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How to Get a Research Internship

by | Feb 18, 2021 | Internships

Research internships are great to gain hands-on work with faculty and researchers. They allow you to boost your experience in your field and develop yourself professionally. 

Research internships usually involve a research project involving fieldwork or lab work. 

How to Get a Research Internship

Drafting up research plans with post-it notes on a board.
Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Research opportunities can arise naturally throughout your education, but if you want to have a dedicated research program, you will have to dedicate time and effort towards acquiring one. 

While most research internship opportunities are dedicated to undergraduates students, high school students and graduate students can also search for opportunities.

For undergrad college students, they want to focus on having a good GPA and professional development before applying for a research internship.

Timing for a Summer Internship 

Summer Before:

  • Organize materials
  • Create or polish resume (use campus career centers and writing centers)


  • Find programs you like and take note of their deadlines and requirements.
  • Speak with mentors and advisors.
  • Dedicate time during Thanksgiving break for looking at programs.
  • Identify who your letter of recommendation writers will be.
  • Understand how to request transcripts from your university.

Early Winter:

  • Select what programs to apply for.
  • Request your letters of recommendation. This should be done two months in advance.
  • Edit your cover letters and required essays.
  • Request transcripts from your university.

Late winter:

  • During Winter break, work on applications
  • Follow up with your recommenders. Remind them of deadlines, which programs, and how to do it.
  • Actually applying! 
  • Confirm that your application was received.
  • Prepare for interviews and attend interviews that you are invited to.


  • Check your email!
  • Debate offers.
  • Confirm summer research internship!

These steps will be similar for other research programs, but the timing will be shifted.


For the application, you need to be organized. It is important to know the dates for your favorite programs. When doing the applications, make sure you do not miss out on any sections. 

The application success is in the details- double, triple check for spelling and grammar. Then, have people look over it.

Throughout the entire application, show who you are. Especially in the personal narratives and essays.

Letters of recommendation

Choosing someone to write a letter of recommendation is a big part of the application. You want someone to speak about your ambition, skills, and determination in the field. 

Who can do that? The best people to choose are professors who know how you work on research and projects, academic advisors, and supervisors for relevant work.

When someone confirms they will write a letter of recommendation, give them your resume or CV so they have in writing what you have done. Also, let them know what organizations the letters are going to. 

After you get the acceptance(s), say thank you to them and tell them where you choose!

Read this blog post for more details on asking someone to be your reference.

What the Research Experience is Like

Man in a white lab coat and hair net, looking into a microscope.
Photo by Lucas Vasques on Unsplash

A research experience can be within your university, another university, or through an external research group. Often, research internships are through an external group. 

Research internships are commonly full-time paid, usually in the summer. They usually cover travel, housing, and offer a stipend.

Many large cities such as Washington, DC, and New York City, will offer more opportunities for undergraduate students. 

What Fields Have Research Internship Programs

Close up of a microscope.
Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash

Certain programs have more research positions available, and some might require research. If you are in one of these fields and interested in graduate school, it is especially important to look for research opportunities.

  • Art History
  • Biology
  • Biomedical Sciences
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Earth Sciences
  • Health care
  • History
  • Mathematics
  • Neuroscience
  • Psychology
  • Physics
  • Statistics

Benefits of Being a Research Intern

Two women discussing something, while pointing at a drawing on a board.
Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash
  • Encounter hands-on learning.
  • Obtain direct experience
  • Create a focus on interests.
  • Explore different career paths.
  • Gain life skills.
  • Getting to know professionals and beginning a network.
  • Find mentorship.
  • Open yourself up to future opportunities.
  • Overall, fulfilling work because there are an outcome and a meaning behind what you are doing.

Organizations with Summer Internship Programs

Empty boardroom with table and chairs.
Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

These organizations have websites to begin looking for research internships on. They are research databases, federal jobs, and health-related programs. 

  • American Statistical Association
  • American Physical Society
  • Association of Zoos & Aquariums
  • Center for Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W)
  • Department of Energy Undergraduate Internships
  • Mayo Clinic
  • National Cancer Institute 
  • National Institute of Health (NIH)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • National Park Service
  • National Science Foundation (NSF) has a program called Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU).
  • Pathways to Science (STEM)
  • Smithsonian

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.