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16 Best STEM Internships for High School Students 

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

STEM education

16 Best STEM Internships for High School Students

In the dynamic world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), high school students can gain valuable experience and enhance their college applications through targeted internships. These opportunities provide hands-on experience, foster professional connections, and offer insights into various STEM fields.

This article provides a comprehensive review of the best STEM internships for high school students, examines the benefits of such opportunities and their influence on college admissions, and offers strategies to maximize these experiences for enhanced personal and professional development.

Best STEM Internships for High School Students

For high school students passionate about STEM, engaging in an internship can be a transformative experience. This unique opportunity will provide you with valuable insights into the world of cutting-edge research and innovative development within various STEM fields.

Here are the best STEM internships for high school students, offering hands-on experience, expert mentorship, and a chance to work on impactful projects in science, technology, engineering, and math.

1. NASA High School Internship Programs

  • Location: Varies (Depends on chosen internship)
  • Cost: None
  • Program Dates: Mid-January – Early May (Spring Session); Late May/Early June – August (Summer Session); Late August/Early September – Mid-December (Fall Session)
  • Application Deadline: Early November (Spring Session); Early March (Summer Session); Early July (Fall Session)
  • Eligibility: Applicants are required to be U.S. citizens and have at least a 3.0 GPA. They should be 16 years or older at the time they apply.

NASA’s high school internship programs, overseen by the Office of STEM Engagement (OSTEM), provide a unique opportunity for high school and college-level students to contribute to NASA’s mission of advancing science, technology, aeronautics, and space exploration. These paid internships are designed to immerse students in the practical aspects of NASA’s work, allowing them to gain invaluable work experience by collaborating directly with mentors.

View of NASA signage

These mentors include research scientists, engineers, and professionals from various fields, offering broad exposure to the cutting-edge work being done at NASA. Whether opting for full-time or part-time internships, students have the flexibility to work at a NASA center facility or remotely from home or a dorm, making it an accessible opportunity for students across the country.

2. Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SEAP)

  • Location: Varies (Depends on assigned internship)
  • Cost: None
  • Program Dates: Unspecified (Lasts for eight weeks during the summer)
  • Application Deadline: November 1, 2024 (for 2025 Summer Program)
  • Eligibility: Applicants must have finished Grade 9, be enrolled in high school (though taking college classes for credit is acceptable), and be at least 16 years old by the start date. Most labs also require U.S. citizenship, but a few will consider permanent residents.

One of the best STEM internships for high school students is the Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SEAP). This program connects high school students with the Department of Navy (DoN) laboratories for eight weeks during the summer. Targeting academically gifted sophomores to seniors keen on STEM, SEAP offers an immersive experience in Naval research and development, guided by top scientists and engineers.

This competitive program secures about 300 spots across more than 38 labs nationwide, serving as a potential pathway to careers within the DoN. Interns gain exposure to various research projects in engineering, robotics, cybersecurity, astronomy, biomedical studies, and environmental science. Stipends are awarded based on actual hours worked, including federal holidays, and are distributed in installments throughout the internship.

3. National Institutes of Health (NIH) High School Summer Internship Program (HS-SIP)

  • Location: Varies
  • Cost: None
  • Program Dates: June-August 2024 (Lasts for 6-8 weeks during the summer)
  • Application Deadline: February 16, 2024 (Already closed)
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and at least 17 years old by June 15, 2024. Additionally, they need to be enrolled as juniors or seniors in high school at the time of application. U.S. citizens are eligible if enrolled at least half-time and permanent residents are required to be enrolled in a U.S. high school.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Summer Internship Program in Biomedical Research offers a pivotal experience for 11th and 12th graders who are passionate in research and healthcare careers. Positioned within the NIH Intramural Research Program across various campuses, including Bethesda, MD, this program assigns full-time research roles to students within NIH Institutes and Centers under a Principal Investigator’s (PI) guidance.

Participants gain exposure to various fields of science, including biomedical, behavioral, social, and health-related fields such as biology, engineering, and more. This hands-on approach immerses students in basic, translational, and clinical research and supports their future scientific endeavors by offering stipends that reflect their educational level.

4. Microsoft Discovery Program

  • Location: Microsoft Campus (Redmond, Washington)
  • Cost: None
  • Program Dates: July 10 – August 4 (2023 program schedule)
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified (Will re-open in February 2024)
  • Eligibility: To qualify for the program, applicants must be high school seniors residing and at least 16 years of age. They must strictly be enrolled in schools within 50 miles of Redmond, Washington, and have completed pre-calculus or its equivalent by the program’s start.

