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Internships in San Diego: The Culture, Where to Live, and the Best Companies to Work For

by | Mar 17, 2021 | Internships

Doing an internship in San Diego is an exciting opportunity! Although, getting an internship can be competitive. Get to know the best way going about knowing what companies you are interested in.

Internship Culture in San Diego

The Skyline of San Diego at night with the ocean in front.

While considering each internship opportunity, consider the time commitment that it will have on you. For a summer internship, expect it to be a full-time role for three months. For a semester-long internship, expect it to last around six months but part-time. 

For San Diego internships, start applying around 6 months ahead of the internship start-time. 

Many internships in San Diego are unpaid, volunteer, or for college credit. This is something to keep in the forefront of your mind while applying. Understand and weigh your options highly before committing to something that is unpaid. 

If something is unpaid, look into scholarships that are offered at your university. Many will supplement your wages to ensure that you get in-field experience, while still being able to provide for yourself. 

1. The employer and intern both clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. If compensation is implied or promised, the intern is then considered an employee.

2. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar training which would be given in an educational environment.

3. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern and their formal education, tying in integrated coursework or receipt of academic credit.

4. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

5. The internship accommodates the interns academic commitments and schedule.

6. The internship is limited to the time period in which the intern is provided with beneficial learning.

7. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship at its conclusion.

It is important to understand these before committing to an unpaid internship. Most of the time, it is nonprofits that offer unpaid opportunities. 

Where to Live during Internship Opportunities

The coastline of San Diego

Some internships will offer a housing option with the internship. Although, in San Diego, that is very rare. The best option for finding housing in San Diego during internships is within the college areas. 

The best neighborhoods to look at in the County of San Diego are the San Diego State University area, El Cajon, La Jolla, Encinitas, and Pacific Beach. 

When looking for housing in San Diego, transportation is important. Some areas will have better access to Zipcars and bus lines. 

Top Companies with Internship Programs

San Diego with the ocean meeting the beach.


Make-a-Wish‘s mission is, “together, we create life-changing wishes for children for critical illnesses”

This program is an unpaid, volunteer experience. This is common for non-profit organizations. They require a minimum of ten hours a week. 

San Diego Zoo

The Zoo offers summer internships for both the San Diego Zoo or the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. They have internship jobs for animal care, fellowships in research, and veterinary externships. They have unique high school student programs for those interested in life sciences. Most of their opportunities are paid internships. 

County of San Diego

San Diego County offers a multitude of internship opportunities that prepare students for full-time County positions.

I Love A Clean San Diego

I Love A Clean San Diego internship has a focus on environmental issues. It allows students to give back while they are building a resume. 

San Diego International Film Festival

For more internship opportunities for undergraduates, the University of San Diego (USD) has a great database for internships.

How to Stand Out in a Competitive City

The sky line as the sun sets in San Diego.

The best way to stand out with a connection. This can be done by doing outreach to people within the city. 

Then, have a resume and cover letter that highlights your work experience, and hard and soft skills. Keeping an eye out for internships in your field by setting up a job alert on job postings will allow you to be an early and competitive applicant.

For more information on how to be a competitive job applicant, read the Scholars blog and listen to The Interview Show.

About Scholars

Scholars helps companies build engaging candidate experiences at scale. Create personalized journeys for all of your candidates from application through onboarding.

About Scholars

Internships and early-career jobs are unlike any others. They are often accepted months, if not years, in advance of the start date leaving plenty of time for candidates to change their minds and decide to work elsewhere, costing your team time and money.

There are two ways that have been proven to decrease renege rates for any company: keeping candidates engaged by sharing personalized information and helping them make connections with their future teammates. Companies use Scholars to accomplish both of these at scale.