A high school internship provides an opportunity to spend the summer gaining on-the-job experience and exploring different career options. Before enrolling in college, a summer internship is a strategy to determine a major, improve a job application or prepare for a college internship. You may explore options like your local nonprofit or a national program.
What are high school internships?
High school internships are introductory work experiences. While many internships offer compensation, some are unpaid. Unpaid high school internships must meet certain standards set by the U.S. Department of Labor. These include detailing that the position is unpaid following an outline of the employer/intern relationship.
Even with compensation, pay is usually minimal since the position is temporary and atypical of a traditional employment arrangement.
Tips for acquiring a high school internship over the summer
Consider your interests and ambitions
First, determine where your interests lie or what sort of career you want. Think in broad categories at first, like science, media or finance. Explore the options in the broader field by listing possible internships under its heading. For example, those interested in science may research internships in
Sign up for classes or clubs
No matter what grade you’re in, start adding classes in your chosen field if possible. Join high school groups, or look for clubs at your local community college. Use social media to your advantage and join online groups or forums to learn more about the career and begin building your network. Connecting with fellow or aspiring professionals lets you exchange ideas and find answers to questions about the career.
Be clear on your internship expectations
High school summer internships differ from regular jobs in that the internship provides education and training in exchange for labor. Be prepared to accept less money for paid internships, or find out the perks of an unpaid internship, such as the chance to attend free classes or reimbursement for travel.
Be ready to commit to a high school internship. Consider the length of the internship and the job responsibilities. Be sure you’re ready for the challenges and rewards of a summer internship. Make a list of what you hope to gain from the experience, then search for opportunities that offer a mutually beneficial relationship.
Let everyone know you’re looking
While you’re building a network of industry professionals, turn to your established network, like friends and family. Let your network know you’re searching for a high school internship and ask for referrals or guidance. A parent of a friend might be hiring for their small business, or a former coach might know about a relevant internship.
Ask your guidance counselor
Check with your school’s guidance counselor and ask if they know of any internships you can apply for. Guidance counselors might know about internships other students completed, or they can provide direction to find one that suits you. You can also consult them for advice when writing your resume or drafting a cover letter.
Why high school summer internships are beneficial
In addition to providing on-the-job experience, high school summer internships are beneficial because they can help you enter a challenging field or research an industry to decide if it is really for you. While you’re interning, you begin building a network of professionals that can help guide your future or mentor your career. As you build relationships and amass a list of industry professionals, you might learn about other internship or job opportunities before they go public.
High school internships provide experience for your resume. As you pursue your chosen career, your experience reinforces your commitment to the profession and forms the basis of why you qualify for a position. A high school internship gives you an advantage over other job applicants and provides valuable insight into how the career works.
Best Internships available 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.