I'm a 16 year old aspiring aerospace engineer, and I'm looking for a brief summer internship (4-6 weeks) at an engineering-related company in order to gain experience.

I find that most companies only have applications for interns currently studying at University, who are over 18, therefore I have tried cold-emailing various large and small companies asking for an unpaid internship placement with my résumé attached.

Rolls-Royce said no, and I haven't heard back from the smaller companies I emailed.

What am I doing wrong here? Should I try a different approach?

  • that's an interesting question - are you in North Alabama ? ie near NASA / arsenal ?
    – Fattie
    Jul 10, 2017 at 16:11
  • @Fattie no, I'm in the UK
    – user60684
    Jul 10, 2017 at 16:16
  • What is your current level of education? Most companies with engineering internships are looking for students with some college or equivalent education. They may just be assuming you don't have it because you are 16.
    – cdkMoose
    Jul 10, 2017 at 16:18
  • 2
    @DavidK It's the qualifications you take normally at age 16. So the person will likely do two more years at school before university.
    – LangeHaare
    Jul 10, 2017 at 16:35
  • 3
    I don't know how it is in the UK, but in the US, minors (under 18 yo) are restricted in the type of work they can perform, in some cases the limitations are legal and in other cases, they are due to liability.
    – DLS3141
    Jul 10, 2017 at 17:57

3 Answers 3


In my experience, engineering internship opportunities are extremely limited for pre-college folks. In general, there is already a lot of competition, especially at the well know companies for students with 2-3 years of engineering focused classes, vs. presumably none (yet) for a high school student.

The few high school students I knew that got "engineering" internships were generally family members of other employees, and they generally did moretech type jobs than design/engineering. Think at the assembly line/warehouse, vs being in the office. Its also worth mentioning that most engineering internships are at least 12 weeks, and often longer. That is how most larger companies structure the intern program, so trying to look for only 4-6 weeks may be a deal breaker for them. That's barely enough time just to get through the safety trainings and onboarding!

That said, I think you will have much better luck looking at smaller, local business to get some experience, as the larger, well-known companies probably have plenty of candidates already. I think its unlikely to find a true engineering internship in high school, but there are probably many more opportunities for IT/tech style roles, which would still be very good experience to bring with you to college later on.

  • 1
    precisely - at NASA / associated government-industrial complex, it really for better or worse only happens with "friends-of-the-family" types. In my limited experience.
    – Fattie
    Jul 10, 2017 at 16:11
  • 2
    @Fattie I can speak from personal experience that some government labs have internship programs specifically for high schoolers. In my opinion, formal programs like this are the best way in for government and large corporations.
    – David K
    Jul 10, 2017 at 16:27
  • @DavidK - fair enough. maybe Government Lab is the best hope?
    – Fattie
    Jul 10, 2017 at 17:56
  • It turns out this is in the UK, apparently.
    – Fattie
    Jul 10, 2017 at 17:57

I have tried cold-emailing various large and small companies asking for an unpaid internship placement with my résumé attached.

For a high school student with no university experience, I just don't think this approach is going to work well for you. As someone young and inexperienced, companies would be taking a huge risk hiring you. Even university interns don't contribute much to the company, but the benefit is that they are very likely to come back to work for the company in the future and will already be trained. With a high school student, you will take a lot of training and mentoring, and there is much less likelihood you will want to work for them in 6-8 years, if you're even in the same field. You are an unknown entity with little potential benefit for the company, so cold-calling is probably not going to be successful.

Another reason you probably haven't heard back is that you are already partway into your summer break. You're coming to this late in the game, and companies aren't hiring interns anymore. If you are already looking for next summer, you're actually a little early and should probably wait until the fall.

However, all of this isn't to say that you shouldn't be still be looking for an internship! There are just better approaches you should take. You either need to go someplace that already has a reason to trust you despite your age, or go someplace that you know is specifically looking for people of your age and experience.

You are most likely to have luck (and maybe even for this summer) going through family and friends who know you. It can be a computer store you visit frequently, a friend's mom, your neighbor, or your physics teacher's college buddy. You need someone who knows you and your work ethic and can vouch for you. If you do manage to find someone who's willing to let you come and apprentice, don't expect to get paid. Like I said before - you're going to be doing much more learning than actually contributing.

Another option, and in my opinion the right way to do this, is to seek out internships that are specifically intended for high-schoolers. Some companies, government labs, and in particular universities have programs focused on teaching and educating students. Start searching for opportunities in your area specifically for your age group, and talk to your teachers and guidance counselors to see if they know of any programs. There probably aren't a lot of internships like this, but you probably also won't have as much competition to deal with when applying either.


I had an internship at a startup in high school. Your best bet is to network. if you have friends whose parents are working at an engineering place, go speak with them.

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