IT Internships for High School Students: How to Get Your Foot in the Door
For college students, internships have become a common part of their education and a great stepping stone to a full-time job after graduation.
They’re not just for college students, however. Many high school students have also begun to recognize the advantages an internship can bring, and there are plenty of internship programs out there specifically for that age group. If you are a high school student, however, you probably have a lot of questions.
This article will focus on IT internships for high school students. Employment in IT occupations is projected to grow 13% from 2020 to 2030, which is faster than the average for all occupations. It is also an area with which many high school students already have some familiarity.
We’ll explain the benefits of pursuing an internship as a high school student, the types of internships available, what to look for in an internship opportunity, and how to leverage the skills and knowledge you already have to land a position.
Why Pursue an Internship in High School?
We should begin with a definition. An internship is a work experience designed to give someone introductory experience with a particular field or job. It is temporary in nature and usually does not assume any expertise in the field in question. It may or may not be paid.
What are the potential benefits of an internship? The biggest one is the opportunity to dip your toes in the water of a particular career without first having to be fully trained and qualified for the job.
This does two things for you. First, it helps you to discern whether you actually like the work and could see yourself doing it long-term. This is a huge benefit since it can help you avoid spending years preparing for a career only to discover you don’t like it. Second, it gives you experience that sets you apart from your peers when it comes to applying for jobs in that field in the future or even for college admissions.
There are several other possible benefits as well. An internship can help you:
Network: Relationships are important for your career and jobs often come through personal connections. You may establish relationships in your internship that open up opportunities down the road.
Get mentored: The best internships include a mentoring component, where someone experienced in the field that interests you can give you feedback, advice, and encouragement.
Build general work skills: Even if your time in an internship steers you away from a particular field, you’ll gain experience in things like teamwork and project management that will be useful in any future job.
Despite all these benefits, the number of high school students who participate in internships is small. That’s actually good news for you. It means there is less competition for available internships and that having one will give you a unique addition to your resume.
So let’s move on to the exciting part: what kinds of internships are available to you as a high school student?
Types of IT Internships for High School Students
Internship opportunities mostly fall into three broad categories:
The first are programs that have an established curriculum and run on an ongoing basis. Such programs have a focus on maximizing the learning opportunity that an internship presents. These programs often offer paid positions.
A good example of this is Microsoft’s Discovery Program. It gives high school seniors who have just graduated a paid, four-week internship at Microsoft where they will learn about programming and develop general workplace skills while receiving mentorship from Microsoft personnel. (Unfortunately, this one is only open to students who live near Redmond, Washington.)
Others to check out:
Crimson Careers: Apply for a one-month tech internship with Uber.
University of Nebraska: Their college of information Science & Technology offers paid internships in many areas of IT.
National Security Agency: They offer paid positions working with computers at several facilities around the country.
This type of internship is more like having a regular job. There will tend to be little to no programmatic component and the mentorship that happens is likely to be less formal. These can still be fantastic learning opportunities, but you might need to be more intentional to get the most out of them.
We found a good example of this kind of position on Indeed. The company was looking for a summer intern to help with the setup and maintenance of IT infrastructure.
In addition to online jobs websites, you can search the listings for high school internships at Chegg Internships, a site that specializes in internship opportunities for students.
For-Profit Internship Programs
The third kind of internship is a structured learning program that you as the intern pay for. Since most high school students are reluctant to participate in an unpaid internship, choosing one where you have to pay is a tough sell for most. However, if the financial aspect isn’t an obstacle for you, this type of opportunity might be worth checking out. Examples include The Intern Group and Intern Abroad HQ.
How to Get Your Foot in the Door
The difficulty of actually landing an internship will vary according to the type. It is reasonable to expect that the ones where the intern pays to participate will be the easiest to secure. Here we’ll give you some ideas about what you can do to maximize your chances of getting a paid internship.
First, make sure you have the necessary qualifications. Wait, doesn’t an internship mean you don’t need any qualifications? Not exactly. You aren’t expected to have the kinds of skills and knowledge an ordinary worker on the job might have, but you are expected to bring certain things to the table. Here are some things potential employers will be looking for:
Interest: If you’re not very excited about IT but just heard it pays well, you’re going to struggle to find an internship. Employers want to know you bring a passion for the subject and a desire to learn.
Basic knowledge: If IT is indeed an interest of yours, you’re likely to already know a fair amount about computers, software like Microsoft Office, operating systems, etc. Employers will expect this kind of foundational awareness.
Other skills: If you look at postings for traditional internships, you will frequently see things like “excellent communication skills” and “ability to work well with others.”
If you are still early in your high school career, there is still plenty of time to strengthen these areas in preparation for applying for internships.
Second, be bold. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the only internship opportunities for you are the ones you can find by searching online. Instead, reach out to local companies to see if they would be willing to take you on as an intern.
To make the best impression, find out who is responsible for IT at the company and go inquire in person. You may have to knock on a few doors, but you have a huge advantage: Instead of trying to rise to the top of a pool of applicants, you’ll probably be the only one asking.
Third, tap your network. As a high school student, your network may not be very large, but think about whom you might know that works at a company where an internship could be possible. (Remember, just about every company has IT needs.) A personal connection can go a long way.
Looking beyond Your Internship: What Comes Next?
We’ve just been talking about how to get your foot in the door when it comes to an IT internship. An internship itself, however, is also a great way to get your foot in the door of a career in IT. Here are three possible paths forward:
After you finish high school, enroll in college to further your studies of IT. As we noted above, your internship can help you have an edge in the admissions process by demonstrating your seriousness and giving you valuable experience from which to build.
Turn your internship into a full-time job. Most employers in IT will require at least a high school diploma for full-time positions. If you impress your boss during your internship, you might find the door open to you for a full-time position after you graduate.
Build on your experience with a certification. Certifications in IT can be a much faster way than earning your college degree, to get started in entry-level positions in IT. CompTIA Tech Career Academy offers a program to help prepare you for the CompTIA A+ Exam and career services to ensure you’ve got the resources to help you on your first job search.
Any of these paths can lead to a great career in the IT industry. As a high school student, an internship is a strategic way to lay a solid foundation for whatever comes next.