|Copyright © 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 The American Studies Association|
Why an internship?
Internships can provide skills training and other valuable learning that one does not acquire in the classroom. Actual work situations may be very different from what a student imagines, and an orientation to what one will actually be doing in one's career, or to what kind of support or other related work will intersect with one's job, can be invaluable.
What to look for-what to look out for
Internships of all kinds can be found on the Internet, including many that deal with the disciplines that comprise American Studies. Some internships have regular terms of appointment, while others recruit on a rolling or continuous basis, depending on their work flow and the availability of funding. Some offer compensation, in the form of a stipend, salary, or expense allowance. A few provide housing, though most have only referrals for local housing. Most, though not all, offer college credit, either by arrangement with the college of your choice (subject to approval) or through a specific institution. These arrangements might vary over time, especially for some of the grassroots organizations. In some fields, such as filmmaking, one-of-a-kind internships might be created for a specific project. All of this variation means that different internships become available much the way that regular jobs do-so the applicant will be confronted with a changing set of choices.
A lot of internships are either arranged through or funded by agencies. Some agencies specialize in certain fields, others have listings in several fields. This system is especially popular with the non-profit sector, because it enables small organizations and those with little funding to recruit more effectively. Some of these agencies are connected with foundations that provide a stipend. Usually, the agency does not take part in selection, so the applicant communicates directly with the employer. Some, though not all internships in government and in publicly funded institutions, such as museums, archives, and libraries, are listed with agencies. Others are handled by internal human resource departments, or by a central office that serves several facilities.
Internships in the private sector are usually advertised locally, but often listed with agencies as well. Some of these might not be much different from other kinds of temporary jobs, except for the lower pay scale, if any pay is offered at all. In public service or non-profit organizations, this is understandable and, as long as the intern wishes to support the organization's goals, probably worthwhile. Among for-profit organizations, however, unless the internship provides a valuable learning experience, such as skills-training or exposure to a specific business culture, the experience might be little more than exploitation.
It is important to keep in mind that internships are arranged for the benefit of the employer, and may or may not offer any useful experience to the intern. Applicants should read job descriptions carefully and ask questions, rather than make assumptions about the quality of the internship experience. In reading about the experiences of previous appointees, look for specifics: What were the intern's goals, and how do they compare with your own? Exactly what kind of work was done? Beware of glib or evasive language. On the other hand, the experience of doing anything at all, in a specific work environment, can sometimes provide a learning experience. The trick is to get the most you can get, in exchange for your effort.
Some of the most interesting jobs may be available through agencies, and the variety of offerings makes it worthwhile to start one's search with this type of resource. The place to begin is the website of the agency, to be followed by the websites of several employers listing positions with that agency. Read everything, including parts of the agency's website designed for prospective employers. It may be worthwhile to compare several different agencies, even some that don't offer internships in the sector that interests you. You will get an idea of what to look for, and what to watch out for.
An important thing to keep in mind is the need for housing. A lot of internships, including some of the best, are located in cities like New York or Washington DC, where housing is extremely expensive. In choosing which internships to apply for, the feasibility of temporarily relocating should be a major consideration. Look at any housing links on the prospective employer's website, and screen potential housing resources as carefully as you screen potential employers. Check for hidden costs, such as fees. If no kitchen is provided, you may also have to absorb the cost of restaurant meals, which can be quite expensive in some markets. Even internships that provide a stipend might pay less than the cost of living on location. So an internship should be approached as a learning experience, with associated costs. Very few internships are truly a source of income.
The fields that use the greatest number of interns in American Studies disciplines are government, public history, the non-profit sector, the arts, conservation, and journalism. Federal government internships are handled almost entirely through agencies. State and local governments also offer a good many internships, especially the City of New York, which also uses a centralized recruiting process. Other jurisdictions that use internships might recruit through local colleges and universities, job banks, or through their own human resources departments. The best internships are highly competitive.
