Internships are one of the most important ways students gain experience and start to make contacts within their field. College students hold most of the available internships but more opportunities are now available for high school students looking to get valuable work experience.
Why intern in high school?
The idea of pursuing an internship probably doesn't cross most high school students' minds, which is an excellent reason to pursue one. Work experience at a respected company or organization, especially if it's related to a field you might pursue in college, will only strengthen your college applications. It's a great way to stand out from the crowd.
Secondly, an internship will allow you to explore potential careers and courses of study for college. You might confirm that newspaper journalism is the career of your dreams, or find out that software programming isn't exactly how you'd imagined it. You may also discover other fields and positions you hadn't considered before.
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Finally, an internship can help you understand how a professional organization operates. Within that organization you'll gain access to valuable contacts who may lead you to other opportunities as you progress through school.
Where to find an internship?
Some organizations like Microsoft, the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian have formal internship programs designed for high school students. Typically, these programs are limited to students in the region. Research companies in the industry that interests you and check their Web sites for opportunities.
Internships are not just available with large corporations in urban areas either. Often local newspapers, museums and other businesses will offer internship opportunities. Start asking around at local business associations to see what is available in your community.
Don't give up if these companies don't formally list an internship program for high school students. Try to identify a human resources representative or department manager you can send an email or letter to. Ask your parents, your friends' parents, your relatives and anyone else who might be willing to help you if they're aware of any opportunities. Contact professional organizations in your area of interest.
How to apply
Companies with formal internship programs generally have specific procedures outlined on their Web sites. If you're trying to create your own opportunity, craft a one page resume that outlines your skills, education and interests along with a cover letter that explains your interest in their organization.
Below are links to some internship programs designed specifically for high school students. Each one has different qualifications and parameters, so be sure to read the information carefully. If you don't see a program that's right for you in the list below, use the Internet, your local library and your own personal connections to uncover other opportunities.
Museum of Modern Art
Berkley Center for Science and Engineering Education
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
Johns Hopkins University: Materials Research Science and Engineering Center