You can’t beat the benefits of hands-on experience. For sustainability students, internships are simply the best sources of real-world experiences, providing opportunities to learn, network and make a difference, all while you’re still in school. Check out our list to find out how you can work with some of the world’s leading organizations and gain great experiences in the field of sustainability.
Note: Most of the sustainability internships listed below are offered by national or international organizations. If you’re looking for a local opportunity, check with the careers office in your school or university for a list of state-specific opportunities.
Just starting your search? Try the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) Environmental Internship Clearinghouse. There, you’ll find a searchable database of internships in environmental fields.
Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) Internships for a Sustainable Future
Founded in 1992, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) is a nonprofit global network of over 250 member companies. Its mission is to develop sustainable business strategies and solutions through consulting, research and cross-sector collaboration.
Location: Offices in Asia, Europe, North America and South America.
Internship Details: BSR’s Interns in the Sustainable Future Program gives student the chance to work directly with experts in BSR member companies, learning how to integrate sustainability into business strategies. Past internship locations include Paris, San, Francisco and New York.
Education Requirements: Open to master’s level students.
Founded in 1989, Ceres is a nonprofit sustainability advocacy organization. Members include investors, companies and public interest groups focused on mobilizing support for sustainable business practices and solutions. Ceres is known for launching the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and coordinating the United Nations Investor Summit on Climate Risk.
Location: Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts; international scope.
Internship Details: Ceres hosts a variety of internships, including fall and spring semester internships (10 to 15 hours per week) and a summer intern program (Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Internships include work in areas including development, a water program, electric power; insurance and transportation, oil and gas.
Education Requirements: Open to college undergraduate or graduate students.
Pay: $12 an hour for spring and fall interns; $3300 stipend for summer interns.
Clean Cities University Workforce Development Program
An initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy, Clean Cities is a government-industry partnership focused on reducing petroleum use and promoting awareness of alternative fuels in transportation. Formed in 1993, this partnership now consists of nearly 100 regional coalitions, with almost 18,000 stakeholders in the public and private sectors.
Location: Coalitions throughout the United States.
Internship Details: Through the Clean Cities University Workforce Development Program, summer interns have the opportunity to work in Clean Cities coalitions across the country. Students typically work on locally focused projects (such as planning and implementing National Alternative Fuel Vehicle Odyssey Day). Tasks can include event planning, data analysis, market research, website design and social media initiatives.
Education Requirements: Open to college undergraduate (junior or senior year) or graduate students studying communications, public relations, business, marketing, engineering or environmental sciences.
Pay: Stipends range from $3,600 to $6,000 depending on the academic level and number of hours assigned by the coalition.
Earthwatch Institute Internships
Founded in 1971, Earthwatch Institute is an international nonprofit organization focused on promoting the education and action necessary to sustain earth’s natural environment. It currently funds hands-on, scientific field expeditions in nearly 40 countries.
Location: Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts; offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia and Brazil.
Internship Details: Earthwatch Institute Internships are offered on a rolling basis, and include openings in departments such as marketing, field research, field operations, the library, publications, education and fundraising.
Education Requirements: Applicants must be students in one of three areas of focus: research, education or conservation.
Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) Internships
FSD is a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization concerned with international development. Its aim is to achieve “community-driven goals through asset-based development and international exchange in Africa, Asia and Latin America.” FSD emphasis leveraging local resources before looking for external help.
Location: Based in San Francisco; sites in Argentina, Bolivia, India, Kenya, Nicaragua and Uganda.
Internship Details: Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) Internships are centered on critical grassroots initiatives in local communities around the world. Areas of focus include microfinance, health, youth development, human rights, environmental sustainability and gender equity. Opportunities include:
- College students and young professionals can participate in international internships (nine to 52 weeks). Each participant works with one of FSD’s 300 Community Partners in an intensive, immersive program.
- Pre-college students can choose a Gap Year program (nine to 52 weeks) to work on a development project with an FSD community partner.
- Professionals can sign up for ProCorps Volunteering (two to 12 weeks) to apply their expertise to pressing community needs worldwide.
- Groups of eight or more can participate in Global Service Trips (one to five weeks) to p rovide short-term, high-impact support to pressing community development initiatives.
Education Requirements: Open to pre-college students age 17 and above, college undergraduates, professionals with specific expertise and groups, depending on the opportunity.
Green Corps’ Field School for Environmental Organizing
Founded in 1992, Green Corps is a nonprofit organization devoted to training the environmental organizers and activists of tomorrow. Notable Green Corps alumni include Phil Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA; Sarah Hodgdon, National Program Director of the Sierra Club; and Justin Ruben, former Executive Director of MoveOn.org.
Location: Introductory classroom training in Boston; field cities throughout the United States.
Internship Details: Participants in Green Corps’ one-year, full-time Field School for Environmental Organizing gain hands-on experience in urgent environmental campaigns, intensive classroom training and career placements in positions with leading environmental groups.
Education Requirements: Open to recent U.S. college graduates; international applicants who have a VISA with a work permit are invited to apply.
Pay: Annual salary of $24,000.
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) Internships
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is “an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities.” It’s comprised of nearly 100 member groups that work to promote a healthier, more vibrant food and farming system.
Location: Headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Internship Details: Paid, full-time National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) Internships are offered in the NSAC’s policy and grassroots departments three times a year. Interns work closely with staff on a range of daily activities, including current grassroots advocacy campaigns.
Education Requirements: Unspecified.
Pay: Hourly rate based on experience.
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) Internship Program
Located in a rural area on the Rhode and West Rivers in Maryland, the SERC is a research and educational center operated by the Smithsonian Institution. Its focus is researching the ecosystems of coastal zones and human impacts in land-sea interactions.
Location: Edgewater, Maryland.
