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How can get I get a summer internship in STEM with no prior experience?

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I'm a junior in high school and want to major in engineering. And I want to gain some experience in the field. However, any internships I find are for college students and/or require lots of experience. So how can I start to build my experience from the ground up? #engineering #stem

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John’s Answer

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Lauren now more than ever, organizations are actively searching for high school talent to help them with important research and project development initiatives. There are so many reasons that starting internships in high school can give you a competitive edge for both college and future careers.

GAIN RELEVANT INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE – Although other experiences, such as volunteering and traditional part-time jobs, help you develop important soft skills that you can take to any job, internships show you what it takes to succeed in the industry you’re interested in. STEM internships in particular will often allow you to focus on developing your logical and analytical thinking skills, solve problems, and acquire skills such as research, data analysis, or coding.

CONNECT WITH PROFESSIONALS IN YOUR FIELD – Many of the internships below pair you with a mentor, who not only guide you through some of the tasks you may be unfamiliar with, but they can share their educational and professional journey with you. You can ask them about what to do in your high school years to prepare for success in college and in your anticipated career.

STRENGTHEN YOUR RESUME – Internships count as a form of work experience, and they might catch the eye of future employers or college admissions counselors. Not only that, but the life experiences you have during an internship could provide you with rich material for an engaging admissions essay.

FIVE SUMMER STEM INTERNSHIP IDEAS

1. INTRODUCTORY COLLEGE LEVEL EXPERIENCE IN MICROBIOLOGY (iCLEM)
While not as traditional of an internship, this is an 8-week paid summer intensive that is designed for economically disadvantaged high school juniors and seniors. It is held at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, and in it students will gain skills in advanced scientific topics like microbiology, biochemistry, and biofuels as they work on a research project alongside JBEI researchers and undergrads. This opportunity is open to sophomores and juniors living in Alameda, Contra Costa, or San Francisco counties in California, have a 2.5 GPA or higher, and passed Algebra 1 and Biology. The application will be open starting January 24 and is due by March 21

2.) NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION (NASA)
Becoming a NASA Intern is a highly competitive process, where you’ll have the chance to work on cutting-edge research and receive mentorship from current NASA employees. Internships can be completed during the Fall, Spring, or Summer, and spaces for high school students are limited to select centers. To qualify, you need to be at least 16 years old and have a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale (or an unweighted 3.0 GPA). You can apply here, and you’ll need to make sure you have a strong letter of recommendation.

3.) SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM (SEAP)
This paid engineering internship targets high school students interested in conducting research over the summer. You’ll be working for eight weeks at a participating Department of Navy laboratory. To be eligible, you need to be at least a sophomore and 16 years old at the time of application. You can apply online here starting August 19.

4.) NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE
Get an inside look at healthcare research with an internship at the National Cancer Institute. As a scientific intern, you’ll develop the foundational skills needed to complete biomedical research and have a designated mentor who can share their educational and professional experiences with you. To be eligible, you need to be a junior in high school at the time of application and be at least 17 years old by the start of the program in June. You also need to have an unweighted GPA of 3.0 and the Hepatitis B vaccines. Start your application by creating an NCI account and then filling out the internship application when it becomes available in October.

5.) SPARK SUMMER INTERNSHIP PRGRAM
Spark is an organization that provides STEM enrichment opportunities to students in Seattle, Washington, and among those programs are internships with several partner companies. Their partner companies focus on computer science, with opportunities to work on software, mobile app development, and web programming. The exact requirements vary depending on the partner organization, but there is one common application. The application deadline is April 14, and you can apply online for up to three organizations.

Lauren this is by no means an exhaustive list of STEM internships! If you do your own research, you may find that local engineering firms, research facilities, or science museums have internships where you can gain invaluable experience and maybe earn a little cash.