The Microsoft Discovery Program stands out as one of the best STEM internships for high school students, aimed at rising first-year college students intending to attend a bachelor’s degree program. This 4-week internship focuses on immersing participants in core computer science concepts while also honing career readiness skills under Microsoft employees’ guidance and mentorship.

a computer science reporting in front of his colleagues

Participants will explore various pathways in software development and computing research, learning how their passions can transition into a tech career at Microsoft or elsewhere. This paid internship aims to equip students with a strong foundation in technology and professional development.

5. Simons Summer Research Program

  • Location: Stony Brook University
  • Cost: None
  • Program Dates: July 1, 2024 – August 9, 2024
  • Application Deadline: February 7, 2024 (Already closed)
  • Eligibility: Candidates should be in their junior year (11th grade) of high school; they must hold U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status, and they need to be at least 16 years old by the program’s commencement.

The Simons Summer Research Program is a premier opportunity for academically talented high school students from across the nation to explore the world of research. Participants are nominated by their high schools and are then paired with faculty mentors from Stony Brook, joining research groups to take on significant projects in science, math, or engineering.

Throughout the program, they acquire hands-on research experience and learn laboratory techniques, contribute to active research teams, and immerse themselves in the academic environment of a leading research university. Beyond the lab, they participate in weekly faculty talks, workshops, tours, and events, enriching their understanding of the research field. The program culminates in a poster symposium where participants present their research abstracts and posters, and receive a stipend award for their contributions.

6. Research Science Institute (RSI)

  • Location: Research Science Institute at MIT
  • Cost: None
  • Program Dates: June 23, 2024 – August 3, 2024
  • Application Deadline: December 13, 2023 (Already closed for 2024 program)
  • Eligibility: Students who are in their junior year (also known as the third year or grade 11) of high school are eligible to apply. The program also welcomes international students who have completed the equivalent of three years of high school. High school seniors are not allowed to apply.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Research Science Institute (RSI) annually hosts one of the best STEM internships for high school students. Approximately 100 outstanding high school students from across the world are selected to participate in a cost-free program that combines classroom theory in various scientific disciplines, such as biology, chemistry, and engineering, with practical research experience.

RSI scholars begin their journey with a week of intensive STEM classes taught by distinguished professors. Then, students undertake individual projects guided by mentors who are seasoned scientists and researchers. In the final week, students focus on crafting both written and oral presentations to showcase their research findings. Beyond the lab, RSI students also explore the cultural and scientific landscape of the Boston area, participating in field trips and enjoying the natural beauty of New England.

7. Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR)

  • Location: Stanford University
  • Cost: $40 application fee or fee waiver
  • Program Dates: June 10, 2024 – August 1, 2024
  • Application Deadline: February 24, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school juniors or seniors as of fall 2023, belonging to the graduating classes of 2024 or 2025, and at least 16 years old by the start of the program are welcome to apply. Candidates must also reside and attend school in the U.S. and be U.S. citizens or permanent residents with a green card.

The Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR) is an enriching eight-week journey that welcomes high school students to explore the world of biomedical research at Stanford University. SIMR pairs each student with a mentor to work on a project that spans across eight distinct research areas or institutes, such as Immunology, Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, Bioengineering, and others, ensuring an interdisciplinary learning experience.

A researcher working on a object

From the onset, participants are immersed in a blend of lectures and lab work, dedicating around 40 hours a week to their research, culminating in a poster session to showcase their findings. The program provides a minimum of $500 stipend to all students and additional needs-based financial support is also available, making it an accessible and comprehensive introduction to scientific research.

8. National Security Agency (NSA) High School Work Study Program

  • Location: Varies (Depends on the internship)
  • Cost: None
  • Program Dates: September to August (Of their senior year)
  • Application Deadline: October 31, 2024
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be high school juniors aged 16 and above.

Students with backgrounds in fields such as business, engineering, computer science, applied arts, graphic arts, or manufacturing gain practical work experience through the National Security Agency’s High School Work Study Program. It matches students to part-time roles across NSA’s diverse departments based on their skills and the departments’ needs. Administrative and technical roles include office assistance and computer aide positions, where students handle basic administrative tasks or work with cutting-edge data processing equipment.

Meanwhile, vocational roles offer experiences in machining, graphic design, and assembly line tasks, providing hands-on skills in modern manufacturing and design techniques. Language students can apply their Chinese or Russian skills in real-world contexts, enhancing their proficiency in these critical languages. This program allows students to learn about the inner workings of national security and prepares them for potential careers in this vital field.

