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Navigating Social Science Internships: Opportunities and Insights

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Social sciences are a broad range of disciplines focused on the study of human society and social relationships. Examples of social sciences include history, anthropology, psychology, and politics. These are all topics that you can explore deeply in college, but why not get started in high school! In this article we’ll dive into what to expect from a social science internship, our list of top internship opportunities, and how to apply for and make the most out of a social science internship.

What to Expect from a Social Science Internship

Many social science internships offer firsthand insight into institutions like the government, federal agencies, and even museums. As a result, social science internships are great opportunities to learn and see what it’s like to operate in these professional environments.

Internships also tend to be year round and not just exclusive to the summer. Many internships will have Fall, Summer, and Spring terms, so think through when you have the most availability and whether you can attend these internships in-person if they are during the school year. 

Whether you’re interested in social work, gender studies, research experience, or experiential learning, you’re sure to find an exciting opportunity below.

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Top Political Science and Policy Internships

#1 U.S. Senate Page Program

This prestigious internship gives students (or “pages” as the program calls them) the opportunity to play an important role in the day to day operations of the U.S. Senate. Responsibilities include delivering correspondence and legislative material within the Capitol and Senate office buildings, preparing the Chamber for Senate sessions, and working on the Senate floor where they provide assistance during roll call votes, support senators and staff during debates, and carry bills and amendments to the desk. 

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with U.S. government activities and can be a great experience if you have aspirations to get into politics in the future. Based on the program’s website, this is a very time-intensive role but it comes with a lot of responsibility too! To be considered for the position, students must write to their state’s senator. 

Location: Washington D.C.

Pay: Pages are paid on an annual salary basis of $37,238

Program Dates: Summer sessions are for two weeks, Fall and Spring session for 4-5 months

Eligibility: 16 or 17 yr old juniors in high school, must be U.S. citizen. 18 yrs old not allowed. 3.0+ GPA required.

Application Deadline: Depends on the Senator you apply for, check out the Find my Senator page

#2 NYC Mayor’s Office Internship

In this NYC-based internship program, interns apply to the mayoral unit that interests them most, and, if selected, will work within that department for the duration of their internship. Units include administrative services, chief counsel to the mayor, deputy mayor for public safety, and many more. There are a ton of divisions so be sure to read through all of them thoroughly before applying!

Intern projects may include conducting research, attending meetings, managing incoming inquiries, analyzing data, drafting briefings, staffing events, assisting with outreach, and supporting special projects. Interns will also attend bi-weekly Speaker Series to learn more about the inner-workings of City government. Moreover, interns will work together to develop a service project that will impact NYC communities in need. Previous projects have included Little League Ball Field Restoration, NYC Parks clean-up, and tree planting and beach clean-up. Overall this internship is very well-rounded and gives you firsthand insight into how city governments operate.

Location: New York City

Pay: $16 / hr

Program Dates: The Summer Terms run from June – August. The Fall/Spring Terms run from September – April.

Eligibility: NYC high school students who are 16 years of age or older

Application Deadline: March 31 for Summer Term. Check website for Fall Term deadline

#3 U.S. Department of the Treasury Internship

Interested in economics and how to ensure financial security of the U.S.? The U.S. Department of the Treasury internship is a semester-long, unpaid program where students gain direct exposure to federal careers.

Students can choose to intern at one of many offices such as the Office of International Affairs, the Office of Domestic Finance, and the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. Responsibilities vary by office but some common duties are collecting, analyzing, and presenting data in support of policy priorities and researching and summarizing academic literature and news that are relevant to mission areas. The internship website mentions that the program seeks out students from a variety of studies, so no worries if you don’t have any prior experience in social sciences.

Location: Washington D.C.

Pay: Unpaid

Program Dates: Spring Internship Period (January-May). Summer Internship Period (May-August). Fall Internship Period (September-December).

Eligibility: High school students who are already accepted into college

Application Deadline: Apply in June for Fall Period

#4 US Department of Education Internships

This eight to ten week program allows students to gain valuable work experience in government and federal education and policy. Students can work in a variety of different areas, including: Human Resources Management; Education Policies; Data Analytics, and many more. 