Due to frequent changes in the exact requirements, deadlines, costs and compensations of various internships, it would be pointless to describe these details in their current state, in this report. There is an advantage, however, in doing one's preliminary research broadly, before looking specifically at those internships that appear to meet one's individual needs. By seeing the full range of possibilities, an applicant will know what to look for, what to settle for, and what one need not put up with. You are encouraged to read everything about all of the internships discussed here, to become as informed as possible, before beginning your hunt. After settling upon several internships that interest you, it's not a bad idea to reread the websites periodically, in case new information appears. Start early, and keep in mind that you may want to work at several different internships, over the course of your education. Even in a changing environment, long-range planning, like contingency planning, is a plus.
Employers in some fields place more value than others on the internship experience. Government employers often consider internship a good introduction to the public service workplace, and though some government internships are better than others, most provide additional training, in the form of workshops, lectures, etc. These can make up for a less-than-enlightening set of work duties. And even seemingly low-status work, like answering telephone complaints or written correspondence, can provide an excellent inside view of what government agencies actually do. If you desire a career in government service, an internship may be the best place to start. Many positions require a security clearance, so start your search and application process, early.
For jobs in government service and related fields, see these websites:
The Washington Center. http://www.twc.edu/ This program combines semester-long internships with academic seminars in Washington D.C. Positions for all majors, as well as recent graduates, are included; employers include the federal government, non-profit organizations, news media, and international business. A special advantage is TWC's emphasis on matching each applicant with a position that matches his/her interests and qualifications. The internships are unpaid, though the successful intern receives academic credit. Due to the many costly features of the program, there are fees involved, but financial aid to meet these costs is available to those who qualify. Housing is also available. Interns attend the Presidential Lecture Series, the Congressional Breakfast Series, and other special activities. Needless to say, this program, like all Washington internship programs, is extremely competitive.
The Fund for American Studies. www.dcinternships.org This program combines internships in government with academic coursework and special briefings, lectures, and other learning experiences, featuring government and business leaders. Convenient housing is provided, and a fellowship helps to cover some of the substantial costs. This program is recommended for students interested in government, international business, or journalism. Both the summer and semester programs are very competitive, but also highly recommended.
White House Internships. http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/wh-intern.html This program provides interns to work for members of the White House staff, or for the First Lady, or in other offices in the White House. No compensation is provided, nor any assistance with housing. Internships of about 90-days length are available in the spring, summer, and fall.
Internships with the City of New York. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcas/html/intern.html Several different programs that provide both paid and unpaid employment in municipal government. Some provide college credit and/or special seminars as well. Positions are available during the summer or the academic year, for students or recent graduates in a variety of majors.
The FBI. http://www.fbi.gov/employment/honors.htm These are paid summer internships for junior, senior, and graduate students. Travel costs to and from Washington, to participate in the program, will be reimbursed. Work with agents and support personnel on actual cases. Very selective.
Most city, county, and state governments use interns. Check newspapers, human resource departments at entities that interest you, and the career resources department at your school.
Brookings Institute. http://www.brookings.edu/admin/internships.htm This is the famous think tank-not a government agency but a great place to learn about issue-oriented research and policy formation and review. Full- and part-time unpaid internships for students with at least some coursework in government or political science. Some positions offered at regular intervals, others offered as needed.
The Heritage Foundation. http://www.heritage.org/About/Internships/index.cfm Conservative think tank. Positions available year-round, with more opportunities during the summer. Domestic and foreign policy, education, social science, public relations. Full- and part-time positions, at least some of them paid. Opportunities to attend seminars and lectures.
Non-profit organizations use a great many interns, partly to maximize the use of their limited funds, partly to train young individuals interested in working for causes. Some of these positions are in various organizations' main headquarters; others are in the field, working closely with the constituencies these organizations serve. Most non-profits recruit interns through agencies, though some advertise on their own websites or in their publications. Thus, a few interesting and valuable intern experiences might not be found except through a web-search. The best method, however, of finding non-profit internships, is to look through the websites of the premier agencies in this field.