9. SPARK Summer Internship Program (SPARKSIP)

  • Location: Varies (Depends on the internship)
  • Cost: None
  • Program Dates: June to August 2024 (8 to 10 weeks)
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified (To be announced around March to April 2024)
  • Eligibility: Students currently in grades 9 through 12 are eligible to apply. This opportunity is open exclusively to U.S. citizens or permanent residents living in the United States.

The SPARK Summer Internship Program (SPARKSIP) is one of the best STEM internships for high school students across the USA, most specifically for those from the Greater Seattle area. Acting as a bridge, SPARKSIP facilitates opportunities for students to engage with experts with industry leaders in engineering, science, and business, professors from esteemed institutions, and community leaders, thereby nurturing their professional and personal growth.

After a rigorous selection process, the top applicants are shortlisted for interviews with potential internship providers, offering placements in various focus. Internships range from 20 to 40 hours per week and may come with a stipend of up to $500. Last year’s projects include the Detection tool for Tick-Borne Infections or Breast Cancer, Social Media Content Generation, and more topics ranging from technical research and development to marketing and software engineering.

10. Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory High School Summer Internship

  • Location: Princeton University (Forrestal Campus)
  • Cost: None
  • Program Dates: June to August 2024 (8 to 10 weeks)
  • Application Deadline: March 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be at least 16 years old and a graduating high school senior as the internship starts. They must also be United States citizens or permanent resident aliens at the time of application.

The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, offers an internship opportunity for high school seniors through its science education department. Interns commit to terms ranging from 8 weeks in the summer following graduation, engaging in projects alongside PPPL’s research or engineering staff.

This program is tailored for students with an enthusiasm for plasma physics and fusion energy, and the program advises that applicants have relevant experience in experimental or computational plasma physics projects. Moreover, having a good foundation in physics, chemistry, math, engineering, coding (Python or Java), or CAD software (SolidWorks, AutoCAD) is highly beneficial for participants.

Group of student working on their laptops.

11. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Scholars Program

  • Location: Varies (Depends on the site/project)
  • Cost: None
  • Program Dates: Varies (Depends on the site/project)
  • Application Deadline: Varies (Depends on the site/project)
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be U.S. citizens and at least 16 years old by the application deadline. They must be enrolled or accepted in an educational program on at least a half-time basis, leading to a degree or certificate, and maintain a good academic standing.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Scholars Program extends stipend-paid internships to upper-level high school students, alongside undergraduate and graduate students pursuing STEM degrees. These internships are hosted at various AFRL sites across the U.S., including Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, Eglin AFB in Valparaiso, and the AMOS site in Maui, providing broad exposure to cutting-edge research and technology in defense.

High school interns at AFRL gain hands-on experience by working with scientists and engineers on research projects, applying classroom knowledge in real-world settings to enhance their STEM understanding and influence future academic and career choices. Interns then receive a competitive stipend that is determined by their academic standing just before the internship starts, the number of weeks they participate, and the location of the internship.

12. Engineering Summer Academy at University of Pennsylvania (ESAP)

  • Location: Varies (Depends on the site/project)
  • Cost: $85 (Non-refundable application fee); $8500 (Program fee)
  • Program Dates: July 7, 2024 -July 27, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 1, 2024 (Priority Application Deadline); April 5, 2024 (General Application Deadline)
  • Eligibility: Open to students from rising sophomores to rising seniors, and are at least 15 years old by the program start. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA or equivalent, with preference to those who excel in math and science, including honors and advanced coursework.

The Engineering Summer Academy at the University of Pennsylvania (ESAP) is considered as one of the best STEM internships for high school students, offering a unique opportunity to experience the world of engineering at the collegiate level. Through an intensive three-week program, students engage with complex theories and gain hands-on experience with the latest technologies under the guidance of Penn’s leading faculty.

In addition to earning college credit, participants live on the historic UPenn campus, making connections with peers from across the globe. Students can choose from one of seven courses offered at ESAP: Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology, Complex Networks, Computer Graphics, Computer Science, Nanotechnology, and Robotics. By participating in ESAP, students can advance their understanding of engineering concepts and experience life on a college campus.

13. Broad Summer Scholars Program (BSSP)

  • Location: Broad Institute
  • Cost: None
  • Program Dates: June 3, 2024 – August 2, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 22, 2024 (Already closed)
  • Eligibility: Eligible BSSP candidates include rising high school seniors from Massachusetts schools within commuting distance of the Broad Institute. They must also have achieved at least a B in science and math classes. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or non-U.S. citizens with employment authorization, such as DACA.

