Whether used for college credit, to gain experience or explore future career paths, internships provide high school and college students with real-life work experience. An internship allows students pursuing physics degrees to learn from professional physicists in a hands-on environment. While internships can occur all year-round, most take place during the summer, when students have time off from school and can devote more time to the experience.
Most students learn about internship opportunities through their schools. Schools may help them to get internships and help with applications, interviews and financial aid. Federal agencies that offer summer physics internships include NASA, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. Professional associations and industry-related groups also provide internships. Other providers of summer physics internships include private corporations, research facilities, physics laboratories and college and university physics departments.
Physics includes a number of disciplines, and a student can choose a general physics internship or a specialized internship. A physics student can choose an internship that concentrates on research and development or can opt for an internship relating to medicine, aerospace and astrophysics. There also are internships for certain groups of students, such as the IBM Research Internship Program for undergraduate women in physics. There are internships for students at all levels, including undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students. For a worldly experience, a number of study-abroad internships occur in Europe, Asia and South America.
Depending on the provider, students will have to fulfill certain requirements to get an intern position. Typical requirements are having a grade point average and participating in physics and non-physics extracurricular activities. For internships offered by certain organizations, such as the Society of Physics Students, the student may have be a member or participate in the group's activities. Other requirements include undergoing application and interview processes, submitting letters of reference and providing an essay explaining why the student wants the internship.
Along with fulfilling the duties of the internship, some internships also require additional work. For example, internships through the Society of Physics Students mandate that students submit weekly journal entries and give 15-minute professional presentations. Other requirements include participating in group activities, lectures and classes. While most internships do not offer a salary or hourly pay, some do provide a housing and transportation stipend, since students often choose an internship in an area outside their hometown. Internships may also offer college credit or fulfill a degree program requirement.
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