Internship Details: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) Internships coincide with North American academic semesters and summer terms. Appointments are usually full-time (40 hours) and 12 to 16 weeks in length. Under the direction of professional staff, interns participate in hands-on projects in environmental research, education and information management.
Education Requirements: Open to college undergraduate and beginning graduate students, as well as recent graduates of undergraduate and graduate programs; U.S. citizenship is not required.
Pay: Selected candidates receive a stipend of $500 per week.
Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Internships
Comprised of over 1,100 members, the SEIA is a national nonprofit trade association for solar energy companies in the United States. Its goal is to promote solar energy as a mainstream energy source. Efforts include expanding markets, strengthening the industry, federal advocacy and educating the public.
Location: Washington, D.C.
Internship Details: Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Internships are offered throughout the year (including during the summer) and vary according to the organization’s needs. Interns typically support staff in areas such as federal affairs, state affairs, communications, membership, research and social media.
Education Requirements: Open to college undergraduate and graduate students.
Pay: Transportation stipend.
Student Conservation Association (SCA) Internships
Founded in 1957, the nonprofit Student Conservation Association (SCA) predates the Peace Corps, City Year and AmeriCorps. Its mission is “to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of the environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land.”
Location: Locations throughout the United States.
Internship Details: Student Conservation Association (SCA) Internships include a wide variety of programs, including individual internships, SCA Corps (team-based programs) and special programs:
- Individual interns are placed with a partner agency/organization (such as the National Park Service) to gain hands-on experience in conservation and sustainability. These internships range from 12 weeks to 12 months long.
- SCA Corps members take part in hands-on projects as part of a team managed by SCA field staff. Programs range from three to 12 months in length.
- Special programs provide a mix of team-based training with individual or small group site placement. Some have unique time commitments and requirements.
Education Requirements: Open to high school graduates and current college undergraduate and graduate students. SCA also offers youth programs for students under age 18. In addition to U.S. citizens, many programs welcome applications from permanent residents or international students with appropriate visas.
Pay: Expense-paid. Typical positions include a one-time travel allowance and weekly living allowance; many also include housing or a housing stipend.
United Nations Office for Sustainable Development (UNOSD) Internship Program
Founded in 2011, the United Nations Office for Sustainable Development (UNOSD) was created to facilitate the exchange and use of knowledge in the world’s transition toward sustainable societies. It supports governments in implementing international agreements on sustainable development.
Location: Incheon, Republic of Korea.
Internship Details: Through the United Nations Office for Sustainable Development (UNOSD) Internship Program, the UNOSD offers full-time, semester-long internships three times per year, in the spring, summer and fall. Depending on their academic interests, interns may support UNOSD staff in research, policy analysis, data recording, communications, event planning or clerical work. Internships can be renewed for up to six months in exceptional cases.
Education Requirements: Open to college undergraduate (senior year) or graduate students, as well a those who have graduated from an undergraduate or graduate program within the past year. Good oral and written command of English is required; knowledge of any other UN official language (Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish or Russian) or Korean is an asset.
U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Internships
Founded in 1993, the USGBC is a nonprofit organization with a mission to “transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.” Its efforts include LEED (the mostly widely used green building program in the world), federal advocacy and public education about green building. USGBC was one of eight national councils involved in founding the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) and hosts the annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo.
Location: Washington, D.C.
Internship Details: U.S. Green Building Council Internships are offered during the summer in Washington, D.C. Interns aid staff in an extensive range of areas, including policy, research, LEED initiatives, community advancement, green schools and data analysis.
Education Requirements: Open to college undergraduate and graduate students; interns must be eligible to receive academic credit.
World Resources Institute (WRI) Internships
Founded in 1982, WRI is a nonprofit organization with a mission “to move human society to live in ways that protect Earth’s environment and its capacity to provide for the needs and aspirations of current and future generations.” Its projects are centered on six goals: combating climate change, clean energy, sustainable food production, forest preservation, a water-secure future and sustainable urban and transport solutions.
Location: Offices in Washington, D.C., India, China and Brazil; active projects in more than 50 countries.
Internship Details: Students taking part in World Resources Institute Internships typically assist staff in one of WRI’s many programs, in areas including development, climate and energy, markets and enterprise and EMBARQ (sustainable transport). U.S. internships are based in Washington, D.C. WRI posts new internships to its website on a regular basis.
Education Requirements: Open to college undergraduate and graduate students.
Pay: Some positions are unpaid; some are paid. Hourly rates are based on experience.
World Wildlife Fund – United States (WWF) Internships
The WWF is an international nonprofit foundation focused on conservation and reducing the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth. It’s active in 100 countries and its work is focused on protecting species, conserving places, tackling threats, influencing policy, transforming business, empowering communities, science and conservation finance.
Location: U.S. and worldwide.
Internship Details: World Wildlife Fund – United States Internships come in many shapes and sizes, with many opportunities in conservation strategy and science. Other fields include operations, policy and market transformation. Projects can take place over the summer, with extensions as necessary into the fall semester; most can also be extended over the course of one or two semesters.
If you’re age 20 to 27 and can fund your own expenses, check out the WWF Youth Volunteer & Internship Program. This three- to six-month program provides volunteer experiences in countries such as Madagascar, Senegal, Paraguay, South Pacific and Bhutan.
Education Requirements: Internships are typically college graduate students; some opportunities may be appropriate for advanced undergraduate students.
Pay: Unpaid/volunteer unless otherwise specified.
Here are a few other opportunities to explore:
- Audubon WINGS Internship Program
- Environment America Internships
- National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) Internships
- National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Internships
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- Nature Conservancy Internships
- Rainforest Alliance Internships
- Sierra Club Internships
- The Food Project Root Crew