The Broad Summer Scholars Program (BSSP) at the Broad Institute is an enriching six-week program for highly motivated high school students passionate about science. Participants are paired with Broad scientists to conduct original research projects in fields like cancer biology, psychiatric disease, and computational biology, among others. Beyond research, students dive into the scientific community through career exploration, attending lectures, presenting their work in a poster session, and engaging in social events with peers of similar interests.

Medical Research Laboratory

The program boasts significant benefits, including no application or attendance fees, a $3,600 stipend, partial travel cost reimbursements, and access to tutoring for project-related scientific concepts. Students also receive training in creating and presenting scientific posters, gain exposure to a variety of scientific techniques, and enjoy social and team-building activities, making BSSP a comprehensive and immersive summer research experience.

14. Introductory College Level Experience in Microbiology (iCLEM)

  • Location: Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI)
  • Cost: None
  • Program Dates: June 10, 2024 – July 26, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 17, 2024
  • Eligibility: To be eligible for the program, applicants must be 15 by December 31, 2023, enrolled as a sophomore or junior in a high school in Alameda, Contra Costa, or San Francisco County. They must be either a US citizen, permanent resident, or DACA recipient. Applicants must also have a minimum GPA of 2.5 and have passed Algebra 1 and Biology. Lastly, applicants must belong to a household earning below the specified income limits for their county, with adjustments for larger families.

The Introductory College Level Experience in Microbiology (iCLEM) is a paid summer program for economically disadvantaged high school sophomores and juniors interested in biotechnology, microbiology, and biofuels. This seven-week program involves students in hands-on research projects in cutting-edge labs under the guidance of JBEI researchers and UC undergraduates.

Beyond the lab, iCLEM prepares students for college admissions through workshops on personal statements, admissions requirements, and financial aid. iCLEM also provides career exploration activities, including talks with STEM professionals and company visits. This comprehensive approach ensures participants not only expand their scientific knowledge but also prepare academically and professionally for future success.

15. National Institute of Standards and Technology Summer High School Intern Program (SHIP)

  • Location: Varies (NIST Campuses: Boulder, CO, and Gaithersburg, MD)
  • Cost: None
  • Program Dates: June 17, 2024 – August 9, 2024
  • Application Deadline: February 9, 2024 (Already closed)
  • Eligibility: The program welcomes U.S. citizens in their junior and senior years of high school, including recent graduates who have not yet started college, with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and an interest in scientific research.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) hosts one of the best STEM internships for high school students at its Boulder, CO, and Gaithersburg, MD campuses. The Summer High School Intern Program (SHIP) is an eight-week, unpaid internship where students are given the unique opportunity to work alongside NIST’s leading scientists on individual research projects.

Although the program does not provide housing or transportation, it offers exposure to real-world scientific research across six key NIST laboratories. These laboratories cover a broad spectrum of physical and engineering sciences, focusing on developing measurement methods, tools, data, and technology to meet industry needs, providing students with a well-rounded and practical learning experience.

16. UC Davis Young Scholars Program

  • Location: UC Davis
  • Cost:  $40 (Non-refundable application fee); $6,750 (Program cost)
  • Program Dates:  June 23, 2024 – August 3, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 15, 2024
  • Eligibility: Participants must be high school sophomores or juniors and at least 16 years old by the program’s start date, without turning 18 before the program ends.

The UC Davis Young Scholars Program is a six-week summer residential opportunity for around 40 high-achieving high school students to engage in original research within the biological, agricultural, environmental, and natural sciences. Working closely with research faculty and groups in advanced laboratories, each participant focuses on an individual project, culminating in the creation of a journal-quality paper and a presentation at a research symposium.

View of UC Davis sign

Beyond the lab, the program also aims to acquaint students with the academic and social climate of college life, providing a realistic preview of university experiences. Enrolled students earn five units of University Group Study Credit, with assignments including research notebooks, a detailed article on their project, and presentations both at a symposium and their own high schools.

Why Are Internships Important?

Why are internships important? Internships are a critical step toward building a successful career, offering students hands-on experience that bridges the gap between academic theories and their application in the real world. They allow students to see the direct impact of their studies in practical scenarios, enhancing their understanding and effectiveness as future professionals.

Learning Beyond the Classroom

Internships provide a platform for students to apply classroom theories to practical scenarios, offering a clearer perspective on how their studies impact the real world. This practical experience is invaluable, as it equips students with a deeper understanding of their field, making them more effective and competent professionals in the future.

