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.
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The Best 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.
1. 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’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’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 during the summer, fall, and spring.
4. 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
5. 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 experiences 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 habitats, 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.
- 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.
6. 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.
- 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
7. 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.
- 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
- 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.
10. Adler Planetarium
If you live in the Chicago area and enjoy the view above the skyline, you might want to check out an internship at the Adler Planetarium.
Students who are interested in STEM fields can apply for this opportunity to begin building their resumes as early as 14 years old.
For students in Wichita, KS who are interested in special education, Heartspring is an organization that has been helping children and their families work through challenges stemming from special needs.
In this internship, you can observe classrooms for a few hours at a time and learn special education strategies.
12. Maryland State Archives
Maryland high school students can apply to work at the State Archives. In this internship, you’ll be managing the archival collections and learning about the history of Maryland in the process.
If you’re savvy with computers, this is a chance to utilize those skills.
13. Global Internship Program for Unemployed Youth
As the threat of unemployment rises, the Legacy Alcoa Foundation created a special internship program to help youth gain practical skills to help them in the workforce.
The Global Internship Program for Unemployed Youth helps place students with a non-profit organization in the manufacturing sector to give them an opportunity to gain crucial experience needed to launch a career in the field.
14. Studio Museum in Harlem Internship
Students in New York City who are interested in learning more about what goes on behind the scenes at a museum should apply for an internship at the Studio Museum.
You’ll have an experience of what it’s like to really work at a museum as you attend workshops, meetings, and participate in visits to other institutions on behalf of the museum.
15. Projects Abroad
How cool would it be to say you did an internship abroad before you finished high school?
With Projects Abroad, you can participate in an internship offered in one of several countries in fields including healthcare, civil rights, business, and more.
Some opportunities are only offered to high school-aged students, so you know you’ll be able to relate to your peers at the internship with you.
16. Shibaura Institute of Technology
If your classroom isn’t giving you quite enough, consider becoming a research intern for a summer in Japan.
This opportunity is open to high school students around the world, so it’s a great chance to dive deeper into a STEM topic that fascinates you and learn more about other cultures.
As soon as you complete your junior year, you’re eligible for this two-week program at Tokyo’s Shibaura Institute of Technology.
17. Young Innovators Program
At the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, high school students can find an internship just for them.
Students with ambitions of becoming a scientist or working in healthcare will have an opportunity to work with graduate students and faculty on real research happening at the university in these fields.
This eight-week paid internship is available for high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors who reside in North Carolina.
18. Kokosing Construction Company
If you build it, they will come. That’s true for students interesting in construction and construction management.
Kokosing Construction Company, located in Ohio, offers internships to high school students to give them hands-on experience in various aspects of the industry.
MassMutual offers some internship opportunities each summer for high school students in various departments of the company.
Whether you’re stellar at coding or balancing a checkbook, a chance to work at MassMutual might be available for you.
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.
Advice from Experts, Employers, and Successful Professionals
We’ve asked some outside experts about their opinions on what students should look for in an internship.
So, what makes a great internship? And why is interning so good for you? Read on!
From Neal Taparia, founder of Mahjong-Challenge:
Getting an internship is half the battle. Oftentimes you’ll be given busy or grunt work. You need to be proactive and make the best of your internship to get the most value from it. Ask to join important meetings to observe, or set up 1-on-1s with leadership to understand how they go about their decision making. If you have ideas and project that you can do yourself, don’t hesitate to propose them. When you get real hands-on experience, you’re preparing yourself for future opportunities.
From Bethany Brinkman, director of Sweet Briar College’s Margaret Jones Wyllie ’45 Engineering Program:
At Sweet Briar College, the engineering program requires all students to complete an eight-week internship in an engineering field. This practical experience has proved invaluable for our students as they prepare to become engineering professionals.
