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16 Government Internships for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Business people discussing documents and ideas at meeting

16 Government Internships for High School Students

Government internships for high school students are an invaluable resource for those seeking a head start on their careers. These internships allow students to gain valuable work experience and help them develop a network of professional contacts, understand workplace dynamics, and apply their academic knowledge in real-world scenarios.

From the intricacies of national defense and environmental conservation to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), government internships cover a broad spectrum of disciplines, catering to a wide range of interests and aspirations.

1. High School Summer Internship Program (HS-SIP) at NIH

  • Location: Various NIH campuses across the US.
  • Eligibility: U.S. citizens or permanent residents, at least 17 years old by June 15, 2024, enrolled as a junior or senior in high school.
  • Internship Period: Summer.

The High School Summer Internship Program (HS-SIP) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) stands out among government internships for high school students, offering a unique opportunity for young scholars to gain firsthand experience in biomedical, behavioral, and social science research under the guidance of the world’s leading scientists.

Health care researchers working in life science laboratory

This program is meticulously designed to introduce students to the intricacies of research across various disciplines, including biology, engineering, epidemiology, psychology, mathematics, chemistry, pharmaceutical sciences, nursing, physics, computer science, bioinformatics, and other health-related fields.

Participants in the HS-SIP are placed in research groups at the NIH, where they work closely with Principal Investigators to explore fundamental, translational, and clinical research, providing an unparalleled educational experience beyond traditional classroom learning.

Eligibility for the program is specific; applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, at least 17 years of age by June 15 of the program year, and enrolled in high school as juniors or seniors at the time of their application.

2. Pathways Internship Program at USAID

  • Location: Nationwide opportunities.
  • Eligibility: At least 16 years old, enrolled in high school or higher education, maintaining a 2.5 GPA for undergraduates.
  • Internship Period: Varies by specific opportunity​.

The Pathways Internship Program at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) represents a significant opportunity within the realm of government internships for high school students, showcasing a structured path for young individuals to gain practical experience within the federal government while contributing to USAID’s mission of international development and humanitarian efforts.

This program is tailored to accommodate students at various educational levels, including high school, offering a rare chance to engage directly with global development projects and initiatives. Eligibility criteria are inclusive, requiring applicants to be at least 16 years of age, maintain student status, and possess a cumulative GPA that meets the program’s standards, opening doors for a diverse group of young aspirants.

Participants in the Pathways Internship Program can expect to be immersed in an environment that values learning, development, and professional growth, with assignments ranging from administrative support to more technical roles, depending on the student’s field of study and interests.

For high school students looking to explore careers in international development, public policy, or governmental affairs, the Pathways Internship Program at USAID offers a foundational experience that combines education with real-world application, making it a standout among government internships for high school students.

3. ED Student Volunteer Unpaid Internship Program

  • Location: Primarily Washington, D.C., but varies based on department needs.
  • Eligibility: At least 16 years old, enrolled, and seeking a degree or certificate in a qualifying educational institution.
  • Internship Period: Fall (September-December), Winter/Spring (January-May), Summer (May/June-July/August)​.

The ED Student Volunteer Unpaid Internship Program is a standout initiative among government internships for high school students, providing an invaluable glimpse into the workings of the U.S. Department of Education.

Students talking in a conference room.

This program is meticulously structured to offer students hands-on experience in various departments, contributing to projects directly impacting educational policies and programs nationwide. Eligibility extends to students at least 16 years old, showcasing a commitment to engaging young minds in the crucial areas of education reform and policy development.

Interns in this program can expect to dive into meaningful work, ranging from policy analysis and research to support administrative tasks, all while gaining insights into the federal government’s role in shaping education.

A unique aspect of this program is its flexibility in accommodating high school students’ schedules, offering positions throughout the fall, winter/spring, and summer, thus allowing participants to engage with the program at times that best fit their academic commitments.

For high school students eager to explore a career in government or education, the ED Student Volunteer Unpaid Internship Program offers a rare opportunity to contribute to meaningful projects, develop professional skills, and gain a deeper understanding of the educational landscape in the United States​.

4. White House Internship Program

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Eligibility: Detailed eligibility criteria are not specified, but the program encourages applications from individuals from every background.
  • Internship Period: Specific dates for the Summer 2024 session were mentioned, with the application period closing in November 2023​.

The White House Internship Program is a prestigious opportunity among government internships for high school students, offering a unique window into the inner workings of the Executive Office of the President and a firsthand understanding of the federal government’s operations.

Students talking in a debate.

This program is designed to make public service accessible and appealing to the brightest and most ambitious young Americans, inviting them to contribute to the President’s work serving the American people.

