Internships provide incredible opportunities for high school students to gain significant work experience while exploring long-term career options. And winter break is a great time to begin forming plans for next summer.
Although college students are usually first in line for internships, businesses and nonprofit organizations are increasingly holding opportunities open for students currently in high school or those transitioning to college.
It may take a little persistence, but opportunities are out there.
Going through the internship application process will teach you much-needed job search and employment skills. Preparing a resumé, asking for recommendations, landing an interview, and understanding what it means to be a responsible employee are all skills that will give you a big advantage in college and beyond.
And it’s no secret that internships strengthen college applications, as these opportunities introduce students to career fields or potential majors and strengthen valuable research or lab skills.
An internship will help you understand how a professional organization functions in the real world. While learning and working, you have the opportunity to refine career goals. In fact, you’ll find that a summer internship can serve as a “trial period” to test ideas about professions and industries—entertainment, nonprofit, technology, health—without making you commit more than a few months.
And these opportunities can lead to award-winning science fair projects, journal articles, or patents.
Where are the internships?
Businesses and organizations sometimes have formal internship programs designed specifically for high school students. For the most part, these programs do not offer housing and are usually limited to students in the region.
For example, here a few of the many organizations making internships available to high school students in the Washington, DC area:
- Bank of America
- Children’s National Medical Center (applications due by January 31, 2014)
- Department of Defense/Georgetown University (the webpage will be updated soon with a new application)
- Department of the Navy (applications due by January 6, 2014)
- Environmental Protection Agency
- George Mason University (applications due by February 14, 2014)
- J. Craig Venter Institute (applications due by February 12, 2014)
- Library of Congress
- Montgomery County Police Department
- National Air and Space Museum (applications due by February 15, 2014)
- National Cancer Institute
- National Eye Institute (applications due by March 1, 2014)
- National Gallery of Art
- National Genome Research Institute (rolling application process but all due by March 1, 2014)
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (applications due by March 1, 2014)
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (applications due by February 14, 2014)
- National Institutes of Health
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- National Institute on Aging (applications due by March 1, 2014)
- National Institutes of Standards and Technology
- National Marine Sanctuaries
- National Museum of Crime & Punishment
- National Science Education Center
- National Security Agency
- Research Science Institute
- The Smithsonian Institution
- US Department of Agriculture
- US Department of State (Pathways Program)
For a great list of opportunities outside of the DC area, check the webpage maintained by the Rochester Institute of Technology for high school students.
Note that some of these are “salaried” positions, some have stipends, and some are strictly volunteer. They are all highly competitive, and some deadlines may already be past. So make note for next year.
Be aware that many organizations don’t advertise the availability of summer internships. This is when you have to do a little investigative work on the internet and through newspaper listings. Use your networks—parents, relatives, family friends, teachers—anyone who may have contacts in businesses or organizations of interest to you.
It’s not too early to begin thinking about next summer. An internship, particularly for students at least 16 years of age, is a great way to get to know yourself a little better while building skills that will make you competitive for the future.