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Commonly Asked Internship Questions

How do I get an internship? 

“My meeting with the Assistant Director of Research and Occupational Safety was more than pleasant and to my surprise it became an interview for an internship!” -Sandy

Most students get internships in one of three ways:

  • Applying to posted internships on the Student Portal page.
  • Applying to national internships found through independent research, such as on ehscareers.com, indeed.com, Google, or company-specific HR sites.
  • Developing new internship opportunities through networking. For example, students commonly get internships by reaching out directly to organizations they’re interested in or arranging informational interviews.

All students should expect to search for and apply to internships starting in July through the end of the school year. We recommend applying to at least 10 internships.

How do I know if my internship will fulfill my major requirements? 

Internship requirements are available in the Internship Guide on the Student Portal page. To verify if an internship meets major requirements, you can email the position description to Hayley Leventhal, Internship Manager, at hayleyl@uw.edu.

What do I do if I’m having trouble getting an internship?

You can make an appointment with Hayley at your convenience. In the meantime, here are some tips:

  • Write targeted cover letters and adapt your resume for each internship application.
  • Apply to at least 10 internships.
  • Apply early –starting in late summer for the following year- and monitor internship postings regularly.
  • Try to apply within the first three days a new internship is posted.

    “The main lesson I learned from my application process was to apply to everything that you would reasonably be able to do and to get started on your application materials like your resume and cover letters early so as to expedite the application processes. You should not get frustrated if your application process takes longer than expected or you hear way more No’s than Yes’s, as this is part of the process and it will only hurt you to get bogged down by the small details” -Nick

I was offered an internship. Now what?

Congratulations! Take a moment to celebrate your hard work. Here are some steps to get started:

  • If you have not done so already, email the internship description to Hayley to ensure that the internship will meet your degree requirements.
  • If you need time to make a decision, you can ask for a day or two at most to discuss this opportunity with your faculty advisor, Hayley, or your family.
  • Once you’ve accepted an offer, please notify Hayley via email as soon as possible. She will provide you with next steps.

What should I do if I have other interviews or offers?

It’s always a good idea to evaluate each offer independent of other internship opportunities. What caused you to initially apply? What skills or experiences would you gain from this internship? Once you’ve accepted an internship, it’s standard to withdraw other applications and turn down interview requests. Do not accept an internship you do not plan to complete.

To accept an internship only to withdraw later for a different offer would jeopardize your professional reputation, as well as damage the department’s ability to offer internships to future students.

Can I negotiate compensation?

“Figuring out my potential career is an ongoing process. I am very glad I did my internship with Public Health – Seattle & King County. I developed many skills and created relationships with many people who are supportive and see a bright future for me. Now, I leave my internship with more insight into my future career and I gained skills and experiences that will help me launch forward.” -Katie

It is not typical to negotiate compensation for an internship. At some internships, you might be able to negotiate start and end dates or hours. However, you should ask if they’re negotiable and not assume that they are.

Do you have questions about internships?

Post them in the comments!

Meet Our Interns: Yasmin E.

My First Week at my Safety Internship

By Yasmin E.

This week, I start my internship at Sound Transit! Sound Transit is a public transit agency that operates light rail service and regional commuter rails. It is an exciting time to work for Sound Transit, due to the recent passing of ST3 in 2016, which enables more growth and expansion for Sound Transit. I will work primarily with the Safety and Quality Assurance department, where I will work alongside Safety Assurance Specialists. I will also occasionally work with the EHS department.

I initially interviewed with Sound Transit at the end of April. What drew me to this internship was the unique duties compared to other internships within my field. Prior to this internship, my background included working in a research lab and doing work that is very specialized for the lab. I applied with the hope that this experience will allow me to have a taste of working on environmental health within public transit.

Yasmin in her new SoundTransit hat!

My interview in April consisted of a panel of 4 interviewers at the Union Station in Seattle’s International District. During the interview, I talked about my experiences in classes focused on construction/occupational safety, as they were the most relevant to this internship. I also talked about my experiences working on a team. I was confident that my past experiences and interests fit what Sound Transit was looking for in an intern. Right after the interview, I received an offer and follow up instructions, and was on my way to prepare for this position!