While the program is highly competitive and caters primarily to college students and recent graduates, its inclusivity and commitment to diversity encourage applications from all across the nation, including young individuals at the threshold of their collegiate journey.

Interns are selected for their strong commitment to public service, leadership potential, and dedication to the Administration’s goals. The internship provides assignments in various departments, offering tasks ranging from administrative support to substantive research and project coordination, ensuring a comprehensive learning experience.

5. U.S. EPA Internships

  • Location: Nationwide.
  • Eligibility: Limited to U.S. citizens only, with positions ranging from GS-2 to GS-7.
  • Internship Period: Most opportunities for summer internships are advertised in March, April, and May​.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Internships offer an exceptional pathway for high school students interested in contributing to environmental protection and sustainability efforts through government internships for high school students.

forensic science student examining a sample in microscope

These internships provide a practical introduction to the EPA’s vital work in safeguarding the natural environment and public health. Available in various EPA offices and laboratories across the United States, these opportunities enable students to gain hands-on experience in environmental science, research, policy, and administration.

Interns at the EPA can engage in various projects, from scientific research to community outreach and education, reflecting the agency’s multifaceted approach to environmental protection. The program is designed to accommodate students with diverse interests and backgrounds, emphasizing the importance of cultivating a knowledgeable and passionate workforce about environmental issues.

Through these internships, high school students can work alongside experienced professionals, gaining insights into career paths in environmental science and public service while contributing to meaningful projects that have a tangible impact on the planet and its inhabitants.

6. NAWCWD Cyber Security Internship 

  • Location: Various, including specific military and research facilities across the US.
  • Eligibility: Varies by program; generally focused on STEM fields, cybersecurity, and defense-related areas.
  • Internship Period: Varying by program, many offer summer or longer-term opportunities​.

The NAWCWD (Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division) Cyber Security Internship offers an invaluable opportunity for students interested in cybersecurity, marking it as a standout program among government internships for high school students.

student laptop

This program is designed to equip participants with the skills and knowledge necessary to address the growing challenges in cybersecurity and IT within the defense sector. Participating in this internship gives high school students a rare chance to engage directly with cutting-edge technologies and methodologies to protect national security interests from cyber threats.

Interns work alongside experienced professionals in a real-world environment, gaining hands-on experience in cybersecurity practices, including threat analysis, digital forensics, and implementing security measures.

The program’s focus on training students to fill skill gaps in cybersecurity and IT fields makes it a critical component of the national effort to enhance cyber defenses. For high school students who are passionate about technology and looking for careers that contribute to the nation’s safety and security, the NAWCWD Cyber Security Internship provides a rigorous and engaging introduction to the field.

7. Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE)

  • Location: Various, depending on the specific program.
  • Eligibility: Connects the most talented and diverse college students, recent graduates, postdocs, and faculty to STEM internship and fellowship programs. While primarily focused on higher education levels, high school opportunities may be available in specific programs.
  • Internship Period: Varies by program​.

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) provides a stellar framework for government internships for high school students, focusing on enhancing education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields across various levels of academic achievement.

a man shaking hands with a robotic hand

ORISE operates under the Department of Energy with a mission to foster scientific research and education initiatives, offering high school to doctoral-level students the opportunity to participate in projects and internships that contribute to the DOE’s research and development agenda.

For high school students, ORISE presents an invaluable chance to immerse themselves in real-world scientific research and projects that address some of the most pressing challenges in environmental science, renewable energy, and national security.

These internships not only allow students to gain hands-on experience in their field of interest but also work alongside some of the leading scientists and researchers in the nation. This experience is instrumental in developing a robust foundation in STEM disciplines, encouraging critical thinking, innovation, and problem-solving skills.

8. Office of Naval Research (ONR) Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Program

  • Location: Various, linked to HBCUs and ONR activities.
  • Eligibility: Designed to increase participation of HBCUs/MIs in the Navy’s research and activities. Specific eligibility details for high school students need to be more detailed but are generally focused on promoting diversity and inclusion in STEM fields.
  • Internship Period: Not specified.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Program exemplifies a significant commitment to diversity and inclusion within government internships for high school students.

female student while in an online class

This initiative is specifically designed to enhance the participation of students and faculty from HBCUs in the Navy’s research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) activities. The program aims to leverage the unique perspectives, talents, and innovations these institutions and their students bring by fostering collaborations between HBCUs and the naval research community.

The ONR HBCU Program opens doors to opportunities that might otherwise be inaccessible for high school students, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds. It provides a platform for young scholars to engage in cutting-edge research projects that have direct applications in national defense and security, thereby contributing to the technological advancement and readiness of the Navy.

