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Featured Other STEM jobs for high schoolers?

  1. Dec 28, 2017 #1
    Although I'll (hopefully) be attending university next fall, I would love to cut my teeth on some STEM-related work before then. However, I don't know what kind of jobs are open to a high school student. I've considered dropping in at the university in my town---it's hardly elite, but hey---and seeing if someone would be willing to take on a high school student as a lab assistant. Is that feasible? If not, what else is out there? I'm willing to consider volunteer work, as well.
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  3. Dec 29, 2017 #2
    It can be hard to land some of those jobs, depending on your background and experience. But here are some STEM jobs I've seen:

    My small lab has had a few high school interns and research assistants through the years. Some jobs are paid, others are not. It depends on whether we can put the student on a project we're getting paid to do or if we need to put them on an unfunded side project. Since most of our funded projects are dept of defense related, there are also some security issues relating to what students can see. Further, there can be safety issues. All in all, the level of trust needs to be very high.

    I've also seen high school students land jobs as science and math tutors - sometimes free lance, where they find their own students, negotiate their own rates, and work out meeting arrangements. Other times, it's been at a local tutoring center at a nearby college. The college opportunities came after earning As in a couple science or math courses through dual enrollment at the local college. Most colleges have at least one tutoring center - some have several - one for the general student body - one for athletes run by the athletic dept - one for military veterans run by some military org or another - etc.

    I've also known high schoolers to get computer jobs - sometimes web development - sometimes programming - sometimes other IT. The most common model here is for the teen to have their own business. They often start by making a couple demo web pages and then transition into making or improving web pages for small businesses in the community. Ditto for installing and managing computer networks for nearby small businesses.

    All these options take more skills and experience than most teens have, and most of them also require a certain amount of gumption. If you're already 6 months from high school graduation, you may not have time to build the skills or lay the groundwork for a lot of opportunities. But if you need to take a more conventional path of approaching employers with a resume, be mindful that most potential employers view high school employees with an eye toward assessing whether they'll ever get back out of you in terms of productivity their investment in time, effort, and money in training you. The idea of a student not being available any more in 6-8 months may make the training efforts less appealing for them. The exception to this tends to be the tutoring centers - they often have labor shortages and if you have the skills in classes they need tutors for, then they'll be less sensitive to you evaporating quickly.
  4. Dec 29, 2017 #3
    Thank you for the advice, @Dr. Courtney. Tutoring is something I hadn't considered, but it sounds both rewarding and suited to my skills, so I'll explore that option.
  5. Dec 29, 2017 #4
    The problem with a high schooler working a stem type job is the lack of experience would require time to train and high school students are known to be very flakey and unreliable so not very many of these kinds of employers would be willing to take the time. To get like a lab assistant type job while in high school you'd generally have to know somebody and be very dedicated.

    But there are plenty of summer internships that are available for high school students. Just do some googling or look on job sites like indeed.

    But being in high school you still have plenty of time to show your value. Really any job will do at this point because what you're primarily looking to establish is that you are a trustworthy and reliable person. And that looks good on any college application regardless if you're working at a lab or at mcdonalds.
  6. Dec 30, 2017 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    The other big problem is liability. If someone is under 18, all sorts of restrictions kick in. Many years ago, I had some undergrads working for me at a national laboratory refurbishing counters. Even then it would have been impossible to have high schoolers do the work - and things are much stricter now.
  7. Dec 31, 2017 #6


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    But this problem isn't unique to STEM jobs -- all sorts of employers face problems with liability (even, I presume, McDonald's). But when I was in high school back in the late 80s/early 90s, high school students were often found doing part-time jobs in various places (fast-food joints, corner stores, librairies, etc.) or were involved in summer internships.

    Do these opportunities no longer exist for high school students today?
  8. Dec 31, 2017 #7

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    Yes, but McDonald's needs this labor more than universities do. Universities have a mission to educate their own students. Furthermore, the hazards are more familiar. People are more concerned with radiation, chemicals and electricity than slips, trips and falls.
  9. Jan 1, 2018 #8
    I was heavily involved in fast food and other service industry jobs in high school in the 1980s and also have had a hard look at those in recent years due to my work with lots of teens. These jobs can hire lots of teens for several reasons: very low training requirements, paying minimum wage or close to it is key to their profit models, and their cultures and requirements put them above critical mass so that insuring against liability issues can be cost effective for them due to the costs savings.