During my time at Sound Transit I will work directly with a Safety Assurance Specialist and will assist with organizing potential hazards. During my time, I will familiarize myself with a master log as well as safety certifications that pertain to current and upcoming construction sites. I will also have opportunities to do “safety walks” and visit the construction sites as well. Occasionally I will also shadow the Industrial Hygienists and the EHS team to learn more about their roles in industry.

I am very excited about being able to use the education and experiences UW provided me and apply it to give back to my community! I’m also very interested in looking at how people with a variety of past education and experiences come together and solve issues relating to hazards in transit planning. My mentor and supervisor are extremely helpful and willingly to make this a fulfilling internship.

Meet Our Interns: Rico G.

First Impressions from Day One

By Rico G.

My internship location is in Port Angeles, WA and I will be doing most of my work from the Clallam County Department of Health and Human Services. The building I’m in is located less than a mile from the beach and is surrounded by tall mountains and heavily wooded areas. My first day began with a 4 minute drive down to the work site and a meeting with my supervisor. My supervisor is the Environmental Health Director for all of Clallam County. They set me up with an office which serves as a great space for me to write blogs about my internship.

For my first day, I tagged along with my colleague for some basic water sampling. This was a fun experience because we were able to take a short walk down to the beach and get into the water to take samples from multiple sites. I was also able to explore the lab on-site, where water testing is performed and inoculated samples are tested for contamination. It was nice to apply the skills I learned in university in an actual job setting. The rest of my day was spent doing online training for HR.

So far the best thing I like about my workplace is the setting. The people here are relaxed and friendly but are also very skilled and knowledgeable. My location has a very small permanent population so the town itself isn’t much larger than UW campus.  Port Angeles is within walking distance of Olympic National Forest, so there are many thriving businesses and amenities available for the tourists that come through every year.

I’m most excited to be doing work around the beautiful forest itself. The services my colleagues and I will perform will send us across the almost 3,000 sq. miles of Clallam County. I am also excited to learn more about our role in helping the county function as a healthy entity.

Meet Our Interns: Antonia R.

Being an Intern at a Local Health Department

By Antonia R.

This summer, I am interning at St. Mary’s County Health Department (SMHD), in Maryland. I am one of the National Environmental Health Association interns and in my application, I talked about the importance of water quality in a community, focusing on arsenic in drinking water. Throughout my internship, I will work on what is known as the “Arsenic Project.” I will also have the opportunity to shadow various members of the Health Department.

For the first part of the project, I will work with ArcGIS, a mapping program, to map out arsenic levels throughout the county. St. Mary’s County is mostly rural and most of its inhabitants obtain their water from private wells. The SMHD must take water samples from any new or restored wells and then test for bacteria, nitrate, turbidity, and arsenic levels. Upon completion of the tests, the Environmental Health Department may grant the water a Certificate of Potability. In my project, I will use the data collected throughout the years via such testing, and then apply it on a map of the county. Then I will use a gradient to indicate the level of arsenic in response to the Maximum Contaminant Level discovered at a specific location.

Antonia at her desk.

The project has two main goals: to develop a model that shows arsenic levels against soil elevation and to identify hotspots of arsenic concentration to improve resource allocation from the Health Department. To achieve the goals, I will collaborate with St. Mary’s County IT support team to learn about ArcGIS in more detail and to develop the elevation map that I need, as well as meet with the Health Department’s epidemiologist to develop the algorithm that will model the high arsenic hotspots. This is a relatively new technology for SMHD, therefore I need the professional help of the IT department.

In addition to the main goals, we intend to educate home-owners about the effects of high arsenic concentration in drinking water and about arsenic removal methods. My mentor and I decided to modify existing documents for homeowners to make them more persuasive to the public. In this part of the project, I will apply my written communication skills in relation to the risk perception of the home owners and of the people living throughout the county.

This project is a great opportunity to apply a multi-faceted approach to solving the problem of arsenic in the county drinking water. We hope that we will be able to identify an efficient manner to allocate resources and to reach the community so that they will collaborate with the Health Department in addressing the treatment of their water.

Meet Our Interns: Vy N.