Participation in the program allows students to gain valuable hands-on experience in their field of interest. It helps build a pipeline of talented and diverse individuals well-prepared to meet the Navy’s and the nation’s future workforce needs.

9. Student STEM Employment Program (SSEP)

  • Location: Various within the Department of Navy’s establishments.
  • Eligibility: Part of the pipeline for future workforce in STEM fields, indicating a focus on high school, BS, MS, and Ph.D. students.
  • Internship Period: Not specified.

The Student STEM Employment Program (SSEP) is a dynamic initiative designed to foster the next generation of STEM professionals, offering government internships for high school students.

Chemist/Engineer holding a test tube inside a lab

This program is an excellent opportunity for young enthusiasts to gain early exposure to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, setting a solid foundation for their future careers. Through SSEP, high school students are given a chance to work on real-world problems, contributing to significant projects that have the potential to impact society at large.

Participation in SSEP allows students to immerse themselves in the practical applications of their academic studies, bridging the gap between textbook knowledge and its application in professional settings. This hands-on experience is crucial for developing a deep understanding of STEM subjects, encouraging innovation, and nurturing problem-solving skills.

Moreover, the program connects students with mentors and professionals in their field of interest, offering invaluable networking opportunities that can guide their academic and career paths.

10. Volunteer Student Internship (VSI) Program

  • Location: Various, likely within Department of Defense establishments.
  • Eligibility: Offers unpaid work experience in different career fields, suggesting openings for high school students.
  • Internship Period: Not specified.

The Volunteer Student Internship (VSI) Program offers high school students an enriching opportunity for engagement in government internships, aiming to provide them with a firsthand look at the workings of federal agencies.

a male student doing community work

This program allows students to volunteer their time and skills, gaining valuable experience and insights into the federal government’s daily operations. Through participation in the VSI Program, high school students can explore potential career paths within the government sector, understand the importance of public service, and contribute meaningfully to the community.

The VSI Program is particularly beneficial for students interested in gaining early professional experience, offering a variety of roles across different departments that can complement their academic pursuits and personal interests.

This exposure enhances their resumes and provides practical skills and knowledge beneficial for college applications and future career opportunities. Furthermore, the program encourages the development of professional networks, enabling students to connect with mentors and professionals who can offer guidance and support for their future endeavors.

11. Workforce Recruitment Program

  • Location: Nationwide, across various government agencies.
  • Eligibility: For college students with disabilities, a range of opportunities is offered. While the focus is on college students, there may be provisions for high school students in related programs.
  • Internship Period: Summer or permanent jobs; specific times may vary.

The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) is a laudable initiative that creates pathways for government internships for high school students, particularly those with disabilities, underscoring the government’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity in the workplace.

View of hands placed on top of each other.

This program serves as a bridge, connecting students and recent graduates with disabilities to employers across various federal agencies offering them a unique opportunity to demonstrate their skills, talents, and potential in a real-world setting. The WRP emphasizes the importance of providing equal employment opportunities, aiming to dismantle barriers these students might face in their career journeys.

For high school students with disabilities, the WRP represents more than just an internship; it’s an entry point into a supportive and accommodating work environment that values their contributions and fosters their professional growth.

The WRP’s focus on accessibility and equal opportunity makes it a pivotal program for students seeking to kickstart their careers, offering them the tools and support necessary to succeed in the competitive job market.

12. Air Force Research Lab Scholars Program

  • Location: Select locations across the U.S.
  • Eligibility: Open to upper-level high school students pursuing STEM degrees, offering stipend-paid summer internships.
  • Internship Period: Summer; specific dates vary by year.

The Air Force Research Lab Scholars Program is an exceptional opportunity among government internships for high school students, specifically designed to engage and inspire the next generation of STEM leaders through hands-on participation in cutting-edge research.

Medical Research Laboratory

This program allows high school, undergraduate, and graduate students to work alongside top Air Force scientists and engineers on projects at the forefront of technological innovation. The initiative is tailored to foster a deep understanding of and appreciation for the vast opportunities within aerospace, engineering, and science research.

For high school participants, the program is an invaluable introduction to real-world applications of STEM education, offering a glimpse into potential careers within the defense sector and beyond.

Interns are exposed to advanced research and mentored by experienced professionals, providing a rich learning environment that encourages curiosity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. This mentorship and hands-on experience are pivotal in helping students realize their potential and the impact they can have through careers in STEM.

13. Premier College Intern Program (PCIP)

  • Location: Various across Air Force establishments.
  • Eligibility: Provides hands-on experience with cutting-edge projects/technologies. While named “College” Intern Program, there may be opportunities at the high school level in related areas.
  • Internship Period: Not specified.

