Summer Internships for High School Students – 2023 Guide

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In search of summer internships for high school students? We’ve compiled an extensive internship list in our High School Student Summer Internships Guide.

Summer Internships for High School Students

Lazy summers are so last year! Make this summer of high school count by choosing to participate in a summer internship.

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Whether you’re interning at the local nursing home or with the Secret Service, the work you do will help you make important decisions about your future. You will gain insight into the field, learn valuable new skills and meet new people.

If you’re considering a summer internship, we’ve got all the important details – paid or unpaid, internships abroad, how to find positions – and we’ll even share some links to reputable internships you may be interested in.

2023 Guide of Summer Internships for High School Students

What Is a Summer Internship for High School Students?

high school student searching for internship online

Summer internships can offer high school students a short-term job experience in a field they may be considering. It’s an opportunity to learn about the industry and the different career options available, and to network with professionals.

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Having a summer internship on your resume or college application will set you apart from other applicants. It will show your commitment and tenacity. And in highly competitive fields especially, the connections made through internships can lead to job recommendations and offers years down the road.

Are Summer Internships Paid or Unpaid?

high school intern reading in library

Most internships are unpaid, but there are laws to ensure it is still a valuable experience for you. In order for a company to offer an unpaid internship, the position must meet certain standards established by the U.S. Department of Labor. These standards include:

  • The intern and employer both understand that there is no expectation of compensation.
  • The internship provides training similar to that which would be given in an educational environment.
  • The internship is tied to a formal education program through integrated coursework and/or receipt of credit.
  • The internship accommodates academic commitments and follows the academic calendar.
  • The internship is for a limited time.
  • The intern complements rather than displaces paid employees.
  • The intern and employer both understand that there is no entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.

As long as these qualifications are met, the internship may be unpaid. Occasionally interns have access to non- monetary perks, such as access to an on-site fitness facility, free meals, free classes or seminars, or travel reimbursement. But even without pay or perks, the experience affords you the unique opportunity to see how the industry operates from the inside, and learn from and work alongside those in your dream profession.

Consider the internship an invaluable extension of your education, rather than a job. If the internship does not meet the Department of Labor’s criteria, it qualifies as a paid position and the employer is required to pay at least the federal minimum wage, as well as paid overtime.

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Of course, there are employers who don’t understand the law and some who choose to break it. Before accepting an internship, be sure you understand the expectations, outcome, and compensation so that it can be a positive learning opportunity for you!

Paid Summer Internships High School Students

group of HS students touring a university

While many summer internships are unpaid, it is possible to find a paid internship as a high school student! Expect to make minimum wage or slightly more, and perhaps have some nice perks.

Here are some examples of paid internships for high school students:

Getting paid is nice, but remember that all internships offer something of great value: a unique, hands-on learning opportunity.

Free Internships for High School Students

Many students get hung up on whether an internship is paid or unpaid, but it’s important to note that there are also internship experiences that you have to pay for.

Programs like these are highly competitive and usually include alluring perks – offering college-level courses, awarding a certificate or credential, providing travel opportunities, or paying for room and board, for example. Sometimes internships are combined with study abroad programs, in which case you will need to pay for your travel costs and living expenses.

Internship experiences like these – where you pay– are the exception, not the rule. If they are not offering something that makes the program worth the cost, look elsewhere. Most internships are free for you.

Types of Summer Internships for High School Students

student looking for a paid internship online

No matter what field you are considering, an internship can be a valuable way to learn more about it and make important decisions about the college or university you choose, your major and your long-term career goals.

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You will be exposed to the ins and outs of the industry, the expectations and responsibilities, the various rules and occupations and how they work together, and more. You can find internships in nearly any field, but here are some of the most common:

Be sure to follow the links to learn about exciting internships offered in each field and whether it’s for high school vs. college students.

Summer Internships for High School Students Abroad or Overseas

medical interns studying in a classroom

Completing a summer internship abroad or overseas is an incredible opportunity worth considering! During an abroad or overseas internship, you will be completely immersed in another culture – how people communicate, eat, live, work and interact in a foreign place. This may seem intimidating, but there are guides to help coordinate the experience and ensure your safety throughout the program.

Keep in mind that these aren’t paid internships. In fact, oftentimes you will have to pay for the experience (including travel expenses, room, and board, etc.). Think of it as a study abroad program in which you are immersing yourself even deeper, and giving back to the area you’re exploring.

Here are a few reputable programs that connect high school students with summer internships abroad or overseas:

  • Projects Abroad offer volunteer-based internships for those interested in nonprofit or humanitarian work. Work in dentistry in Ghana, human rights in Tanzania, or with wildlife in Zimbabwe – the possibilities are endless! Limit your search by country or by field.
  • Maximo Nivel takes interns to Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. You could work in fields like hospitality & tourism, business, human rights, special education, or customize your own internship experience.
  • GVI coordinates 6-24 week internships in Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and Australia. Choose from a number of fields – animal care, women’s empowerment, teaching, health, business and more!
  • GoAbroad is a comprehensive guide to study abroad, and internship abroad programs.

Internships like these are the perfect way to maximize your experience abroad and show college admissions officers or scholarship committees that you are very serious about your future.

How Do I Get a Summer Internship When I am a High School Student?

Internships are often geared more toward college students, so it can be a challenge to find internship opportunities as a high school student. Here are some helpful tips to get you started:

How to Find a Summer Internship

high school intern working in library

  1. 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!
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Look online. Utilize search sites such as CollegeVineGlassdoorIdealistGlassdoorIndeed and YouTern. Establish an account and upload your resume on the professional social media site LinkedIn, too.

How to Apply for a Summer Internship

Applying for an internship is just like applying for a job. Whether you are applying for finance, science, or medical internships for high school students, you should have a resume and cover letter that detail your experience, accomplishments, grades in high school, and interests.

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Be prepared for an interview, too. Dress and behave professionally. Make sure you are well-informed about the company and ask insightful questions.

How to Prepare for a Summer Internship

high school student reading book in library

If you’re interested in a summer internship in a particular field, make sure you are knowledgeable about that field. Have you taken all the courses your high school offers that relate to the field? Have you joined related clubs or organizations?

Once you have secured an internship, prepare by learning as much as you can about the company. The company’s website can be a valuable resource. Look for an about section and/or any news articles, and make note of the names and titles of important people.

Who Can Apply for Summer Internships?

Nearly any student can find and apply for a summer internship! Some opportunities are open to high school freshmen through seniors, but many employers limit the applicant pool to those who are 16 and older. Here are a few examples for you to consider:

Summer Internships for High School Freshmen

Summer Internships for High School Sophomores

Summer Internships for High School Juniors

Summer Internships for High School Seniors

Are Summer Internships Worth It?

group of intern students with computer at library

Almost always! Summer internships let you explore your interests, develop useful skills, and build your resume. You will learn about the workplace and different peoples’ roles so you can make decisions about which career path you might pursue.  And you can network with professionals who can provide the recommendations you need for college admissions or a scholarship application, or who could one day connect you with a job. There are even scholarships for high school sophomores.

The numbers support them, too. One study found that out of 362 companies surveyed, 90% agreed that high school internship programs can help students get into better colleges, 89% said they would have a competitive advantage when looking for a college internship or full-time job, and 83% said those internships would yield better-paying jobs.

However, if the internship isn’t within your budget, it’s not worth it. If it’s an unpaid internship and you can’t afford to live without a paycheck, you will have to pass. If it’s an internship you pay for but it’s going to put a financial strain on you, skip it and keep looking. Only commit to internships that are a good fit for you, your budget and your future.

Ready to start your journey?
Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.