    The changing liability picture and increases in regulation for employers over the past decades has made it harder for companies to hire high school students for STEM jobs, especially small companies. For example, laws in many states prevent minors (under 18) from working when the local public schools are in session. Small business owners cannot even hire home schooled students or private school students to work before 3 PM on days when the local public school district has school. Further, other child labor laws prevent hiring most students under 18 to work with anything deemed dangerous, which includes lots of stuff in science labs: high voltage, many chemicals, radioactive materials, energetic materials, etc. In most cases, students working in our lab need to work as unpaid interns or limit themselves to data analysis tasks rather than active involvement in the experiments.

    One high schooler who landed a tutoring job did so because they were enrolled as a college student and did well in math courses through Calc 2. The tutoring center did not even realize they were hiring a 16 year old high school student.
  10. Jan 1, 2018 #9
    Sometimes their are internships you can apply for. But, a more realistic option would be working at the nearest grocery store or fast food place. I worked at Rite-Aid and Footlocker when I was your age. Footlocker or another similar company would offer you the most money. I would a few pairs of limited shoe releases in the back, and resell them for 100+ to 200+ dollars.
  11. Jan 2, 2018 #10


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    Not STEM, but something to look into is office temp work (a temp agency) I'm not sure if they hire when still in high school, but I did a bunch of it while I was in college. It pays better than food service and proves you can work in adult office environment. I got up to $12 an hour doing Excel and Access data entry - 20 years ago!
  12. Jan 2, 2018 #11


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    Go to small manufacturing companies in your area (industrial parks). Some may have work available for you to do, whether is manual labor, documentation, factory work, or being an engineering intern. Even if they don't have job openings posted, call and ask for a meeting with a manager or president (depending on the size of the company).
  13. Jan 3, 2018 #12
    This is what I was going to suggest. There's STEM and there's manual skills that you might use later in STEM (I'm thinking of things like soldering electronics assemblies, etc.). Even if you're sweeping the floors in a machine shop you will learn what a mill or a lathe looks like and see what the operators are doing.
  14. Jan 3, 2018 #13
    While I tend to agree that the OP's chances of landing a STEM job halfway through 12th grade tend to be slim, I would not be so negative on the prospects for all high schoolers, especially those who are intentional about building an attractive skill set beginning in 8th or 9th grade so that they have an appealing resume for those potential STEM employers.

    Attractive skills: programming, electronics, instrumentation, data analysis, figure preparation, technical writing.

    The goal is to reduce the training burden and be productive quickly in that STEM job, and also to have the possibility of remaining productive in one position for 2-3 years before disappearing to college. The longer it takes to train you and the sooner you are likely to leave, the less appealing candidate you are.

    One productive exercise we recommend for students we mentor is make a resume beginning in 9th grade and keep it updated. Keep in mind skill areas that are lacking relative to future job and educational goals. Make tangible plans how to improve those skill areas that are lacking. By 11th grade, students can have skill sets that make them desirable STEM employees, and by the beginning of college, they can be excellent candidates for laboratory jobs on campus.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
  15. Jan 3, 2018 #14
    And here I am a graduate with experience and for the life of me I cannot find a job involving STEM... Still, I wish you good luck OP.
  16. Jan 3, 2018 #15


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    @ModusPwnd , the last time you posted, you stated that you are working as an engineer at a semiconductor fab. That counts as a STEM job to me!
  17. Jan 3, 2018 #16
    It's a STEM job on the surface. But I was careful to word it as a job involving STEM, which I have never really had. Not at any level above the general public. The OP could probably do my job if HR would let him.

    I did have a college class mate who published as a high schooler. He was world class though and very much an exception. I couldnt even manage to land research until senior year despite continuously trying.

    @PetSounds Let us know if you manage to land something,
  18. Jan 5, 2018 #17
    In high school for summer breaks I'd work in the district's tech department doing all kinds of low level tech work. They love cheap labor.
  19. Jan 5, 2018 #18


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    A student who did one or two dual-enrollment classes at a community college while also attending his (their?) high school might have a better chance of finding some scientific or laboratory employment maybe as part time or during summer.
  20. Jan 5, 2018 #19
    Thank you all for the thoughtful replies, and to @Greg Bernhardt for featuring this thread. You've given me plenty of options to explore!
  21. Jan 6, 2018 #20


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    Some university labs have high school apprenticeship programs for the summer. They are quite competitive and last 8 weeks or so where you are paired with a mentor and work on a project chosen by you among a collection of proposed projects. At the end of the 8 weeks, you make a poster presentation and show your work.

    Some high school science teachers know about these programs but you could be proactive and inquire at your local universities and colleges to get more info.
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