My Internship at Snohomish Health District

By Vy. N

During the summer, I am doing my internship at Snohomish health District. My intern consists of two parts: program shadowing and projects. For program shadowing, I will go out to the field with environmental health specialists and gain exposure to a variety of environmental and public issues. Field activities include routine inspections, on-site consultations, and complaint follow-ups. For the project, I will work alongside the Childcare Outreach and Safety Environment teams to develop a  STARS training class for childhood educators, parents, and care givers about Air Quality at childcare facilities. The Air Quality project will be focused on Outdoor Air Pollution, as Washington state experienced many wildfires last summer. Wildfire smoke substantially impacts children’s health since they are more vulnerable to air pollution. For the other project, I will research and update the environmental health components of Health and Safety Assessment in Childcare setting, which has been outdated for a long time.

Vy checking mussel traps in Everett.

I applied for this internship around late April. Snohomish Health District had two internship positions this summer, one in their food safety program and another one under childcare outreach. I thought the childcare outreach internship was a good fit for my experience working in childcare centers and the classes I’ve taken in children disparity. They called me for a phone interview the day after I applied. My interview was about 15 – 20 minutes, with most questions about my background education and my familiarity with childcare settings. I was offered the internship right after the interview!

The Environmental Health program at Snohomish Health District consists of three main divisions: food safety, land use, and environmental safety. The childcare outreach program has their own team but is under the supervision of environmental safety division and is also closely related to food safety. This is a government organization; I can see how a lot of WACs codes and state environmental/public health policies are applied in practical applications.

On my first day of as an intern, I was introduced to all the employees at the Health District. The majority of employees here are UW alumni who graduated with Environmental Health Degrees. One of my most favorite part of my internship is that I get to travel a lot of places and observe how EH specialists interact with people and handle tough situations. I can observe EH specialists step by step as they do their inspections and communicate with operators to establish trust and share information. They told me their goal is trying to educate people about safety and give operators different options to correct their violations. They also give me thorough explanations for each activity. Everyone is very friendly to me, and through their shared experience, I can see their passion for environmental health and helping people. I am excited to see how knowledge about environmental health is applied into practice!


Meet Our Interns: Logan D.

About My Swim Beach Internship

By Logan D.

Today I began my internship at Clark County Public Health as a Swim Beach Intern.   I will primarily sample the lakes in the region for fecal coliforms and cyanobacteria in order to ensure that the recreational swim beaches are safe for swimmers.  I will also create a waterborne illness toolkit that will be used in emergencies as a how-to guide when events that pose a risk to public health occur.  Upon entering the office this morning, I was surprised to see so few people working at their desks.  After meeting with my supervisor, I learned that majority of the work done at CCPH requires a field aspect and that most employees were out sampling, performing inspections, or giving consultations.  I really liked the idea of working part-time in an office and part-time outdoors.

I worked with one coworker to train in Swim Beach Monitoring.  I initially met her last year as an intern and was happy to work with a familiar face on my first day.  She was very knowledgeable about water testing and I was thrilled to learn that she had been a swim beach intern and was eventually hired into a full-time and paid position not long after her internship.  As we talked, I learned that a lot of people who worked at CCPH had been a swim beach intern at some point in their professional career and that there were many chances to be hired once the internship was complete.  It is very reassuring to know that this internship not only provides valuable information, but also potentially leads to jobs directly at the county level.

The prospect of having a summer outdoors was one of the major factors that contributed to my interest in this position and is also the part I am the most excited for!  In my childhood, I frequently went to the lakes with my family to enjoy the recreational swim beaches.  I am glad that I can continue this tradition for all members within the community by ensuring that these lakes are a safe place for families to visit.  However, I am a little concerned with the creation of the waterborne illness tool kit due to my fears that it will not be helpful in the case of emergency.  I plan on remedying this fear by making connections with the rest of the water recreation team in order to interview them about their wants and needs for this toolkit.

My first impression as the swim beach intern has given me high hopes for a great summer that involves relevant work to uphold community standards of public health.

Meet Our Interns: Ana S.

My Experience With Applying to a National Internship Program

By Ana S.