For jobs in the non-profit sector (or any sector), first look at:
Everett Public Service Internship Program. http://www.everettinternships.org/default.html Even if you're not interested in working for a non-profit organization, look at this website first. Why?-because it's one of the best-run internship programs, and a good example of what an internship program should be. The founders, Henry and Edith Everett, make certain their program and funds are used in the most substantive way-to provide real training for the next generation of workers in the non-profit sector.
Anyone considering an internship in any sector, would do well to read over the Everett program's website, especially the portion addressed to potential clients in need of interns. You will get an idea of what a good internship program prohibits, and what kind of questions to ask a potential employer. If you've heard horror stories about interns cleaning out storerooms, cutting grass, or spending their entire tenure standing in front of a copier-those stories are all true! But those things don't happen to Everett interns, because Mr. and Mrs. Everett know how to prevent them. And they do. Read about how they do it. Then go look for whatever kind of internship interests you.
Now, if you are one of those blessed souls who wants to work in a non-profit organization, you're in the right place. Look first at the Everett's website. You'll find all kinds of fascinating learning experiences, and opportunities to make the world a better place. All internships consist of "substantive and meaningful work," as well as mandatory weekly events, like lectures, workshops, and museum tours. Most work is in organizational headquarters settings, rather than at the service-delivery level, so if you're really looking for a hands-on experience, this might not be it.
The Everetts provide a stipend and enforce their organizational standards, but the client organizations select and hire the interns, themselves. These summer internships last ten weeks; most are located in either Washington D.C. or New York City. The cost of living and working in these cities will likely be more than the stipend. The website provides links to housing resources, but no other housing assistance.
Several other agencies handle internships for non-profits. See also:
Idealist.org - Action Without Borders. http://www.idealist.org/ This is an international consortium of non-profit organizations. One of their joint activities is intern placement. All kinds of organizations belong to Idealist, so all kinds of internships are available. Some are paid, some unpaid. Language skills are a plus, since many of these internships are outside the U.S. With such variety, however, it is difficult to make generalizations about the internships offered, or the quality of the experiences they represent.
The website itself is also interesting, with articles about activism and the non-profit sector, and on related issues and problems.
National Assembly of Health and Human Service Organizations. http://www.nassembly.org/nassembly/html/search.html -just what the name says. National Assembly offers lots of internships in youth services, both paid & unpaid, at over 2,000 organizations, throughout the U.S. Many of these positions involve working very closely with disadvantaged or troubled youth. Others are more broad-based and involve provision of healthcare, recreation, or educational services. Opportunities are available for all levels of student and graduate experience. Jobs at affiliated organizations are also posted on the website. For more info on this organization, visit http://www.nassembly.org/nassembly/
The Urban Institute. http://www.urban.org/ This organization researches and reports on the effects of public policy. Located in Washington, D.C., the Urban Institute occasionally hires temporary part-time or full-time Research Assistants, whenever they are needed. All such jobs are advertised in the Washington Post's online job listing. Details on qualifications and hiring policies may be found here: http://www.urban.org/content/About/Employment/Internships/Internships.htm
The Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellowship http://www.clw.org/pub/clw/scoville/index.html Work in Washington on issues of peace and security. Appointment is six to nine months. Stipend provided. Intern chooses from a list of participating organizations. Affiliated with Council for a Livable World, this fellowship continues the work of lifelong peace and disarmament activist, Dr. Herbert (Pete) Scoville, Jr., who, in addition to his other work for peace, called attention to the importance of bringing young people into this endeavor.
Institute for Asian American Studies. http://www.iaas.umb.edu/community/jobs/ The IASS recruits interns for Asian-American grassroots organizations in the Boston area. Most are with activist organizations, though qualifications, responsibilities, and organizational policies will vary. Many positions require proficiency in an Asian language.
Public History Internships (including museum, archive, library, monument, historical society, & related)
Major museums and state and local archives usually operate their own internship programs. The Smithsonian Institution has a centralized recruiting office that services all its museums and other facilities. Similarly, the National Park Service operates a centralized recruiting system. The jobs and internships handled by these central facilities are extremely varied. Most of these positions are unpaid, though foundation (and other) grants offer fellowships for some.
