Internships in the United States
Guide to getting an internship in the United States
The United States has the world’s largest economy and internship opportunities in almost every industry. Interning in the US will not only provide you with a business network and look great on your CV (or resume), but it's also a fantastic place to live for a few months, the summer, or for a whole year!
The US is a huge country and there’s a destination for every budget and interest, whether you want to lounge on the beach, hike through the mountains, or explore historic small towns.
Top industries in the US
Since the United States is so big, the top industries also vary from city to city -- Washington D.C. has the best internships in government and politics, while Los Angeles has the most internship opportunities in entertainment and media. Yet, whatever your area of expertise or background, there will be an internship program out there somewhere that suits you.
- Pharmaceuticals & healthcare: The pharmaceutical industry has always been a prominent industry in the US and continues to grow. You can intern in positions such as medical sales, research & development, market analysis, or clinical trials.
- Politics & law: Positions in federal, state, and local government will give interns insight into how this vast country works and the laws that go into governing those who live here. From the smallest towns to the biggest cities, interns can see politics and law in action, though the most popular destination for this industry is of course Washington, DC, the nation’s capital.
- Marketing & communications: The US is a nation of consumers who love new technology and products. Marketing and communications interns will gain experience reaching a culturally and linguistically diverse population with different needs.
- Tech: Companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft have among the most sought-after jobs in the world and are headquartered in the US. Internships in this field can range from machine learning to product design to software engineering.
Best cities to intern in the US
The US has a lot to offer interns. Every region has a unique flavor with different accents and proud cultural offerings and culinary traditions. The following cities are among the most popular and represent a good sampling of this vast country.
- New York, NY: The Big Apple isn’t just a major tourist attraction – NYC is also a prime destination for international interns. Whether you’re looking for experience in finance, fashion, hospitality, or health care, New York is a great option for both work and play.
- Chicago, IL: A hub of the Midwest, Chicago is the city for you if you want a laid-back vibe with tons of activities at your fingertips. Interns focusing on manufacturing, engineering, food science, or fintech will be right at home in Chi-town.
- Los Angeles, CA: LA is the entertainment capital of the US (and debatably, the world) and is perfect for interns eager to break into the film industry. Los Angeles is also great for art, digital media, design, and technology.
- Washington, DC: DC is more than just a spot for history buffs. Prospective politics, law, and international affairs students should look no further than the nation’s capital for their internship. DC is also home to great live music venues, iconic restaurants, and is a great home base for further travel in the region and wider US.
Where to find internships in the US
Applying through a program that will match you to an internship is the easiest and most straightforward way to find an internship in the US. Program providers will not only locate the most fitting internship positions in the location you want, but they will help you through the visa and relocation process.
While these programs usually charge a placement, it can be well worth the money to get personalized guidance and support.
How to apply to internships in the US
While requirements may be different depending on the location, industry, or employer, these are generally the steps you’ll need to follow to land an internship in the US.
- Check that you meet the eligibility requirements. You will likely need an advanced (C1-C2) level of English to participate in internships. Some fields require that you are a current student while others will be open to recent graduates and non-students. Prospective interns will also have to meet the requirements for the J1 visa which includes having sufficient funds to support yourself during your internship.
- Prepare your application materials. You’ll want to have an updated CV, cover letter, portfolio, and/or statement of purpose ready to submit with your application. What is required will vary by program or employer.
- Submit any necessary documents. Academic transcripts from your home university, letters of recommendation, and/or a writing sample or portfolio may be requested, depending on your chosen industry and program.
- Prepare for the interview! Be familiar with your reasons for wanting to intern in the US along with what you hope to get out of the experience. If you have specific plans for your future career, be ready to share those, too!
- Apply for a visa. Interns planning to come to the US will need a J1 visa. This is valid for up to 1 year.
Work culture, language, and etiquette tips in US
The prospect of experiencing a work culture different that your own can be intimidating. Learn about culture and etiquette tips before starting your internship in the US.
- American offices tend to be friendly places to work.
- Dress code varies across the country and industry. In smaller towns and cities, the dress code for your internship may be more casual than in cities. Most often dressing smart or business-casual is expected. You may find that your office has “Casual Fridays” where nice jeans can be worn with conservative tops.
- In most offices and situations, it is acceptable to start using first names as soon as you meet someone.
- Being on time is extremely important!
Contrary to popular belief, the US doesn’t have an official language. However, English is the most widely spoken and will be the language you’ll need for most intern positions. If English isn’t your native language, you may find that your bilingualism makes you an even more competitive candidate, especially if you speak Spanish, French, Chinese, or Filipino.
If you're from an English-speaking country, certain slang words may be different in your country than in the US but this shouldn’t affect your ability to communicate.
Culture & etiquette tips
Internship Programs in the United States
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I do an internships in the USA?
Yes, domestic and international students can definitely do an internship in the USA. As one of the largest economies with opportunities across every industry, it's one of the best places to learn new skills and build a network.
Where can I find an internship in the USA?
Programs that match prospective interns with companies in their chosen field are the easiest way to find an internship in the US. These providers also assist you in the visa process.Related Content
What visa do I need for an internship in the USA?
Generally, you can intern in the USA on an F1 or J1 visa. If you are an international student, you are probably already on an F1 visa which allows you to work up to 20 hours per week. For a J1 visa, you will need to be sponsored by your company to intern in the States.
Are internships paid in the USA?
Many internships are unpaid in the USA with payment in the form of academic credit. However, it's possible to find paid internships at large companies and corporations. The average minimum wage in the USA is about $7.25 per hour.