The Department of Education also makes sure to help out with the future careers of interns by hosting professional development and resume writing workshops. The great part about this internship also is that it’s open to international students as well! Check out the program website for more details on eligibility requirements.

Location: Washington DC

Pay: Not specified.

Program Dates: Fall Dates: September through December. Winter/Spring Dates: January through May. Summer Dates: May/June through July/August.

Eligibility: High school students, must be at 16 years old

Application Deadline: Fall program deadline is July 31

Top Anthropology and Sociology Internships

#1 American Anthropological Association Virtual Internship

This spring internship offered by the American Anthropological Association gives high school students the opportunity to learn more about anthropological research. Interns work on a primary and secondary project during their time in the program. The primary project involves researching contemporary anthropological scholarship and making it easier to understand for a 6th-12th grade audience. Secondary projects rotate each year, but typically focus on accessibility or public education. You can check out past intern projects here.

Location: Virtual

Pay: Unpaid

Program Dates: May 20 - June 14

Eligibility: High school students

Application Deadline: April 26

#2 National Archives Internship Program

NARA is a federal government agency dedicated to helping the government in cataloging and storing documents. They also manage the national museum and operate a nationwide network of regional facilities.

The NARA internship program is unpaid but can be completed for academic credit or internship requirements. If you’re excited about American history and interested in researching historical topics, this is a great opportunity for you. At NARA you can be involved in different activities such as archival processing, communications & marketing, and museums & public programs. You can check out this Youtube video to see what past intern experiences have been like.

Location: Washington DC

Pay: Unpaid (but can receive academic credit)

Program Dates: Fall Dates: September through December. Winter/Spring Dates: January through May. Summer Dates: May/June through July/August.

Eligibility: High school students, must be at 16 years old

Application Deadline: Fall program deadline is July 31

#3 Benjamin Lawless Internship

The Benjamin Lawless internship program, affiliated with The Smithsonian museum, gives interns the opportunity to learn about museum exhibit design and brainstorm new ways to tell stories inspired by the Smithsonian’s collections.

If museum-exploring is your thing, this paid internship gives you access to navigate the world’s largest museum and research complex and choose how to present these incredible stories! It’s a great combination of academic research and creative design. 

Location: Washington DC

Pay: $3200 stipend ($400/wk)

Program Dates: Not specified on website

Eligibility: High school student, must be U.S. Citizen

Application Deadline: March 15

#4 Stephen Tyrone Youth Leadership Internship

Held at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, every summer 50 students participate in this educational internship where they study the events of the Holocaust and share these learnings with their peers. Interns lead tours at the museum, provide educational programming to other young people during their visits, and also host the Museum’s National Youth Leadership Seminar.

In order to apply for this internship, you must first complete the Bringing the Lesson Home program, which is free to everyone and can be completed both virtually or in-person. Application deadlines for the Bringing the Lesson Home program are in February.

Location: Washington DC

Pay: Unpaid

Program Dates: 7 weeks from July - August

Eligibility: High school student in Washington D.C. area

Application Deadline: Website does not say but acceptances are in Spring

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Top Psychology Internships

#1 American Psychological Association

The APA offers a variety of internships related to policy, research, communications, operations, publishing, and education. As a result, Individual responsibilities and tasks will vary widely by department. You can click here to browse through the full list of internships.

Across all internships, students will be able to apply theoretical knowledge to practice and gain a better understanding of what it’s like to work in professional psychology. 

Location: Remote

Pay: Can choose paid or unpaid internships (for unpaid you can receive academic credit)

Program Dates: Year round

Eligibility: High school students, students under 18 must submit D.C. work permit, interns can only work remotely from certain states (see website for more details)

Application Deadline: Varies by internship, usually in May

#2 Youth Mental Health Academy

This is a community-based internship that allows you to really dive deep into the issue of mental health. The program starts in the 1st summer with a 5-week bootcamp where you’ll develop mental health literacy and also work on a capstone project. Following that, you’ll be matched with a mentor and have one-on-one support throughout the school year, while also attending monthly workshops led by industry experts. Then, for your 2nd summer you’ll get to do a paid internship with a community-based organization or research organization where you can apply the things you learned from bootcamp and your mentor.

