Six Summer Job Options To Start Planning for Now

Last updated 9/28/20

Summer is more than a time to hang out with friends and binge on TV shows you missed. It’s the ideal opportunity to set yourself up for a job after graduation by interning or doing research. Employers want workers with experi­ence, and summer is the perfect time to get it without the distraction of classes, homework, clubs, or social activities.

While it may seem early to be thinking about summer work, research and internship programs are accepting applications now. If you’re not sure what you want to do after graduation, the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program or an internship will give you a chance to try out different types of posi­tions, organizations, and research areas without making a long-term commitment.

Experience opportunities for your résumé

Research Experiences for Undergraduates. In the REU program, undergraduate students work closely with faculty and other researchers on a specific laboratory project at the host institution. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the program provides stipends and, in many cases, assistance with housing and travel. The chance of gaining graduate-level research experience is more than worth the effort of writing the best application you can.

Internships. Interning is a great way to get the kind of technical and professional experience that employers are looking for — even if you plan to attend graduate school. Check with your career ser­vices office or local companies for positions. If your school has a career fair, attend it. ACS’s Get Experience website has a compre­hensive list of internships in various job sectors.

Other research opportunities. Along with REUs, you can do grad­uate-level research at a university, government institution, or cor­poration. Talk to professors within your department, researchers at other universities, or members of your ACS local section to find out about summer research.

Finding and Applying for Summer Research Opportunities

Youtube ID: rsrkANfLMR8

What if you don’t get an REU or internship?

Don’t take it personally if you don’t get accepted for a position. Huge applicant pools and restricted funding often play a large role in job placements. However, you never know how the tide may turn — An employer’s needs may change or a chosen candidate may back out at the last minute. That’s why it’s important to stay in touch with your contacts and take some time to refine your applica­tion. Run your résumé by a career counselor (ACS student members: remember your ACS career counselor benefit!). Make sure that your application shows why you are a good fit for the program. If an internship doesn’t pan out, keep your eyes and ears open for last-minute opportunities that will help you build profes­sional skills.

Other experience options

Summer jobs in your department. Often, there are non-research jobs for students at college departments that can help you gain professional skills and knowledge. For example, performing laboratory cleanup leads to a good understand­ing of chemical safety and equipment naming and function. Tutoring students will give you experience for future teaching assistantships.

Think outside the department. Does your school have sum­mer programs for high school students or pre-freshmen? If so, they might need peer tutors and peer mentors. These positions require responsible students who can handle authority and communicate effectively, two skills that are desirable in teach­ing assistants or team members in industrial settings.

Build your own summer experience. It is alright if you don’t want to spend the summer doing research, but find what you want to do, and do it! You will undoubtedly build skill sets that are transferrable to graduate school or employment. If you have a passion for writing, spend the summer reading and writing (and consider writing for inChemistry). Volunteer with your local section or even with non-chemistry organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity. Work at a summer camp, or see if your parents’ employers have summer jobs.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk to a faculty member about your plans, to seek ideas or for a pep talk. Your professors under­stand how nerve-wracking this period of time can be, and they are happy to remind you that you are not alone in this process. Good luck!

Last updated 12/16/2016

About the Author

Michelle Boucher
is a professor of chemistry at Utica University, chair of the Undergraduate Student Advisory Board, and a longtime ACS student chapter advisor.