The Different Types of Internships: Your Guide

Student researching internships
April 26, 2024
6 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

If you’re wondering what types of internships are available to you, this guide will breakdown your options and the factors to consider as you apply to these positions!

If you're a high school student aiming to enhance your college applications, you're likely contemplating pursuing an internship. However, considering there are several types of internships, it’s important you’re aware of all your options, so you can choose the perfect internship for you!

This guide will go into further detail about the types of internships available to high school students and frequently asked questions about them!

Types of Internships

All internships serve a similar purpose, to provide students with an opportunity to gain practical experience in an industry of their choice, help them network and build their resumes, and develop crucial professional skills. 

There are five different types of internships that high school students can pursue:

Paid Internships

Money from Paid Internship

A paid internship is a position where the intern is compensated for their work, typically in the form of an hourly wage. However, they are typically low-paying for high school students. These are generally offered by companies in the business, finance, and tech field, but can also be offered by government organizations. 

This type of internship is valuable to students because it allows them to earn some money while they gain valuable work experience. They tend to also provide a more structured work environment and offer more training, considering the company has a financial investment in their interns’ success! 

You will likely be given more tasks as well, which can help you build your skills and connections. While these internships are highly sought after by high school students, they are also the most competitive and difficult to find.

Unpaid Internships

Unpaid internships, on the other hand, are the opposite. Students are not compensated for their work but gain valuable work experience or academic credits instead. 

These types of positions are most common in non-profit fields, small business, and the arts. Large organizations can also offer intern positions, which can eventually lead to paid positions. 

The benefits to these types of internships is that they demonstrate passion and motivation to the field, as students contribute their time and efforts to organizations for free. These internships can also help their students enter otherwise challenging industries to join!


Co-op, also known as co-operative education, is another popular type of internship amongst high school students. Co-op programs allow students to earn school credit while gaining practical work experience in a particular field or industry. They typically last one to two semesters.

In these programs, students spend some days working and others in school. They are often offered with local businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits, so the opportunities available to you will depend on your location. 

Co-op science internship


Externships are similar to internships in some respects, as they allow students to gain practical experience in their desired industry under the guidance of a supervisor or mentor. However, there are some key differences between the two.

Externships are typically shorter in duration, lasting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. They also tend to be more observation-based, with students shadowing professionals in their field rather than taking on significant responsibilities themselves. Externships are also unpaid. 

The goal of externships is to provide students with deeper understanding of a field, allow them to make connections with professionals within it, and understand what it takes to succeed.

Students can gain better insight into the day-to-day responsibilities within these professions, the skills needed to thrive in it, and the types of opportunities and challenges they may encounter. 

Service Learning

The final internship we'll discuss is service learning. Although less common for high school students, there are various service learning projects that students can join in several disciplines. 

Service learning is an experiential education approach that combines community service with academic instruction. In a service learning program, students engage in meaningful service activities that address community needs, while also incorporating academic learning objectives and reflection on the experience. 

community service trash cleaning

FAQs: Types of Internships

Below, you’ll find the answers to common questions about the different types of internships available for high school students.

1. What Type of Internship Is the Best?

There isn’t one type of internship that is better than another, as they all allow students to develop valuable skills that will not only help them during their college applications but also in their careers.

When choosing which kind of internship to pursue, consider your individual interests, goals, and schedule. If you’re interested in making some money while interning, then a paid internship is probably best for you. 

On the other hand, if you want to give back to the community while gaining professional experience, consider participating in a service learning project.  

2. What Is the Best Type of Internship for a High Schooler?

Again, this largely depends on your goals. Considering high school students have busy school schedules, if your school offers co-op you may want to pursue this as it will accommodate your schedule and allow you to earn academic credits. 

3. What Are Some Examples of Internships?

Here is a diverse range of popular and exciting internships high school students can apply to:

These are just ten internships you can pursue! Depending on your location and interests, you will have dozens more to choose from!

4. How Do Internships Help With College Applications?

Internships can be a valuable addition to college applications because they demonstrate a student's commitment to their chosen field of study and their ability to apply their classroom knowledge in a real-world setting. These positions also show initiative and can add depth to college essays!

Final Thoughts

All in all, participating in an internship during high school is an excellent way to gain exposure to potential career paths and build your professional skills and confidence! Consider the types of internships available to you and pursue those that best align with your schedule, passions, and aspirations!

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