Internship Applicant FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I eligible to be an intern?

What's the internship program like?

What's up with the application process?

What has the museum done with their internship program during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?

How can I get more information?

Who can be an intern?

In order to be an intern at NMAH, you must have professional learning goals that can be supported through the mentorship of NMAH staff. Specific qualifications and prerequisites vary depending on the specific internship experience. All interested applicants, international and legal US residents, are encouraged to apply! Please read about our Specific Internship Opportunities and General Application Pools at NMAH before selecting your project choice on your application. 

Our internship program does not require our interns to be current students. Rather, the museum welcomes diversity in all respects within its internship program, including but not limited to age, occupation, acadamic attainment, nationality, and background. While the majority of our interns are current undergraduate or graduate students or recent grads, many of our interns are community college students, professionals changing their career paths, and people without a formal postsecondary background. Due to mentor capacity, our internship program is not open for current high school students at this time.

Additionally, each internship can be specified to be a generalized and/or specialized internship. Generalized internships are intended to provide individuals initial experience in the internship project’s field, while specialized internships are intended for individuals who already have experience in the internship project’s field. 

Do you take international interns?

Yes, we do! You can find out more about the appointment process, including information about applying for J-1 visas, under the “International Appointees” section of the FAQ for Applicants through the Smithsonian’s Office Internship Programs.

Do I need to have a specific academic major in order to get an internship?

Not necessarily. In order to achieve our mission, NMAH requires people with a variety of academic background and professional experiences, and the total work of the Museum requires more than an understanding of history or American studies. Likewise, individuals with many different academic backgrounds and interests have had successful, productive internships at the museum. Take a moment to explore the Museum website, and you will see a variety of exhibits and programs that encompass a wide range of disciplines, including graphic design, medicine, communications, physical sciences, and music. Additionally, intern applicants sometimes overlook the important museum support positions, from administration to information technology to the library and archives. Finally, in an institution founded "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men," there are many opportunities for those interested in education to work with children of all ages in the Museum’s public programs.

With that said, you should have a demonstrated interest or passion the project for your NMAH internship, and some internships that categorized as “specialized” may require more experience in the internship project’s field.

I'm not a history major! Are there internship opportunities for me?

Yes! Please check out the webpages for Upcoming Internship Opportunities and the General Application Pools to learn more.

How much time does an internship take?

This varies depending on the internship; typically, internships are at least 20 hours per week for at least 10 weeks. Some internships are specified as full-time (40 hours per week), while others are more flexible and can be arranged between the intern and their mentor. Additionally, some internships are longer than the 10 weeks; internships can be awarded for a maximum of 6 months with a possibility of another 6 month extension as long as the intern still has more opportunities to learn and grow.

Can I get college credit for my internship?

The museum does not award college credit itself, but most U.S. colleges and universities will recognize academic work performed while interning at the museum. Contact your school’s registrar or career planning office for more information.

At NMAH, we are committed to equitable access to our museum and the museum field overall. With this in mind, the NMAH Internship Program provides a minimum total stipend of $500 to defray technology costs (for a virtual internship) or commuting costs (for an in-person internship). Also, after being selected, interns are able to apply for additional stipend funding based on self-disclosed financial need. The total awarded amount of the stipend depends on the availability of museum funds and is at the discretion of NMAH. We are actively working towards increasing the availability of stipends for all NMAH interns. Please note that stipends cannot be distributed before the start of an internship, and we typically recommend that an intern has at least enough external funding to cover the first month's expenses to accommodate the wait time required in stipend processing

Internship stipends issued by the Smithsonian are not considered salary or meant as compensation, but are awarded to help defray living expenses for an intern during the term of their appointment. Interns awarded stipends who are U.S. residents for tax purposes are responsible for meeting their individual state and federal tax obligations and will receive a financial summary around March of the following year for the previous calendar year. Interns who are not U.S. residents for tax purposes will receive an IRS Form 1042-S and are likewise responsible for meeting any and all tax obligations.  

If an intern is awarded a stipend, stipends cannot be distributed before the start of an internship, and the stipend distribution process takes 6 weeks from the time the Office of Internship Programs receives an accepted intern's stipend paperwork, which happens after the timeline of the traditional onboarding process. Stipend payments are released on the 10th and 25th of each month, and the frequency of payments is decided by OIP depending on the stipend amount. We typically recommend that an intern has at least enough external funding to cover the first month's expenses to accommodate this wait time.

To learn if an individual internship opportunity already offers a stipend, check out the financial information in each internship posting on the Upcoming Internship Opportunities webpage. Additionally, stipended opportunities are available for a limited number of internships through the Smithsonian’s Office of Internship Programs (OIP).

Where can I stay during my internship?

Interns are required to find their own housing accommodations. For some guidance, please check out the Smithsonian Office of Internship Programs' information on travel and housing for the Washington, DC area. If you're selected for an internship, you'll also receive an informal, unofficial guide to help you prep for your internship, including finding housing.

Why do you offer internships at NMAH?

We offer internships at NMAH in order to support and shape the future of museums and museum leadership. We accomplish this by providing meaningful, supportive professional learning experiences and ensuring equitable and inclusive access to the museum and the museum field.