A lot of museums use interns. Most recruit through local graduate schools. Some poorly funded local museums assign similar types of work to interns and other volunteers, so the quality of learning will vary. Major museums, on the other hand, play an important part in training future museum professionals through their internship programs. Museums with associated archives and libraries often centralize hiring of interns for all these facilities. Since the best-funded museums have the most offerings, as well as some of the best, we will start with them. For details, too numerous to list here, see the websites.
SMITHSONIAN (art, natural history, folklife, ethnic, technology, zoo) http://www.si.edu/ofg/internopp.htm (includes several specialty museums)
National Air & Space Museum http://www.nasm.si.edu/nasm/joinnasm/intern/intern.htm
National Museum of American History http://americanhistory.si.edu/interns/education.htm
Metropolitan Museum of Art http://www.metmuseum.org/education/er_internship.asp
Philadelphia Museum of Art http://www.philamuseum.org/opportunities/internship.shtml
The Athenaeum (art gallery & library) http://www.bostonathenaeum.org/opportunities.html#intern
Harriet Beecher Stowe House & Library http://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/cgi-bin/news.pl?display=41
Children's Museum, Indianapolis http://www.childrensmuseum.org/generalinfo/internopps.htm
American Textile History Museum http://www.athm.org/internships.htm (technology, folklife, material culture, costume, labor, industry)
Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village http://www.hfmgv.org/research/internships.asp (technology, automotive, design, labor, folklife, industry)
National Museum of Women in the Arts http://www.nmwa.org/about/volunteer_interns.asp
Brooklyn Museum of Art http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/info/internships
Naval Historical Center http://www.history.navy.mil/prizes/intern.htm (museum, library, archives)
Mystic Seaport, Connecticut http://www.mysticseaport.org/learn/lo-intern.htm (maritime history, ethnicity)
If your favorite museum isn't listed here, check with their management office. Chances are, they use interns.
National Archives http://www.archives.gov/careers/internships/internships.html
Massachusetts State Archives http://www.state.ma.us/sec/arc/arcpro/proidx.htm
John Fitzgerald Kennedy Museum & Library http://www.cs.umb.edu/jfklibrary/intern.htm
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Museum and Library http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/intern.html
Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library http://eisenhower.archives.gov/internannouncement2001.html
Other presidential libraries might offer internships from time to time. Contact the individual libraries directly. Links to all presidential library websites may be found here: http://www.archives.gov/presidential_libraries/addresses/addresses.html
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has internships in arts education and performance production, through the Vilar Institute for Arts Management. http://www.kennedy-center.org/education/vilarinstitute/internships/.
The Kennedy Center offers internships in other fields, particularly facilities management, advertising, and programming. Some of these should be worthwhile, but watch out for "development," a notorious hideout for telemarketing and similar jobs.
Preservenet http://www.preservenet.cornell.edu/employ.html This site, operated by Cornell University, has a few outdated links, but also, from time to time, some interesting and unusual listings.
The American Folklore Society http://afsnet.org/internships.cfm posts internship announcements for its member organizations.
Minnesota Historical Society http://www.mnhs.org/about/interns/index.html
Stephenson County Historical Society, Freeport, Illinois http://www.mnhs.org/about/interns/index.html
Throughout the country, monuments, parks, and other facilities offer internships both paid and unpaid, that are listed with centralized resource banks. A lot of these are in remote locations, and may provide housing and transportation to and from the site. Internships in the conservation field often provide specialized training and certification, for skills indispensable to careers in forestry, wildlife management, and environmental protection. These are listed by the same websites that handle internships in conservation:
First look at:
Student Conservation Association. http://www.thesca.org/ci_select.cfm This is the premier recruiting system for internships in environment, archaeology, Native American studies, historic preservation, public history-just about anything related to the Great Outdoors. It's also one of the best places to start, if you plan a career in some of these fields. SCA offers internships for students from high school through graduate studies, and for adults outside of school. It even has an educational activities program for middle- and high school students. Benefits in various positions may include stipend, travel reimbursement, skills training and certification, housing, health insurance. One thing you can pretty well count on is a magnificent work environment. Most positions require applicants to be physically fit, and some require skills like CPR. Locations and duties, like benefits, are extremely varied.