The Premier College Intern Program (PCIP) is an innovative initiative designed to provide students with an immersive experience in various fields within the Air Force, offering a unique perspective on government service and operations.

The Air Force Academy front building

Although the program primarily targets college students, its structured approach and focus on professional development provide valuable insights that can be considered aspirational for high school students thinking about future internships and career paths. PCIP stands out by providing hands-on experience with cutting-edge projects and technologies, allowing participants to contribute to meaningful work that supports national security and defense.

Participants in the PCIP gain technical skills and a deeper understanding of teamwork, leadership, and the critical role of technology and analysis in addressing contemporary challenges. This program is especially significant for those interested in careers that combine public service with innovation and technical excellence.

By working closely with experienced professionals and engaging in real-world projects, interns can apply their academic knowledge in practical settings, enhancing their learning experience and preparing them for future careers in a competitive and ever-evolving job market.

14. DOD College Acquisition Internship Program (DCAIP)

  • Location: Various within Army acquisition organizations.
  • Eligibility: Targets eligible college students for a 10-week paid summer internship. The focus is on college students, but high school students might find relevant opportunities in associated programs.
  • Internship Period: 10 weeks during summer.

The DOD College Acquisition Internship Program (DCAIP) provides a strategic pathway for students to engage directly with the Department of Defense’s acquisition, technology, and logistics sectors, aiming to cultivate the next generation of acquisition professionals.

Veteran African Man Person Education. Army Soldier

While this program is specifically designed for college students, its framework and objectives serve as a critical reference point for high school students interested in exploring government internships and defense and national security careers. DCAIP offers a 10-week paid summer internship, where participants gain hands-on experience through involvement in significant projects that support the Department of Defense’s mission.

This opportunity allows interns to work closely with seasoned professionals, gaining insights into procurement, technology development, and logistics complexities underpinning national defense capabilities.

The program is instrumental in developing the skills and knowledge necessary for a successful career in acquisition, including problem-solving, communication, and project management. For high school students looking toward their future careers, the DCAIP highlights the importance of academic preparation in relevant fields such as engineering, business, and information technology and the value of early involvement in internships and professional experiences.

15. Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) Intern Program

  • Location: Various, within DFAS offices.
  • Eligibility: Not specified, but generally aimed at students interested in finance and accounting.
  • Internship Period: Not specified.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) Intern Program is a pivotal initiative that provides an essential platform within the scope of government internships for high school students. However, its primary focus is on college-level participants.

3 people talking to each other

This program is tailored to immerse interns in the intricate world of military finance, offering a comprehensive overview of accounting, financial management, and the operational support that underpins the United States Department of Defense.

The DFAS Intern Program is an inspiring example of the opportunities ahead for high school students looking towards a future in finance, accounting, or government service. The program underscores the importance of meticulous financial management and accountability within the federal government, providing a real-world context to theoretical knowledge acquired in academic settings.

Interns engage in various tasks, from financial analysis to budget support, under the guidance of seasoned professionals. This hands-on experience is instrumental in developing a robust understanding of government finance operations, preparing participants for a career in this vital area of public service.

16. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Student Opportunities

  • Location: NGA facilities and possibly other locations.
  • Eligibility: Open to high school, associate, undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students in various fields.
  • Internship Period: Real work experience with benefits similar to full-time employees; the possibility of conversion to full-time employment​.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Student Opportunities program is a remarkable example of how government internships for high school students can serve as a critical entry point into the world of intelligence and geospatial science.

programmer working on mobile phone and laptop with binary, javascript computer code, big data on virtual screen

This initiative offers young learners the chance to immerse themselves in the fascinating realm of geospatial intelligence (GEOINT), where the analysis of imagery and geospatial information is used to enhance national security and defense capabilities.

The NGA’s commitment to educating the next generation of GEOINT professionals is evident in the breadth of opportunities it provides for students to engage in meaningful work alongside experienced mentors.

For high school students curious about careers in intelligence, science, technology, or geography, the NGA Student Opportunities program offers a compelling glimpse into their future paths, emphasizing the importance of geospatial technologies and analysis in contemporary society and national defense.

Conclusion

Early exposure to professional environments can significantly enhance a student’s career trajectory in today’s competitive job market. Government internships for high school students offer such an opportunity, providing a unique platform for young individuals to explore various career paths within the public sector.

They offer a glimpse into the workings of the public sector, promote civic engagement, and provide practical skills and experiences that benefit any career path. As students transition from the classroom to the professional world, these internships serve as a critical stepping stone, helping to shape informed, skilled, and motivated future leaders.

Whether it’s through contributing to national security, advancing scientific research, or supporting environmental sustainability, the experiences gained through these internships leave a lasting impact on students’ personal and professional development.

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