Building Skills That Matter

Internships are not only beneficial for technical skills but also for developing essential soft skills such as teamwork, communication, and problem-solving. In the professional world, the capacity to work collaboratively, express ideas clearly, and approach obstacles creatively is just as vital as technical expertise.

hands being held out on top of each other, symbolizing teamwork and collaboration

Internships provide a platform for students to refine these abilities in a professional environment, equipping them with the necessary skills to navigate the intricacies of the modern workplace.

Boosting Confidence and Providing Career Clarity

Transitioning from education into the workforce can feel overwhelming. Through these internships, students see this shift within a safe and structured context, which greatly bolsters their self-confidence. By successfully accomplishing assignments and actively participating in genuine projects, they strengthen their trust in themselves and prepare for upcoming challenges.

Additionally, internships enable students to delve into various occupational fields and industries, thereby uncovering areas where their passions intersect with their capabilities. This direct exposure helps them make well-informed choices regarding their careers, lessens ambiguity, and guides them toward prosperity.

Internships go beyond academic obligations; they are a crucial part of a student’s growth, providing hands-on experience, skill enhancement, and clear career direction, that are crucial in today’s competitive job market.

How Do STEM Internships Impact Your College Chances?

Securing a prestigious STEM internship can significantly enhance your college application, showcasing your commitment and passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

These internships, particularly those affiliated with reputable institutions or companies, can elevate your profile and set you apart from others. Participating in the best STEM internships for high school students demonstrate academic prowess and students’ proactive approach to immersing themselves in their chosen field.

So, how do STEM internships impact your college chances? Colleges and universities, particularly those with competitive admissions processes, look favorably upon students who have demonstrated such initiative. Internships provide tangible evidence of a student’s dedication to STEM, highlighting practical skills and real-world experience that classroom learning alone cannot offer.

Beyond just grades and test scores, internship experiences showcase a student’s ability to apply knowledge in practical settings, work collaboratively with professionals, and navigate challenges outside the academic environment. This hands-on experience reflects a student’s readiness for the rigors of college-level STEM programs and their potential to contribute meaningfully to the campus community.

In the context of holistic review, where admissions officers assess candidates based on a wide range of criteria, internships can be a decisive factor. They not only affirm a student’s academic interest and excellence in STEM but also illustrate qualities like curiosity, resilience, and leadership—attributes highly sought after in prospective college students.

STEM education background

Thus, STEM internships not only enrich a student’s educational journey but also significantly impact their college admission chances by presenting them as well-rounded, experienced, and passionate candidates ready to tackle the challenges of higher education and beyond.

How to Make the Most of Your High School Internship

The best STEM internships for high school students offer a chance to explore interests, acquire new skills, and lay the groundwork for future careers. As a high school student seeking these opportunities, how can you ensure that you’re maximizing this experience?

Here are some strategies on how to make the most of your high school internship.

1. Seize Learning and Networking Opportunities

Instead of waiting for opportunities to come to you, actively seek out challenging projects, request to attend meetings, and make the most of any training sessions available. Showing initiative can lead to more meaningful learning experiences.

It’s also important to make a conscious effort to connect with individuals outside of your immediate team. Schedule informational interviews with professionals in roles or departments that pique your interest. These connections can offer valuable insights and guidance for your career path.

2. Document Your Experiences and Accomplishments

Regularly jot down what you learn each day, including new skills, tools you’ve utilized, and any feedback you receive. This will not only reinforce your learning but also provide a comprehensive record for future reflection.

Writing on an arm chair.

Preserve copies of your work, such as reports, presentations, or project plans you’ve contributed to. With permission, these can be included in your portfolio or referenced in future applications to showcase your capabilities.

3. Cultivate Long-Term Relationships

Identify someone within the organization whose career journey inspires you and inquire about the possibility of them mentoring you. A mentor can offer guidance, support, and even advocate for you in professional settings.

As your internship draws to a close, ensure that you obtain contact information from colleagues, mentors, and peers. Connect with them on professional networking platforms and keep in touch by sharing updates about your academic and career progress.

4. Making Your Internship Count

An internship is more than just an entry on your resume; it’s a learning experience that can significantly shape your career path. By taking an active role in your learning, meticulously recording your experiences and achievements, and fostering strong, enduring relationships, you can transform your high school internship into a foundational step toward future success.

woman wearing a backpack while carrying books

Remember, the effort you invest in maximizing your internship today can yield substantial benefits in your academic and professional future.

The best STEM internships for high school students are instrumental in enhancing the educational and professional journeys of young learners. Getting involved in these internships early helps build a strong foundation for a successful career, allowing students to explore, learn, and excel in their chosen STEM fields.

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