hours per week, but more hours can be arranged as needed.

In order to be accepted into the program, applicants must:

  • Be approved by their high school
  • Earn credit for participating.
  • Complete a background check.

New York Historical Society

The New York Historical Society’s Student Historian Internship program accepts high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

Interns meet with professional staff to learn about careers in museum, library, and history fields, develop their public speaking and leadership skills, and engage in hands-on work that deepens their understanding of American history and art. There are program dates available both during the summer and throughout the academic year.

Applicants must:

  • Live in and attend school in the NYC metro area
  • Have parent/guardian consent
  • Submit applications and letters of recommendation, as well as an interview if requested

Internships are unpaid, but applicants who have been eligible for free or reduced lunch at school may receive a stipend.

This is an exciting opportunity for high school students interested in art, history, and research.

Students who are accepted and unpaid can receive school credit or community service hours for their work.

Create Your Own Internship

If none of the opportunities listed above interest you and if you’re the type of student who likes to create their own path, instead of following in the footsteps of others, then consider creating your own internship.

Creating your own internship isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. Many companies are open to having an intern but might not have an official internship program.

Simply contact an organization or company you’re interested in and ask if you can intern there. Even if you receive a reply telling you that there isn’t an internship program available, offer to be their first intern. Tell them what skills you have to offer and how eager you are to learn from those who currently work in your desired field.

The great thing about creating your own internship is that you get to define the parameters of your experience. Working along with your internship supervisor, you’ll have the opportunity to decide what you do and how you do it. This might mean that you’ll be cross-trained in different areas, exposed to different topics, and introduced to aspects of your chosen field that you hadn’t even previously considered.

For example, if you’re interested in being an editor, you might ask to intern at a small publishing firm where you’ll learn about production, hiring, sales and marketing, in addition to best practices in the editing world.

Conclusion: Great Internships for High School Students

For high school students, internships are an excellent resume-builder and an opportunity to learn, gain experience, and network.

Use the tips, tools, and recommendations here to find the internship of your dreams. Remember that the right internship for you will be one that aligns with your interests, passions, and future career goals. Good luck!

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