Internship for high schoolers

A high school internship is a great way to experience what real life is like in a specific career. Discover the benefits of internships, find tips on how to find the best high school internship programs, explore how an internship works, and address key questions before you apply.


Are most internships just for college students? First, let’s begin by dispelling the idea that internships are only for college students. As high school students seek to gain real-world skills and apply academic knowledge, there has been an increasing interest in internships during high school and organizations that provide them. While a summer job can offer some practical skills in customer service, basic math, and other areas, finding the best high school internship program based on your specific interests will offer you an immersive career-oriented experience.

Why are internships important? Benefits of internships include the chance to explore a career direction, develop real-world skills, enhance college applications, build your resume for your career, make a meaningful contribution, and find a mentor in a field of interest.

What is an internship? Basically, an internship provides a short-term chance to be introduced to a certain profession. Internships can be with a company or organization and can last from a few weeks to a year. An internship geared for high school students may be part-time or full-time, and either paid or unpaid. Somewhat like an entry level employee, interns typically report to a supervisor and may even receive similar onboarding to regular employees.

How to Find the Best High School Internships

Before you do internet searches and begin looking over lists, check with your school to see if they offer any summer internship programs for high school students. Usually, the academic department or guidance counselor will know about internship programs.

If this does not result in the information you need, then do a simple search for “internships for high school students” or related terms on search and check out the lists below. There are some excellent articles that include lists of various high school internships.

  1. US News – This list provides some guidance on how to find some of the best internships for high school students. The list includes: Bank of America, BrainYAC (Columbia University), NASA, Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian. If you have an interest in business and leadership, there are numerous high school business internships out there.
  2. College Vine – This list has everything from the Secret Service, Air Force Research Library Scholar Program, to the Microsoft High School Internship. These internships are more focused on ways to enhance college applications through high school internships.
  3. Aralia – This list is well organized and broken down into categories including: STEM, Computer Science, the Arts, and nonprofits.
  4. Additional Resources – There are also lists available from IvyWise, Crimson Education, Transizion, and even openings posted on Indeed.

Private Schools that Offer Internships for Students 

If you are fortunate enough to attend a private school, boarding school, or military school with internship programs, speak with your guidance or college counselor about the application process. If they have an existing internship program set up with companies or organizations, it may be easier to apply and even acquire an internship.

Some internship programs will pre-qualify and guarantee selected private schools a specific number of high school internships. Of course, the process is still competitive within the respective school and students must go through the defined application steps, but it could certainly give you a competitive edge.

In particular, top private schools on the east and west coast are leading the way in offering exceptional internship programs through various affiliations and partnerships with prestigious universities, nonprofits, and corporations. A case in point is Army and Navy Academy, a day and boarding school in San Diego County, California, where they work in conjunction with one of the best internships in the U.S., namely, the Stanford University Cardiovascular Institute Program. This internship offers students an opportunity to delve into scientific research at a very intense level and it supports their STEM studies during the academic school year.

How Does an Internship Work 

To better understand how an internship can actually work, let’s delve a bit deeper into the Stanford University Cardiovascular Institute Program. As you will see from their description below, this is a very interactive hands-on internship. The whole point is to really provide an immersive experience in science, so students actually acquire actual medical and surgical skills. This kind of prestigious university internship program makes academic studies in the sciences come to life and grounds students in their career aspirations. Here is some background information from their website:

“Surgical training traditionally has been based on an apprenticeship model, with the predominance of technical training in the operating room. However, the operating room may no longer be the ideal location for early surgical training because of time constraints in the operating room, changes in resident work hours requiring more structured training, and more difficult procedures in higher risk patients. 

Based on these concerns, the Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills and Education Center focuses on providing needed training and practice outside the operating room. Every internship will be focused on specific goals, but in this case, the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Stanford, has the following goals:

“to provide education of and insights in cardiothoracic surgery to students (high school to undergraduate level) considering a career in medicine and surgery

to provide basic surgical training to medical students and cardiothoracic residents who are involved in training for a career in cardiothoracic surgery

to provide supplementary laboratory experience to those requiring additional hands-on cardiothoracic surgical training”

After going through this internship, some high students will be wholly committed to becoming doctors or surgeons. The internship process allows students to explore career paths, but it also can be a great advantage for universities like Stanford who may be seeking to recruit top notch students into their freshman class.

10 Questions to Ask Before You Apply for High School Internships

Before you choose or apply for an internship, take a step back and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What are you really interested in learning? How does this align with a career interest?
  2. Do you know anyone who has had an internship? Reach out and ask them some questions. Maybe they will even provide a recommendation letter for you.
  3. Have you checked in with your public or private school guidance counselors to find out about any internship programs?
  4. Have you reviewed internship lists to see if any of them pique your interest?
  5. Are you committed to following the application steps and meeting the deadlines?
  6. How many high school internships will you apply for and do you have a fallback plan if you do not get your top choice?
  7. Have you weighed the pros and cons of an internship vs. a summer job?
  8. Do you want to do an internship in your local area or are you open to going somewhere out-of-state?
  9. Do you understand the requirements and do you meet them?
  10. Are your choices in sync with your interests for college in terms of a college major or minor?

Now that you know what an internship is and what it might entail, are you ready to take the next step to find the best high school internship for yourself? An internship can be a transformative experience and lead you on a path that will expose you to life ahead in your chosen profession or simply be an eye-opening experience to the work world. It is a great way to push yourself, set goals, and learn new things.