In this purpose, we aim to foster the development of each individual intern. This means that we not only offer internships for people who are already interested in museum careers, such as our future curators, museum educators, and exhibit developers, but also for for people who just want to learn more about museums and public history alongside their respective fields, such as finance and accounting, instructional design, and project management. A museum is a bit like a ship--it takes a whole community of folks with different background and expertise to keep us sailing--and this means that almost any career you'd want to learn, you can probably learn more about it at a museum!

Do I have to know exactly what I want to do before I apply for an internship?

Kind of. You should have a demonstrated interest or passion is some field or profession that we have here at NMAH, and you should also have some idea about what you would like to learn through your internship at NMAH, but you don’t need to know specifics projects or staff for whom you’d like to intern.

Additionally, if you’re interested in internship opportunities at other museums and research centers at the Smithsonian as well as more general Smithsonian internships, please visit the Smithsonian’s Office of Internship Programs.

During what times of year do you host interns?

Our internship program seasons currently happen on a semester basis. This means we host fall internships (September - December), spring internships (February - May), and summer internships (June - August).

We typically do not offer short-term internships, such as winter or spring break internships, but applicants who are interested in short-term internships may apply through the typical application process and specify in the learning goals essay their intended internship timeline.

Are there deadlines for applications?

Yes! There are three internship cycles at NMAH, and each has their own application deadline. Please note that all components of an application (including recommendation letters) must be submitted on time for your application to be considered "complete." We do not allow for extensions, so be sure to accommodate enough time to double check your application to ensure that it is correct and complete.

Our NMAH Internship Program application is currently open for both Spring and Summer 2023.

Only complete SOLAA applications will be considered; this means, at its most basic, a submitted application on SOLAA for the correct semester that includes a learning goals essay and a resume, with the option to also include a transcript/class list or letters of reference. Please note the following due dates:

Spring 2023 applications for the NMAH Internship Program are due November 3, 2022, at 12 PM EST. Spring intern selections should be made by late November. Spring internships should expect to start at the beginning of February, and internships can last through mid-May.

Summer 2023 applications for the NMAH Internship Program will be due January 17, 2023, at 12 PM EST. Summer intern selections should be made by early March. Summer internships should expect to start at the beginning of June, and internships can last through mid-August.

Please note: some specific internship opportunities are only offered in spring or in summer—not both. Some internships are offered every semester. Please check the internship post to determine when it’s expected to take place. If you’d like to apply for the same internship for spring and for summer, please submit two applications—one for spring, and one for summer. To learn how to submit multiple applications easily, check out our How to Apply guide.

Internships may also be posted on a rolling basis. To get updates about new internship opportunities as they are posted, you’re encouraged to sign up to our recruitment mailing list using this form.



Can I apply for more than one internship at the same time?

Yes! Check out the section “Applying for More than One Internship Project” on the How to Apply page.

When will I find out if I got an internship?

At NMAH, applications are reviewed at specific times throughout the year; we do not do rolling application review. The NMAH Internship Program collects all applications through SOLAA and distributes them to potential mentors for review within a week after the application deadline. We employ this process in order to ensure that every application is reviewed thoroughly. Decisions about intern selection are then expected to be made within four-six weeks of the application deadline.

What's going on with the internship program regarding the COVID-19 pandemic?

Our Spring 2020 internships started before the pandemic began; mentors and interns for all in-person internships had the choice to switch to virtual or to end the internship early, depending on the nature of each internship's learning and projects.

For our Summer 2020 and Fall 2020 internships, all in-person internships were cancelled, abiding by guidance from the Smithsonian's Office of Fellowships and Internships; several internships weren switched to virtual opportunities, and other internships were cancelled or postponed, depending on the internship projects and learning goals. Additionally, in Spring 2021 and Summer 2021, we exclusively offered virtual internship opportunities.

Starting in Fall 2021, according to ongoing guidance about staff capacity within the museum, we will continue to primarily host virtual internships in order to ensure the safety and health of our staff and interns and additionally are allowing some ad hoc flexibility for hybrid experiences (part in-person and part-virtual) for internships whose learning goals require in-person access to the museum, such as internships in collections management and object handling. 

What is a virtual internship?

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, NMAH is currently offering virtual internship experiences rather than our typical in-person internship experiences, and it is our program goal to continue offering virtual internship experiences in addition to in-person experiences in the future to help increase access to our professional learning programs for folks who may be unable to relocate to the DC area. Though they take place online rather than in-person at the museum, our virtual internships still have several of the components that make for a successful internship experience: mentors who guide interns' professional growth and provide support, projects through which interns achieve their learning goals for the internship, enrichment activities to help specially tailor their internship experience, access to stipends to defray cost of living, and opportunities to attend virtual team meetings, informational interviews, and all-staff opportunities--and a whole lot more!

Are interns included in the vaccination mandate for federal agencies?

Yes! All academic appointments, including interns and fellows, may require proof of vaccination for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) with a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized (or, for international remote interns, a WHO-recommended) COVID-19 vaccine or have an approved Reasonable Accommodation granting an exemption from vaccine requirements. Please see additional information regarding reasonable accommodations here.

How can I get more information?

For more genetal information about internships across the Smithsonian, you can check the FAQ for Applicants from the Smithsonian's Office Internship Programs. You can also use this contact form to submit an email to the NMAH Interns and Fellows Program Manager or call (202) 633-3556, and we'll be happy to help answer your questions!