Students come back from internships and tell us how much they appreciate the hands-on applications we integrate into almost every engineering class, as well as the traditional liberal arts education that makes them think about problems or products from a broad perspective. Many students also use internships as a way to narrow down the field or type of job they’re interested in.
Others go on to receive offers of full-time employment from their internship companies. As part of the internship experience, students are required to present a poster highlighting their work to the larger college community.
By sharing this, they learn how to talk about technical information to a wide range of audiences. After an internship, students are leaders and confident that the book and laboratory skills they have learned are truly applicable in the workplace.
From Nick Jones, marketing director at Sifted:
What makes a good internship for young people and professionals is a symbiotic relationship where the intern is learning and growing while the company is getting the help they need.
A sign of a good internship is one where the intern is truly an asset to the company and learning the skills they would need to fill an actual position at the company.
I want employers to know that young people are more capable than just getting coffee and assisting when you give them the proper training it will benefit you. I want applicants to understand that you don’t always have to be qualified to go into an internship, sometimes the best internships are ones where you are learning necessary skills on the job.
From Kelsey McKeon, marketer at Clutch:
In my experience, there are three main things that make a good internship:
Mentorship: Good mentors set internships apart. I interned for 9 months at a foreign policy think tank in Washington D.C., and my supervisors invested in my professional development. They invited me to events and symposiums, assigned me projects based on my interest, and even sent me open full-time positions from their network and encouraged me to apply. I can credit my career in marketing to my supervisor, the company’s communications director, who recognized my aptitude for communications and encouraged me to develop my writing skills.
Exposure to all parts of the business: As an intern, I was encouraged to take on projects that supported different areas of the business. Though I was officially the “Advocacy Intern,” my duties ranged from staffing events to data entry, writing blog posts and booking travel. I left with an informed understanding of the in’s and out’s of think-tank work, and I discovered my passion for communications.
Projects that build a resume or portfolio: Most internships have their fair share of busy work, but good internships offer a chance to develop hard and soft skills through meaningful projects that help business efforts. I left my internship with multiple writing samples from my policy blog posts, and “back-pocket” answers to job interview questions from my experience on the team.
Employers should understand why people pursue internships. Most people want to learn, add to their resume, and leave with a solid professional reference. By being available and taking an active interest in interns and what they can bring to a company, employers can meet all three of these goals and set their program apart.
Applicants should recognize internships as a valuable opportunity to build professional skills before formally entering the workforce. They should understand that they get out of internships what they put in.
As an intern, I raised my hand for everything and I left the organization with great rapport, recommendations and a solid set of skills that helped me transition into a full-time role.
From Carol Gee, a retired university educator and author:
A good internship should provide ‘real world’ experience ideally in the field of study or interest of the student involved. It should also benefit the host company who can benefit from the candidate’s knowledge and new ideas.
For instance, the 12 years I worked as a department administrator at Emory University’s School of Public Health, my former research students who were pursuing a masters in public health were able to obtain internships accordingly.
For example, a student majoring in health policy found a position at the Policy Center at another well-known Atlanta university. At the guidance of his supervisor there (an adjunct professor at my school), this led to a full-time position there upon graduation.
Another student whose major was health education secured an internship with one of our own local health departments. Her first full-time job after graduating was at the same health department. Today, this young woman has been a department director at the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) for a number of years.
Internships work best when the needs and goals of both the individual and the host organization are met.
From Camille Canuto, sales executive at Smartsims:
Although internships may lead you to a job, the most important part of this is your journey and your learning. Learning about the job, the industry and what excites you about the role. This will help you realize if this is the path that you would like to take going forward.
Sometimes even if it is unpaid, it might be worth it. Most internships will give you an opportunity to learn, gain experience and knowledge that you wouldn’t otherwise learn from school, so sometimes unpaid internships are worth it. This also allows you an opportunity to prove yourself to your employer and hopefully by the end of it, you are able to land on a role.
You want to be able to walk away after your internship with new skills and experience that will help you succeed in your field in the future.
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!