Hope this was Helpful Lauren

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Charles’s Answer

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A tool that I found sort of too late is that it's often useful to simply write a letter to someone in the organization asking what opportunities might be available. For a company this would probably be a letter to HR, for a university this could be a department head or a director. Before you do this, be sure to do enough research to become familiar with the organization, some of the people in it, and what you are specifically interested in, but when you contact them, be open about what opportunities might exist (don't spend effort suggesting something, but do list specific related interests). Don't ask for internships: these are pretty narrow and specific. Instead, ask for learning opportunities, chances to job shadow, or other opportunities for youth to connect with career professionals and learn more about their work. Also remember that it's better to contact someone who seems more likely to have opportunities that might be interesting than to pour your heart into "the perfect match". You are young and this is your time to explore possibilities, not settle.

If that all sounds like a lot of work, that's because it is. Most STEM careers are looking to get youth excited, but aren't really ready for people to seriously engage until they have some college or professional experience. Still, putting in that work can open doors (or tell you early not to pursue something you might have wasted time on).

Finally, some advice that works here as well as many other situations: apply early, apply often. Remember that a small amount of time spent broadening choices now can have significant payoff later, and at worst you get some practice filling out applications. You don't always have to be a perfect fit to get an interview, and the more you interview, the more you'll know what it takes to get the job you want. That doesn't mean you should be ridiculous about your applications, and never, ever, lie; but don't assume that you can't get an internship that's looking for someone with a year's experience in the field.

No matter what, be sure to indicate that you appreciate people's time. Positive interactions can open invisible doors.
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Stephanie’s Answer

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Look into your local high school or school system to see if they offer a work co-op program. Utilize that program to get placed in a nearby company that manufactures or lab work. Typically there is always some company within a reasonable distance. Even if you are doing grunt work, the exposure helps define and mold future questions and understanding. I know some kids end up running CNC machines and doing inspection for components. The machines were set up by the programmers and just ran, but still, that exposure is great and is a great resume builder. The high school co-op could also turn into a summer internship or college co-op. If you are already in the system and prove yourself, usually companies are more inclined to keep someone they have invested in already. It's rarer these days, but occasionally a co-op will get offered a job after graduating college from the co-op company.

the other suggestion would be to reach out to companies directly. Use you family and friends' connections to see if you can get your foot in the door, even if its a limited summer internship.

Just some additional ideas to add to the other recommendations. Good luck.
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Andrew’s Answer

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Hello,

1. Some companies and organizations do offer internship for high school students. You can ask your School Counselors, teachers and search online to find out the programs. You may not be able to apply directly but instead bring them to attention of your counselors and ask them to recommend you.

2. Participate in science/engineering fairs and ask around may open some doors.
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Ganga Manjusha’s Answer

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Hi Lauren,

These are what helped me when I started my career fresh out of school...

1. Seek opportunities without hesitation.. If you know anyone from school or your family that works for a company, let them know you are interested to work as an intern and share your resume..

2. Be ready to work without Salary/ Income: Some Universities or startup companies offer apprenticeship to work on a specific project. These are great opportunities to understand company culture and get some corporate experience. You can add this experience to your resume which will surely give you attention from companies.

3. Use LinkedIn: Share your interest on your profile: what kind of opportunities you are looking for with the expertise you possess. Request people on your network to share your resume to the right people who can give you an opportunity.

4. Extra projects and Thesis work: This helped me a lot and landed me a job.. During my under graduation and graduation, apart from the course curriculum, I took an extra step to do additional projects and thesis work. I shared my interest on the subject (whatever interests you) with my professor and requested if he/she has any project or thesis work opportunities for me(These were unpaid projects). But, be ready to do that extra work-it will lot be harder and you will have less time for yourself on this path.But the knowledge and experience you gain is absolutely credible and useful to achieve your dreams.

5. Apply online: There are many companies (small/medium/large) who are willing to give opportunities to students with no prior experience.. Show them you are genuinely interested in the opportunity and willing to contribute to the project with best of your knowledge and willing to learn. How do you show you are willing to learn??? (Show them your initiative projects which you were totally unfamiliar with initially but you learnt that technology and successfully showcased your results or presented them..Show them your previous accomplishments)..

