Before they leave high school, teens can learn on-the-job skills and network with powerful professionals through government internships. As a way to promote their missions and develop potential future employees, federal, state, and local agencies provide internship opportunities to teens.
National Institutes of Health Internships for Teens
The Office of Intramural Training and Education offers several internship opportunities in biomedical sciences.
Teenagers enrolled at least half-time in high school and U.S. citizens or permanent residents can apply for an eight-week Summer Internship. During this program, students will work in laboratories or research groups in Maryland, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Montana, Arizona, and Michigan.
Lectures will be held, professional development will be conducted, and the students will have the chance to observe biomedical research in action. A monthly stipend of just over $1,800 is received by current high school students.
Apply online or use the Eligibility Wizard to see if you qualify for other opportunities after watching the application video.
Training and Enrichment Program
The High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program 2.0 is open to high school seniors. During this internship, teens with little or no research experience are matched with a mentor with whom they assist for eight weeks. You must also have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher from a school where at least 30 percent of students participate in the Federal Free/Reduced Lunch Program.
When applying for internships such as these, make sure you provide references from people with scientific backgrounds and who can speak to your abilities in a lab. If you want to tailor your application to closely related topics, do your research on the scientists and studies associated with the program you are applying for.
Head to the NASA Interns, Fellowships and Scholars One Stop Shopping Initiative (OSSI) webpage and scroll to the bottom where you can click on “internships.” Here you’ll see high school students can apply for eight-week summer internships. Opportunities vary from research to operational and may take place at any NASA facility or the facility of one of their contractors.
To find internship details, you’ll need to create an OSSI account including your grade level, preferred location and academic interests, then log into their system. Internship opportunities are available for teens starting at age 16 who are U.S. citizens. Before you apply for an internship, take a look at the website specific to that facility or contractor.
Get to know their mission and their employees so you can engage in meaningful exchanges with your cover letter and in your interview. Your ability to be proactive and informed will help them see you as a valuable team member.
U.S. Department of the Interior
An internship at the Bureau of Land Management is a great opportunity for students interested in public land conservation. Short-term and long-term internship opportunities are available. It is required that applicants be at least 16 years old, have a GPA of 2.5 or higher, and be enrolled at least half-time in school.
Online applications are submitted by students after they search for open positions. The National Program Manager or individuals in specific states or offices can help you find internships and apply for them.
Working with one of these professionals will give you the chance to make a first impression and develop a valuable relationship before you submit your application. You should find ways to highlight your passion for the environment in an internship like this.
U.S. Department of Education
Teens ages 16 and up who are U.S. Citizens attending an accredited high school can apply for customized internships with The Department of Education (ED). International students living in the U.S. who meet eligibility requirements are invited to volunteer with the department. A typical internship lasts eight to ten weeks with hours ranging from 20 to 40 per week.
The ED tailors each internship experience based on student interests and department needs, including negotiating weekly hours. Interns also have the opportunity to attend intern-only events like social gatherings, workshops and landmark tours.
Housing and compensation are not included. Your cover letter and resume will be included in the online application where you can also select an ED department to work with. Teens who demonstrate a commitment to their education and a willingness to help others in school-related tasks or events best exemplify what the ED is looking for.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
The internship programs offered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) explore careers in international agriculture, food safety, veterinary studies, and agricultural marketing. Students who are 16 years or older and have at least a 2.0 GPA who are U.S. citizens or residents may apply for USDA internships.
Searching for openings is the first step to applying. Prepare yourself to demonstrate your participation in activities related to any current USDA initiatives. Focus on a particular topic or agency within the department by looking at the various agencies.
As a result of this extra research, you will be able to find meaningful internship opportunities and show internship committees your commitment to the field.
Congressional Page Programs
A page is essentially an assistant to a legislator in either the U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives. Depending on the legislator, pages can range in age from 12 to over 20. Typically, to become a page you must contact your local legislator who will need to sponsor you as a page. If accepted, you will serve as the helper for this person before, after, and during legislative sessions.
Duties include running administrative errands and preparing chambers. The Alabama House of Representatives has a page program open to people ages 12-23. The U.S. Senate Page Program includes classes at Senate Page School for highschoolers who are at least 16 years old.
Since the tasks typically include clerical duties and organizational skills, highlight experiences where you excelled in these areas and look for references who can speak specifically to your abilities in these areas.
Your Internship Search
Finding an internship best-suited to your background and interests requires focus and research. There are countless opportunities in a variety of fields. Start by understanding your own career or personal goals then narrow your interests down to the branches of government concerned with those interests.
Look for websites and other resources with internship lists and application advice to make the most of your search.
- USAJOBS is a job search engine backed by the U.S. government, but you can also use the site to find internship opportunities. As part of the federal Pathways Program, the website features a list of paid and unpaid internships for high school or college students and recent graduates.
- Start your search by exploring U.S. Government departments and agencies. Choose the ones you are most interested in then explore their websites. Each agency has specific information about their unique internship opportunities.
- The National Conference of State Legislatures offers a comprehensive list of internship and fellowship opportunities in legislative offices by state. Not all listings are open to high school students, so you may need to dig deep on this site.
- For local internship opportunities, check with the office of your Mayor, Governor, or other public officials.
Government internships can be highly competitive because they represent some most experienced professionals in the country. Give yourself an edge in the application project when you:
- Understand your own strengths, weaknesses, and goals and be prepared to talk about them in detail.
- Showcase individuality and creativity in a professional manner.
- Begin your research early to ensure time to collect application materials.
- Understand application deadlines and adhere to them.
- Take considerable time to explore all resources provided by the agency about their programming.
- Reach out to past interns for advice when possible.
- Craft an outstanding resume highlighting your biggest accomplishments and experience.
- Write a professional cover letter that is clear, concise, and free of errors.
- Only apply for internships where you clearly meet the criteria.
- Apply to more than one internship to increase your chances of landing an opportunity.
If you make it through the initial application process, you’ll probably move on to an interview phase. Choose professional attire, practice interviewing with a parent or friend, and try to be yourself. They are looking for promising, unique individuals who can help advance their field.
Discover your career options through internships before choosing the career you’ll likely hold for the majority of your adult life. The job may be your dream job or it may not be a good fit. Teenagers can gain valuable knowledge through government internships in either case.