National Park Service, U.S. Dept of the Interior. http://www.cr.nps.gov/crdi/internships/intrn.htm These are paid internships in cultural resources, historic preservation, and related fields, for undergraduate and graduate students. Intended primarily as the first step towards a career in these fields, these summer internships focus heavily on skills training.
For other internships in conservation or related fields, you'll want to look at these sites:
Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/enviroed/students.html. There are at least two programs with EPA. A fellowship program, under the National Network for Environmental Management Studies provides a stipend, college credit, and an excellent learning experience, usually in a technical or scientific field, for undergraduate and graduate students. These fellowships are connected with specific projects, so it's easy to tell what you are getting. EPA also offers summer internships for students aged 16 and up. These are most easily found by visiting http://www.epa.gov/ and typing "internships" in the search box (there is an information page at http://www.epa.gov/epahome/intern.htm , but it doesn't necessarily have links to all the job descriptions). A lot of internships at EPA can also be found on:
Environmental Careers Organization. http://www.eco.org/ This organization has partnerships with the Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Sustainable Communities Leadership Program, Bureau of Land Management, United States Geological Survey, also connections to corporate, state and local programs. Paid internships of varying lengths are available for students from high school through graduate level. Most require a background in science, but there are some that relate to education, business, or computers.
Center for Environmental Citizenship. http://www.envirocitizen.org/index.asp This website is the on-line magazine for a consortium of environmental organizations. One feature is an excellent listing of paid and unpaid internships-all kinds of environment-related work, all over the country. Great variety in qualifications, duties, etc.
Campaign to Save the Environment. http://www.jobsfortheenvironment.org/jobsforenviro.asp?id2=5695&id3=FFPIRjobs& Affiliated with the Fund for Public Interest Research. Work with organizations like Greenpeace, Sierra Club, etc.
Orion Grassroots Network. http://www.oriononline.org/pages/ogn/ics.cfm A network of over 500 organizations, Orion posts internship- and job listings for all levels of expertise in the environmental-conservation fields. Need we say it? You'll find all kinds of variety here, including positions in several countries. Orion also publishes an excellent magazine-some articles are posted on the website.
Municipal Art Society of New York. (urban environment) http://www.mas.org/GetInvolved/Jobs.cfm Here's an internship opportunity in urban environment-which includes all of the above, as well as public art, and you even get to live in New York. Some of these internships have a stipend, provided by Everett Internships (see their website, listed under non-profits). MAS also offers unpaid internships and volunteer positions.
Most magazines, newspapers, television and radio stations use interns. The following links are for mostly commercial enterprises. In most fields, the commercial sector is not the best place to find an internship-but journalism is an exception to this rule. You might want to avoid anything in "circulation" or other code-words for telemarketing (ugh!). But you needn't shy away from anyone here, just because they're in it for the money.
There's a lot of variety here, and more to be found on the web, so happy hunting. But, before starting your search, look at this site:
The Detroit Free Press. http://www.freep.com/jobspage/interns/. This page has a few job links (good ones), but also a lot of information pieces on the search process, the internship experience, the connection to a future career in journalism, etc. These are all written, not by marketing reps or educational counselors, but by real, died-in-the-wool, journalists. Even if you don't find a position here, the hard-won experience that went into those articles is too good to pass up.
University of Michigan, Department of Communication Studies. Here's a list of internships, with company name, web-address, and contact info, all in an easy-to-use format. http://www.lsa.umich.edu/comm/Internships/Internlistings/print.htm.
Texas A & M University-more links to jobs and internships in mass media: http://journalism.tamu.edu/web1/jobs.htm (This one has a few outdated links, but it's worth looking at.)
Magazine Publishers of America http://www.magazine.org/internship/ (mostly commercial magazines)
As we were saying, most magazines use interns. If you're interested in working for a particular magazine, such as The Nation, Dissent, Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/about_us/jobs.html, The Village Voice, or, for that matter, The New Republic, Slate or Front-Page, check with them (all of these use interns). Some pay (usually not much); some don't. Most hire as needed. But the work, the experience, the networking-that's what you want. Go for it!