One of the things this internship does very well is provide a sustained mentor relationship for almost an entire year, which can allow you to directly ask questions to an expert and gain better insights about careers in the mental health field. Further, this program has both a passion project component and an internship component!

Location: Remote, in-person in California, or hybrid

Pay: Stipend of up to $2000

Program Dates: 14 month program

Eligibility: Rising high school junior or senior

Application Deadline: May 20, application opens again in November

#3 UT Southwestern Mental Health Internship

The University of Texas Southwestern Department of Psychiatry annually hosts a 2-week virtual summer internship that showcases the wide range of careers available in mental health. Interactive sessions are led by a variety of mental health clinician-scientists, such as licensed clinical social workers, neuropsychologists, physician assistants, and psychiatrists. 

Interns will also have to do some prep work before these sessions, by completing topical readings from sources like scientific journals. During sessions, leaders share more about what it’s like to work in the field of mental health, and the different topics out there including psychotherapy, neuropsychological testing, neuroscience, interventional psychiatry, and community psychiatry. These engaging sessions are a great way to find a lifelong mentor to guide you along your psychology journey!

Location: Remote

Pay: Not specified

Program Dates: 2 weeks in June

Eligibility: Rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors

Application Deadline: Early February, application opens again in late September

If you’re interested specifically in psychology internships check out our article here for a more comprehensive list of psychology internships for high school students.

How to Apply for Social Science Internships

Preparing Your Application

In the application process, internship programs typically ask you to submit written or video essays explaining your interest in the social sciences. Internship programs are designed to introduce you to the field, so technical skills are usually not a requirement. Pro tip: make sure you know exactly what you need to gain internship credit from your school!

Writing a Stand-Out Essay

In the essay portion of the application, it’s critical that you express your curiosity for the field and your desire to learn. Applicants can stand out from the rest by having clear reasons for why they’re interested in the internship and expressing how they plan on maximizing their time during the program. Do your own research by exploring the internship program website and identify specific parts of the program that you’re especially excited about, and mention those in your essays!

Letters of Recommendation and Interviews

Many internships require letters of recommendation, so if you know ahead of time that you’d like to apply for a social science internship, try to build relationships with your history, government, or psychology teachers in school! They can be the ones to write your recommendation letters.

A smaller portion of internships conduct interviews. For these, we recommend that you review your essays and memorize your reasons for why you’re interested in the internship. Other than that, just relax and don’t be afraid to share your passions!

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Maximizing Your Internship Experience

Networking and Professional Development

We encourage you to also learn as much as you can from your managers and peers. They can be great resources for helping you navigate social sciences in the future and may even have insights into which colleges have the best programs! You can check out our list of the best schools for psychology and the best schools for sociology in the U.S.!

Turning Your Internship into a Career Opportunity

The value you gain from an internship doesn’t just stop after your internship opportunity ends! The mentors you meet during your internship can be lifelong mentors as you continue to navigate social science. In the final weeks of your internship tell your managers that you’d like to stay in touch. Get their contact info and follow up with them so that they can connect you with future opportunities.

Opportunities at Polygence

Interested in doing social science research on your own time? Explore Polygence’s Research Mentorship Program where you can explore a psychology, history, anthropology, or political science topic of your choice and work with an expert mentor to help your research come to life. If you’re stuck on finding the right project idea you can also check out our list of top sociology passion project ideas, psychology passion project ideas, and history passion project ideas.

For example, Polygence alumni Sanjith wrote a research paper that highlighted the impact of the Sri Lanka Civil War on economic outcomes. Sanjith’s work combined elements of both history and economics, where he conducted a literature review on the topic of the civil war, and attempted to clarify the academic work relating to the direct and indirect consequences of the conflict on GDP growth, tourism, and investment.