Internship Applicant FAQs

Possible Questions:

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

How much time does an internship take?

Who can be an intern?

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

Are there deadlines for applications?

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

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

Can I get college credit for my internship?

Will I get paid for my internship?

Where can I stay during my internship?

When will I find out if I got an internship?

How can I get more information?


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 Fellowships and Internships.


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.


Who can be an intern?

In order to be an intern at NMAH, you must be over 14 years old and have 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 Upcoming Internship Opportunities and General Application Pools at NMAH before selecting your project choice on your application. 

Most interns are either undergraduate or graduate students from colleges and universities around the world, but student status is not required. The Museum welcomes diversity in all respects, including but not limited to age, occupation, nationality, and background, within its intern population. Projects are not generally appropriate for high school students. All interested applicants, international and legal US residents, are encouraged to apply!

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 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.


Are there deadlines for applications?

Yes! There are three internship cycles at NMAH, and each has their own application deadline.

Chart explaining internship timeline: Summer 2020, June - August, posted November 19, 2020, due February 3, 2020; Fall 2020, September - December, posted March 17, 2020, due June 1, 2020; Spring 2021, January - May, posted July 14, due September 25


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.


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.


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 actively trying to increase equitable opportunities each internship cycle, which includes increasing the amount and availability of stipends. Stipends may be available for accepted interns whose complete applications are submitted on time; the amount of internship stipends depends on the amount of museum funds available and is at the discretion of NMAH.

Smithsonian stipend awards vary depending on the program but may be benchmarked against the rate offered by many centrally funded programs of $650/week for a full-time internship. Stipends may be available for accepted interns whose complete applications are submitted on time.

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 OFI 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 OFI 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 Fellowships and Internships (OFI).


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 Fellowships and Internships' D.C. Metro Area Housing Guide. If you're selected for an internship, you'll also receive an informal, unofficial guide to prepping for your internship.


When will I find out if I got an internship?

At NMAH, mentors receive applications for review the day after the application deadline in order to ensure that every application is reviewed thoroughly. Decisions about intern selection are then expected to be made within four weeks.


How can I get more information?

For more information, please use this contact form to submit an email to the NMAH Interns and Fellows Manager or call (202) 633-3556.