Throughout their high school years, students are occupied by the academic rigor of classes and the extracurricular activities requirements in school. However, college life and your future career are beyond the GPA you have and the clubs you are in, but are about what professional experience you have had throughout the years. If you are in high school, chances are you don’t know what you want to do as a career in the future. Academics and extracurricular activities can partially help you identify what career field you want to be in, but having an internship/externship under your belt is very beneficial. High school internships are for you to explore your interests in various career fields and have a taste of what your future job position is like.
1. What is an internship/externship?
Internships are short-term work experiences offered by organizations for students to get exposure to the industry or field. Internships are normally paid but sometimes can be unpaid. Students have the chance to gain experience, skills and knowledge through hands-on work and real-life projects. Externships are also another way for students to explore their career interests in the workplace. The difference between an externship and an internship is that an externship is typically an unpaid shadowing of a respected industry professional during which the extern will observe daily duties, while an internship is a paid or voluntary position with an organization. Normally, externship program is easier for high school students to find because it’s set up through the school’s connections with employers in the area.
Participating in an internship or externship position can significantly help students stand out in their college applications and prepare them for a future career in a field of interest. There are different benefits when it comes to choosing an internship or externship.
An internship allows students to:
- Receive hands-on experience working in real-world environments
- Explore potential career and position options
- Receive mentorships and networking opportunities with working professionals in the field
- Internships can be added to student’s resumes
- Be compensated fairly for their work
An externship allows students to:
- Explore potential career paths and position options
- Assess the fit for a position or an organization through job shadowing
- Externships can be added to a student’s resume
- Receive mentorships and networking opportunities with working professionals in the field
Below is the summary table created by The Balance Career to help you better visualize the benefits of each one:
Gain skills and experience
Get an overview of a career
Work with a team
Observe a workplace
Semester or summer program
Short-term (days or weeks) experience
May or may not be credit-bearing
Typically not for credit
May or may not a paid internship
2. How do you find internships/externships?
So, the next question is, where can you go to find internships or externships? It’s actually not challenging to find a position if you know how to take advantage of the network you already have. Below are three ways to find internships/externships:
- Your High School
If you study in a private high school, chances are you going to have the ability to participate in activities like internships/externships through your school. The Alumni Relations department or Career department at your school will organize some sort of similar events/opportunities for students. If your school doesn’t offer this kind of opportunity, you should still reach out to the department that handles alumni access, so that you can network with them and find appropriate opportunities that match your interests.
- Your Network
When you think of a network, you will normally think about a network of professionals in the field. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Your teachers, faculty members, and advisors are the network you can connect to. Contact the people you know well and ask whether they know a business owner or employees working at companies in the field you want to intern in. You can either meet them personally or send them an email such as:
“Dear Professor/Teacher Z,
My name is X, and I’m a student at X. Currently, I’m taking several classes in X and I am very interested in learning more about the field.
I am wondering if you know anyone who is currently practicing in this area or is working in the field at a company that provides internship opportunities during the summer?
I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this possibility and am happy to attend your office hours on X if that is most convenient for you. In the meantime, I’ve attached my resume for your review. Thank you so much for your time.”
Another kind of network you can look into is your parents and/or your relatives. Finding internships through parents’ or relatives’ connections is relatively easier and faster compared to external connections, since they can directly refer you to a company and expedite the hiring process.
- Search online or offline
When we say search offline, we mean searching for local businesses around your area. If there is a business that you are particularly interested in, you can contact them directly through meeting them in person or contacting them through email for internship and externship opportunities.
Search online: In addition to those connections, you can certainly find a position on your own. Job Sites like LinkedIn Jobs or Indeed have new listings every day. By searching terms such as “high school internships” or “high school externships”, you will be able to find many relevant positions. Since these opportunities are posted by individuals and companies, remember to double-check the requirements and the authenticity of the company before applying and moving forward in the process to prevent scams.
3. What are some internship opportunities for high school students?
Internships for high school students are generally quite limited because companies would prefer someone to come in full-time for a long period of time. However, limited doesn’t mean impossible. Below are some opportunities we found for high school students! There are even some summer internship opportunities for high school seniors who are going to attend college in the same year.
University of California Santa Cruz has a summer-long (10 weeks) research internship program for high school students in STEM fields. High school students have the chance to receive one-on-one mentoring with UCSC faculty, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers.
High school students who are interested in STEM fields and research are highly encouraged to participate in this program. Students are participating in real and existing research projects at UCSC, not made-up projects.
Students are required to be at least 14 years of age on the program start date and currently be enrolled in high school. Accepted students are normally from the Bay Area high school, but out-of-area students who have local housing are also encouraged to apply.
For students who are residing or attending a high school in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, this is the opportunity for you! The program offers paid opportunities for students who are interested in art and art history. Students will gain work experience while being mentored by arts, creative, and museum professionals. By the end of the internship, students will receive a stipend that is commensurate with New York State minimum wage law. Students must be rising juniors or rising seniors on the application deadline date.
The Zuckerman Institute’s Brain Research Apprenticeships in New York at Columbia (BRAINYAC) program prepares today’s youth to become tomorrow’s scientists. Each student is matched with a Columbia neuroscientist, a mentor who guides the student through a research project. Interns come away from the experience with an enhanced understanding of how laboratory research leads to transformative discovery, exposure to a professional academic environment, and a stronger connection to science as a career. Applicants must reside in New York City, preference is given to students in upper Manhattan and South Bronx.
BTI, Cornell University, and the USDA invite local high school students to participate in the seven-week internship in the field of plant genome research, bioinformatics, and science communications. The internship runs from June 28 to August 6. To be eligible students must currently reside in the Ithaca region or surrounding counties and live within a reasonable daily commute to Cornell University. Students cannot be graduating seniors and must be 16 years or older by June 28th to be eligible to apply.
Every summer, Microsoft launches a High School Program to help students get hands-on experience and on-the-job learning. Students will participate in projects to explore what they love to do, while exploring Microsoft’s unique culture. The program is open to current senior high school students that live within 50 miles of Redmond, Washington who have a demonstrated interest in technology. Students must be at least 16 years old and have a legal right to work in the U.S. for the duration of the internship. Applicants should be available to work full-time for 10 consecutive weeks (June – August).
Unfortunately, because of COVID, Microsoft High School Program is on pause for 2021. However, rising seniors during 2022 can keep this in mind and apply when the opportunity arises.
NASA internships and fellowships leverage NASA’s unique missions and programs to enhance and increase the capability, diversity and size of the nation’s future science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce. Internships are available from high school to graduate level. Internships provide students with the opportunity to participate in either research or other experiential learning, under the guidance of a mentor at NASA. In order to apply for this opportunity, students have to be at least 16 years of age and are currently full-time students.
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Scholars Program offers stipend-paid summer internship opportunities to upper-level high school students pursuing STEM degrees. Students gain hands-on experiences working with full-time AFRL scientists and engineers on cutting-edge research and technology and are able to contribute to unique, research-based projects.
There are so many more internship opportunities available for students. You can check out our list of 20 more internships available for high schoolers.
We hope that with this guide, you will be able to start exploring your options and deciding which field you want to pursue in the future. Internships aren’t just a college application booster to help you stand out, but they are the pathway to career exploration and networking opportunities with professionals in the field.