This summer, I’m moving to Colorado to work with El Paso County Public Health through a program called NEPHIP. When you’re on your hunt for a summer internship, I highly recommend that you apply for NEPHIP. This program is administered by the National Environmental Health Association, and funded by the CDC, so it’s specifically catered towards environmental health students. That being said, if you participate in this program you’ll most likely be moving to a completely new location for the summer. If that seems exciting to you, like it did to me, you should definitely continue reading.

To apply to this program, you’ll have to write and submit two short essays, a resume, and one letter of recommendation from an academic faculty member; that’s it! Notice how I didn’t include anything about an interview… that’s because there isn’t one. So if you absolutely dread the interview process, start jumping for joy!

Ana during her inspection of the Olympic Training Center.

Once you’ve applied, you’ll have to wait until spring to hear from the program. The wait was one of the most difficult parts for me. For about a month I was frantically refreshing my email whenever I got the chance. It wasn’t until the end of March that I finally heard from NEPHIP. A wave of relief and excitement washed over me as I read my acceptance offer. Then the nerves set in. Where would I be going? What would I be doing? I had so many questions left unanswered from the initial letter, and unfortunately, none of them could be answered until I accepted.

Seems a little scary, right? I had to accept my offer before I even knew where I would be going. I couldn’t just say, “Put me in warm, sunny, California please!” and expect to get my wish. I was, admittedly, pretty nervous. But I couldn’t let my nerves hold me back from such an amazing opportunity. So, after consulting with my most trusted advisor (thanks mom), I accepted. And then… I waited. 2 weeks later I found out I was going to Colorado Springs to work for El Paso County Public Health.

I’ve been here for a week now, where my primary focus is vector borne and zoonotic disease prevention. But as the summer progresses, I will also have the opportunity to work with staff from many departments in the agency. So far, I’ve had an amazing time getting to know my peers. It’s also been great to step out of my comfort zone and experience a new place! And, looking back, even though there were so many unknowns that came with my internship acceptance, I don’t regret accepting for a minute. Which brings me to my biggest piece of advice for other students: while some of the internship application process may feel overwhelming or scary (whether it’s with NEPHIP or not), don’t let that deter you from a summer full of adventure. After all, what is life without a little adventure, right?

Meet Our Interns: Jamila F.

Getting Ready for My Internship

By Jamila F.

This summer, my internship is at the Snohomish Health District in Everett, Washington. A majority of my internship will be spent with the Food Safety Program, but I will also be cross-training with other Snohomish Health District programs (Safe Environment, Tuberculosis Control, Maternal Child Health, Land Use, and more). This was the 10th internship I applied to, and I am excited to start!

My internship project with the Food Safety Program will revolve around non-continuous cooking, which is a cooking process for raw animal meat. In this process, the meat is intentionally stopped within 60 minutes of initial heating and then is cooled and held for complete cooking at a later time (usually before sale or service. Since the Washington State Food Code requires food establishments to have a written procedure of all food preparation processes that utilize non-continuous cooking, I will assist the Food Safety Program with the new tool they developed for foodservice establishments that guides these facilities in creating a written procedure for proper cold-holding and re-cooking of raw animal meat.

Jamila in her cubicle at Snohomish Health District.

I am most excited about training with the other Environmental Health Specialists and exploring different parts of Snohomish County, especially in my hometown: Marysville. In addition, I look forward to cross-training with the programs outside of the Environmental Health Division. On the other hand, I am a little nervous about being on the field to conduct food inspections for temporary food events (as opposed to observing inspections) and being on my own when I assist facilities in writing their non-continuous cooking procedure. However, I have shadowed one of the Environmental Health Specialists prior to this internship for an assignment for my Food Protection class. I am sure that training with the other Environmental Health Specialists will help me be more comfortable with the inspection process and educating food operators on food safety.

Meet Our Interns: Darcy V.

First Impressions of My Summer Internship

By Darcy

My first impressions about my internship at Marine Group Boat Works is that it is small, family-run, and everyone is very close-knit. I also immediately recognized their commitment to environmental sustainability and I am already very impressed with their numerous green initiatives. I did not think that a shipyard would have particularly sustainable practices, but I quickly learned that I was very wrong. The environment is a top priority to MGBW and their primary green initiatives include a solar powered boat yard, a fleet of electric cars, 100% reclamation of storm water runoff, and enclosed sandblasting and painting to prevent hazardous emissions.

