Movies often characterize interns as the “go get the coffee” people. While there might be a shred of truth to this role, internships are really an opportunity for students to gain entry-level, hands-on, and practical experience at an organization that aligns with their interests, and sometimes even their training. These experiences allow a student to immerse themselves into a company, allowing them to practice a skill set, or develop new ones. Internships can vary in scope, both in the level of responsibility and in the time commitment and personal investment. For medical interns, they are able to practice their skills on real patients. Engineering interns often contribute to company projects, or are assigned their own. Social work interns may even be given their own caseload, all under supervision.
While the majority of internships are for college students, they are also a great way for high school students to gain work experience, learn about professional opportunities and network in both career and academic fields.
Benefits of a High School Internship
Internships can range from a few hours a week, full time during the summer, or span an entire academic year. Internships at the high school level are almost always unpaid.
The area of study often determines whether the internship will be paid or not. For employers in high demand areas, paying their skilled interns handsomely is one way to convert them to employees upon graduation. However, even for unpaid internships, the benefits are worth it. As career decisions are being made, internships are an invaluable way to gain valuable insights to see if the industry or occupation is a good fit.
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.
Exerpts from Transizion article - "The Best Internships for High School Students: The Ambitious Guide"
Internships can often be very competitive, so depending on the area of study, it is important to seek out opportunities early. Many have application periods up to a year in advance. Unfortunately, there is not one comprehensive resource that lists high school internships. Networking, employment websites, and social media are good places to start inquires about who may have a lead or connection.
Two “How To Guides” for finding an Internship
Our colleagues at MyCollegeGuide and SAT/ACT Prep Online Guides have published two very comprehensive resources to help young people with understanding the steps to identifying and securing an internship. Students interested in pursuing this valuable experience will benefit from their expertise. They answer questions like, Should you do an internship if it's unpaid? How can you make the most of your high school internship? What questions should you ask before accepting an internship? In addition to ideas on finding an internship.
- Summer Internships for High School Students Guide
- Complete Guide to Internships for High School Students
High school counselors can also be a valuable resource for information on local opportunities.
How to find a Summer internship
MyCollegeGuide has done a terrific job outlining the steps to finding a summer internship in their High School Student Summer Internships Guide. Here's an excerpt to show students 5 ways to identify an opportunity.
- Speak up! Tell your parents, your parents’ friends, your friends’ parents, teachers, coaches and every adult you know that you are interested in a summer internship in a specific field. Your Aunt Pam’s best friend’s former employer may be looking for help, but if you don’t speak up that connection will never be made!
- Post it online, too. Post to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram asking if anyone knows of internship opportunities at a specific business or in a specific industry. If you mention a business, be sure to tag them!
- Talk to your guidance counselor at school. If businesses are actively looking, your guidance counselor may know. He or she might also know about internships that former students have had, so they can offer promising leads.
- Cold call. Contact local libraries, hospitals, museums, zoos, YMCAs, churches, newspapers, television stations, senior centers, and other businesses to ask if they offer internships or volunteer opportunities for high school students.
- Look online. Utilize search sites such as CollegeVine, Glassdoor, Idealist, Indeed and YouTern. Establish an account and upload your resume on the professional social media site LinkedIn, too.