American Society of Newspaper Editors http://www.asne.org/internships. An excellent resource, this website has a search mechanism that allows you to select by location, the availability of compensation and/or housing, the need for a car, and other potentially important matters.
If you don't mind having to relocate to sunny Florida, check out this opportunity:
The St. Petersburg Times. This award-winning, distinctively local newspaper is run by The Poynter Institute for Media, a non-profit school and organization for journalists. http://www.sptimes.com/internship/. Paid internships, of varying length. Those in the newsroom may be among the best in the newspaper field.
Fair.Org, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting - If you're interested in the Big Picture, even bigger than what any particular magazine or newspaper covers, this may be just what you're looking for: http://www.fair.org/internships.html (a media watch organization & Counter-Spin Magazine)
Center for Public Integrity (investigative journalism) http://www.publicintegrity.org/dtaweb/index.asp?L1=40&L2=30&L3=0&L4=0&L5=0&State= - internship
(Most of these don't hire all the time, so the links might not work right now-but if they don't work, and you're interested in these fields, try them again, later.)
Public Radio International www.pri.org
Television Arts and Production http://www.emmys.com/foundation/internships.htm
U.S. Directory of Entertainment Employers http://www.eej.com/ (a fee agency; some interesting internships listed without fee)
Now, we enter the danger zone:
Internships in Business and the Business of Internships
The language spoken here is Marketspeak. These websites post internship ads for a fee; most also do market research. They do not screen the companies that buy their services. As a prospective intern, you are not their client-you are the product they are selling. Proceed with caution:
http://www.internships.com/ This site has some worthwhile possibilities, though the main page is a study in marketing-madness. Ignore the ridiculous pitch on the front page (it's there, mainly because somebody paid the price for it-not because working in a paint store is really the best thing they have), and go to the regional search feature. You'll find a good assortment of internships, including some in the non-profit sector, and in journalism.
http://www.rsinternships.com/ A mix-probably because an ad on this website is quite inexpensive for the employer. Some of these look extremely good, though it is difficult to know for sure. You will probably want to talk to some current or previous interns, before accepting a position. Several listings on this site, however, are merely ads from profit-making businesses in search of cheap labor.
http://www.wetfeet.com/ All kinds. This company runs on-line ads for non-profits at no charge. So you will find some good ones, along with a lot of junk.
Rather than rely entirely on these websites, you should carefully research the employers. Some of the non-profits are small or poorly funded, and cannot function without volunteers and interns. A lot of these may be good causes, but you must consider your own needs. Will you learn anything that will help you save the world, in your future career? If not, maybe you will chalk up a few good deeds and make a difference in somebody's life, but that's properly volunteer work, not internship. There are places where you can do both.
As for the profit-making companies, it can be difficult to tell, without additional research, what kind of work their interns do, and even what business some of them are in. Many employers assume prospective employees are more interested in getting a job, than in what they will be doing or contributing to. Some applicants are even afraid to ask. But as a prospective intern, your goal is the work itself and the learning it provides, so you can't afford not to know about these things. So ask questions, use your research skills, and beware of evasive language. Good employers value your interest in their work; bad ones depend on your passivity.
An internship will only benefit you if it provides an experience that is relevant to your future career. Employers know all about internships, both good and bad. When you go to apply for a real job, you can expect to be asked pointed questions about the internships listed on your resume. They will want to know exactly what you did, and what you got out of it that should make you more attractive to them. And don't forget-these are managers or business people-they know all the tricks. They may even have a skeleton or two chained to their own copiers. If you want to impress them, have something to show them-either a worthwhile internship, a volunteer position, or experience at a regular job.
 An amount designated as the cost or value of housing may be deducted from any cash stipend or salary. Watch out for this.
 Keep in mind, these benefits may also be obtained through temporary work, along with normal pay levels, legal protections against exploitation, a type of job reference more familiar to future employers, and an opportunity to work for and learn from a greater variety of employers.