6. And most importantly, DON'T GIVEUP!!!!

Good luck and I hope you will find the role you are looking for soon :-)
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Riddhi’s Answer

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Dear Lauren,
Its great that you are showing interest as Junior. This is great time. You can always reach out and research Websites for Corporations or Research facilities in your area or online that might offer Internship opportunities, and also non-paid ones. A lot of corporations these days are doing various Volunteer STEM projects with area community schools. So they come and partner with community school. Use that opportunity to network and get contact information for the Engineers or Personnel involved in those projects. Leverage that to reach out to the HR person at that company to identify a way to get a internship, or volunteer opportunity to shadow someone. Including, join Organizations such as SWE (Society of Women Engineers), and local Engineering chapters to learn insight. Reach out and network with your friends and their parents who may be working in the field you are interested in to find career opportunities at their companies.
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Katherine’s Answer

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Lauren,

Try reaching out to the local chapters of professional organizations and ask about opportunities to job shadow. This is a valuable form of job exploration without the commitments of an internship.

Engineering in particular is such a broad field that it's worthwhile to get to understand more about the different types of engineering (civil, mechanical, electrical, computer, etc.) before transitioning into laboratory or industry internships which (rightly!) require some college training of the applicants.

While this may seem limiting or harsh to you, the truth is that engineering degrees are about learning a set of general skills, while engineering internships are about learning field-specific and job-specific software, standard procedures, and trying out typical workday tasks in a professional setting where those school principles are applied in practice.

As a civil engineer, I can say there was a huge difference between what I studied in school and what I did in my first year of practice.

If you choose to major and practice in one of the engineering disciplines that requires a P.E. (Professional Engineer) license for advancement, a four year degree is only the first step in the process.

You may also consider conducting informational interviews with engineers who work at different companies and/or in government. For example, you can ask them:

1. How/why did you choose this field?
2. What was your experience like in college?
3. Tell me about your internships.
4. What do you do in your typical day?
5. What would you do differently?
6. If I wanted to enter your field, what kinds of challenges should I expect?
7. May I email/call/follow up with you again later if I have some other questions? (If they decline, no problem, but you might end up with someone willing to be part of your long-term professional network.)

I mention reaching out to a local chapter of a national professional organization because I'm very active in my state's ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) chapter, and this kind of request is something I'd immediately grant, myself. The people I've met through ASCE have been invaluable sources of professional experience and guidance.

Rather than aiming directly for an internship, you might also try volunteering as a counselor or facilitator in a science workshop for younger children. The best way to learn information is to each someone else. This kind of teaching experience is what every mentor in your engineering career will be doing for you! Learn to be a good mentor early, yourself, and it will pay dividends throughout your life.

Katherine recommends the following next steps:

  • Contact your local or state chapters of professional engineering societies about opportunities to job shadow one of their members or talk to them for an informational interview.
  • Contact a local student chapter or 'younger members' forum and see if you can't participate in some of those activities.
  • Volunteer to be a facilitator or counselor for a science (STEM) outreach program for younger children.
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Riddhi’s Answer

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Dear Lauren,
Its great that you are showing interest as Junior. This is great time. You can always reach out and research Websites for Corporations or Research facilities in your area or online that might offer Internship opportunities, and also non-paid ones. A lot of corporations these days are doing various Volunteer STEM projects with area community schools. So they come and partner with community school. Use that opportunity to network and get contact information for the Engineers or Personnel involved in those projects. Leverage that to reach out to the HR person at that company to identify a way to get a internship, or volunteer opportunity to shadow someone. Including, join Organizations such as SWE (Society of Women Engineers), and local Engineering chapters to learn insight. Reach out and network with your friends and their parents who may be working in the field you are interested in to find career opportunities at their companies.
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Anna’s Answer

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Hey Lauren!

I think there are a lot of opportunities you can do to get some experience. Since you are in high school, I would advice getting involved in clubs with an engineering focus such as Rube Goldberg, First Robotics, or other like these. Additionally, some high schools offer more work based learning classes/ or hands on activities. In these classes, you can do a project which would give you something to talk about with future companies.

Also, I think a big part of getting an internship is all about your network. I recommend making a Linkedin and connecting with individuals in potential companies you want to work.

Anna recommends the following next steps:

  • Make a Linkedin
  • Research opportunities at your high school that are engineering focused
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