My colleagues are all very welcoming and I can tell they want me to learn and succeed. All of my colleagues are very open to letting me join any projects I have interest in and I have already had several people approach me about working with them, which is super exciting. I can tell that the work I am doing will have a real impact on the organization, and I cannot wait to get started! I am excited to get to know the company better, learn more about their sustainability initiatives, and be able to promote the positive impact MGBW has on the environment. I am also excited to work with the environmental and safety compliance team to see the field come to life and learn how to find risks as well as mitigate them. However, I know I have a lot to learn about the marketing aspects of my internship, and I am also a little hesitant about having to approach people working on the boats if they are in violation of an environmental or safety protocol. However, I’m excited for this internship, the people I will work with, and the projects I will get to take part in!

Meet Our Interns: Yarrow L.

About My Internship With The WHO

By Yarrow L.

The main project I will focus on for the duration of my internship is a comprehensive literature review and data collection of log reduction values for various different treatment technologies for drinking water, in order to provide data for the newest edition of the World Health Organization Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality. Specifically, I will work on table 7.7 in the guidelines, which pertains to the reduction of bacteria, viruses and protozoa achieved by water treatment technologies at drinking-water treatment plants for large communities. The most recent, fourth edition, guidelines were based purely on “expert opinion” data and did not consider the plethora of data from peer-reviewed studies from all around the world, which the updated edition will do. The table is broken down into treatment processes, including pretreatment, coagulation flocculation and sedimentation, filtration like membrane filtration or granular filtration, and primary disinfection like chlorine, ozone, or UV. For each treatment process, the log reduction value is given for bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.

So far, this task has required a lot of concentration and organizational skills. Tools like Zotero, a reference database, and Web Plot digitizer, a tool for extracting values from graphs, are very helpful in this process. The data I extract is entered into an excel spreadsheet, which will later be put into another database with all the data for the project. I have never seen an excel sheet this large, and in order for the data to be kept neat and decipherable, the spreadsheet must be very organized, which for me includes color coding (yay!). My background in microbiology, and environmental health in general, has made it much easier to understand the studies I am examining.

The main support I will need from my coworkers for this project is assistance in making judgement calls on different studies, and maybe some help with calculations for log reduction values or CT values for example. On my first day, I got an extensive orientation of the project and the different tools like Zotero that will be vital for the project, but for the most part I think it will be fairly independent with as much or as little help and support as I end up requiring. The two other people working directly with me have both been very helpful and will be able to give me support when I need it.

Meet Our Interns: Claire T.

Getting Ready for My Internship

By Claire T.

This summer I will intern at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, focusing of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. For this internship my supervisor and mentor is the Consultation Manager for Region 2. My supervisor oversees all offices in King County, including Seattle, Tukwila, and Bellevue.

For the duration of my internship I will work alongside Safety, Industrial Hygiene, and Risk Management consultants. I will be contributing to a team that helps small businesses in high hazard industries to develop safety and health programs.

I got this internship in a little bit of an unusual way. After a field trip to the L&I Tukwila office (shout out to graduate Ali for setting up the visit) for an informational meeting with some of the regional managers, I discovered an interest in their consultation department. Every year the compliance side of L&I has an internship program and takes on interns, but their consultation side did not have internship positions. After the informational meeting I went up and talked to the Consultation Manager to ask if he would even consider taking an intern on in his department. He seemed open to the idea and we set up a time to talk about possibly creating an internship position. In the end they were able to create the position!

I am really excited to take some of the knowledge that I learned in my coursework and really dive deeper into its practical application. I am also very excited to work with the Industrial Hygienists and learn about all the sampling they do and the instruments they use.

Leading up to my internship as well as my first couple days, I was nervous about what I needed to know to be successful. I was concerned that I wasn’t going to know enough information to be helpful or that some of the workers might see me as a hassle or an extra duty. Even though the first week of my internship isn’t over yet, those fears have already mostly gone away. Everyone is very friendly so far and generally they like to explain their roles within the department.