Internships are a powerful tool for building real-world skills and knowledge. Especially if you’re a STEM enthusiast in high school, internships are gateways to opportunities that your classroom knowledge alone would not normally provide you access to.
As an added bonus, they also work as a signaling mechanism to show recruitment and admissions officers that you’re committed to your field and have already experienced the practical world of STEM.
In today’s blog, we’ll be exploring the Careers in Science (CiS) Internship Program at the California Academy of Sciences, one of the most cohesive internship opportunities for folks interested in the field of STEM and who want to get hands-on experience before joining the university.
You should also note that while participating in such internships is a great addition to your resume and college application, supplementing it with independent research is what will give your profile an even greater boost.
What is the Careers in Science Internship?
The CiS Internship Program is a multi-year, year-round, paid internship in which you will have the opportunity to comprehensively learn, teach, and engage in science across your high school journey. The program is conducted by the California Academy of Sciences, the aquarium, planetarium, rain forest, and natural history museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Their stated mission is “to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration”, much of which they aim to achieve by preparing and uplifting the next generations via this internship program.
They established the CiS Internship in 1996 to enable students from communities who have been historically excluded from STEM fields to gain skills, training, and exposure to secure their futures.
As an Intern, you will participate in outdoor fieldwork, facilitate learning experiences for Academy visitors, and engage in interactive training sessions. You will also get the opportunity to participate in STEM conferences, college tours, and contributions to Academy exhibits and educational materials.
Is it prestigious?
The prestige of the Careers in Science internship comes from three factors. For one, the program is highly selective - there were only 44 interns in the 2021-2022 school year, drawn from applicants across the entire SFUSD network. Secondly, it connects you with experts, exposes you to real-world science, and offers a platform to influence actual Academy exhibits and materials, which is a significant responsibility.
Lastly, the program itself has received the 2022 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentorship, validating the excellence of its efforts in enabling student learning in STEM.
The fact that the program is restricted to the San Francisco Unified School District does limit the number of applications, however, and therefore somewhat dilutes its prestige. Regardless, the ample learning opportunities and exposure afforded by it more than make up for this.
Who is eligible for the CiS internship?
The internship program has very specific requirements for applications. You must:
Be currently enrolled full-time as a 9th or 10th-grade student in an SFUSD school - check if your school qualifies here!
Maintain a GPA of 2.5 and a grade of C or higher in science and math
Be able to obtain a valid work permit (US citizens and others authorized to work in the US)
Commit to all attendance requirements for 2 or 3 years, through high school graduation
Be able to commute to the Academy and nearby locations after school and on Saturdays during the school year, and on weekdays in the summer (some remote work may be required)
Demonstrate interest and enthusiasm for learning, teaching, and doing science
One of the best aspects of the internship is that there is no registration or application fee of any kind involved, in keeping with its history and mission.
How to apply for Careers in Science
Applications for the internship open February 2, 2024, and close April 5, 2024. If you’re selected, you will be required to attend an in-person group interview on April 27, 2024.
How is the internship structured?
The CiS program is structured in a comprehensive way across two to three years:
On Saturdays during the school year and weekdays during summer, you will be conducting fieldwork outdoors and/or facilitating learning experiences for visitors to the Academy.
Twice a month, you will get to attend training sessions to develop science communication skills, learn about careers from practicing STEM professionals, and receive guidance on topics like financial literacy and the college application process.
As you advance, you will participate in project groups with an Academy researcher or partner to work on actual science research or environmental projects.
Throughout your experience, you will get to attend college tours, present at STEM conferences and festivals, and actually contribute to Academy exhibits and educational materials.
Pros and Cons You Should Consider
You will be committed to a consistent, long-term learning experience: For the entirety of your time in high school and even beyond, you will be reaping the benefits and rewards of your work with CiS.
You will have plentiful access to resources and guidance: Whether theoretical learning, fieldwork, mentorship, or real contribution - a CiS internship will provide you with all of it, at the appropriate times and with appropriate guidance.
You will have an enriching networking opportunity: From Academy researchers to partners, to seniors and peers, you will get to connect with experts and like-minded individuals at all levels.
You will greatly enhance your college application(s): The knowledge and skills you gain, in addition to the workshops and training sessions, all in combination with spending a dedicated two to three years working and contributing in STEM, means that you will have a rock-solid college application when you finally apply.
You will get paid for your effort: Let’s not forget that Careers in Science is an internship, meaning you will be receiving a stipend for all the work you do throughout high school. This income can, of course, help you with your college applications and tuition later too!
You need to be seriously committed to the program: If you’re selected, then the entirety of your high school journey has to be committed to CiS. Make sure you’re mentally and academically prepared for this.
It is restricted by location: Unfortunately, CiS is only open to students in the SFUSD, so if you’re not in one of those schools, you’re out of luck.
It is selective and targeted: The program is targeted toward students from historically underrepresented communities and minorities, and it is quite selective as well. Consider having backup options ready, in case you don’t make the cut.
Our review - Should You Apply?
The CiS Intern Program is a comprehensive platform that offers a wealth of opportunities to learn, grow, and excel in the field of science and beyond. If your school is part of the SFUSD, and especially if you feel that you need assistance in fueling your STEM education dreams, then there is almost no reason for you to not submit an application. The cohesive, structured learning experience and regular opportunities you will get from Careers in Science are almost unmatched, and the fact that there are no fees and a stipend on offer are pure bonuses. Good luck!
Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you’re looking for the opportunity to do in-depth research in STEM, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.
Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.