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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!

Sandy J.: About My EHS Internship Project

About My EHS Internship Project

By Sandy J.

Sandy in the field with a direct-reading instrument during formaldehyde exposure monitoring

During my internship at the UW Environmental Health and Safety, I organized and analyzed the  database for formaldehyde exposure monitoring on UW campus and affiliated hospitals. I also  was assigned to construct an internal Formaldehyde Exposure Monitoring Plan. First, I read all of the the paper and electronic formaldehyde exposure monitoring reports from 1994 to present. There were about 700 entries! Then I created a spreadsheet that organizes this information under important variables, which could help future users understand and utilize it as a tool. I brainstormed a lot about what the important determinants are in terms of formaldehyde exposure. During my upcoming presentation of this database, I plan to present significant trends in the exposure of UW employees, and what we can learn from these trends. To create the Formaldehyde Exposure Monitoring Plan, I needed a strong understanding of the potential exposure scenarios and sampling methods. Because I wanted to create a tool for the future industrial hygienists to use in their formaldehyde monitoring, I had to think about what they would like to know and what they should pay attention to that is specific to formaldehyde use at UW. I went on numerous monitoring surveys around campus with an industrial hygienist. Every field survey taught me more about working on an EHS team and of course, formaldehyde exposure. I made sure to take notes, pictures of the facilities, and engineer controls. I always asked questions before and after the surveys. I am still working on these projects. The projects consist of a great amount of information that need careful presentation and organization, and I will make them awesome by revising many times and asking for peer review. As I am finishing up my internship and these projects, I am supported by the industrial hygienists in the department, my supervisors, and my coworkers who are more than willing to help. My deliverables will not only reflect my learning from this experience but all of the work and support that the Environmental Health and Safety team provides.

Sandy J.: How I Got My EHS Internship

How I Got My EHS Internship

By Sandy J.

Sandy in front of her office at UW EHS

After taking the ENV H 453 Industrial Hygiene course, I developed a great curiosity for more education about safety and prevention in the work environment. I just liked the idea of protecting people that work in their space up to 8 hours a day every day. Due to the hard work of environmental health and safety specialists, my family and friends are safe and happy in their workplaces. I have a hard science background with double majors in Biochemistry and Environmental Health, so I also wanted to find a niche that includes both biological or chemical science, and safety and prevention. One day I decided to do some research on UW’s Environmental Health and Safety Department, which is an administrative department that serves to provide safe working environment for UW employees. I emailed the Senior Director of the department with my questions and was not even sure if I would get a response. She responded with a very welcoming message and we scheduled a time to speak on the phone a few days later. When I talked to her on the phone for about 30 minutes, I was so happy that someone was listening and understood the capacity of my curiosity and passion. She was working with her team on the exact fields I was hoping to learn about. She then referred me to the Assistant Director of the department and I scheduled to meet with her for more inspiration and guidance. 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. It was one of my happiest moments in college, because I saw that if I took actions on my interests and passions, I could find opportunities for myself. Not only did I discover that something like biosafety and industrial hygiene existed, but I also gained an opportunity to be a part of the work and it truly has been a life-changing experience!

 

Natalia K.: First Impressions From Day One Of My Internship

First Impressions From Day One Of My Internship

By Natalia K.

Workplace:

What struck me most about the workplace on my first day was how big the health department in Tacoma is.  My first day of training, I met another woman who just started working at the health department in the methadone program. She is a counselor who helps people who have drug problems. She was really passionate about what she does, and she was really excited to start working at the health department.

Colleagues:

My first days at this job were very welcoming; I found that my colleagues were very friendly and positive people. They made me feel welcome and wanted to get to know me. I also observed a very friendly atmosphere between the colleagues and their supervisors. My supervisors were also very patient and helpful throughout my training.

Most excited about:

I am most excited about getting the opportunity to work at a health department, not only to see what kinds of jobs are available at the health department, but also to explore the types of people that work in these careers. I am hoping to get the opportunity to see if I would like to work alongside people such as these.

I am looking forward to starting my first real 9-5 job experience, even though it’s only temporary. I am also excited about getting to work with the community of Tacoma as well as getting to learn about other people’s careers in the health department. I am also really excited for the day that I get to shadow another person who works in the health department. During my interview interview, my supervisors said that every intern gets the opportunity to shadow someone else in the health department for a whole workday. This is really a cool opportunity because I will further get to explore other careers in the health department.

Most worried about:

I am most worried about being the new intern, because I feel very young to be working an adult job. I am also worried about making mistakes, or not learning things quickly enough during training.

Hien N.: An Informational Interview with a Food Safety Specialist

An Informational Interview with a Food Safety Specialist

By Hien N.

Layne is an Environmental Health Specialist in the Food Safety program at Snohomish Health District. She has been with Snohomish Health District for over 30 years! She is a well-respected employee with a vast degree of knowledge in environmental health. The most enjoyable aspect of her job at this time is training others and conducting policy work for the food program. She was an inspector for many years but now she does mostly education and training for the other health inspectors. Her least favorite part of her job is there isn’t enough time to get everything done that needs to be done. She believes that there is always something that can be done to improve public health.

Layne attended Western Washington University and studied environmental science and microbiology with an emphasis on fresh-water ecosystems. Right after graduating from Western, she acquired a job with Lewis County as a microbiologist, and then later moved to Snohomish Health District. She initially worked in the solid and hazardous waste program which also included conducting pool inspections. After about a year, she moved to the Food Program and there is where she developed her expertise in “all things food”.

She explained that as a health inspector in the Food Program, you may end up working varied work hours.  This, however, can work in your favor.  You are able to flex your hours to meet the needs of the Health District, but also to meet your personal needs (if necessary).

Being one of the first women to work in Environmental Health Program at the Snohomish Health District, Layne worked with the Environmental Health Director and the Human Resource Director to create a policy that extended allowable maternal leave.  She was able to utilize this new policy as were other future working mothers.  When returning to work after her maternal leave, she was also able to create the first part-time environmental health specialist position.  Several other employees also made use of the new limited availability of part-time positions.  These were not just working mothers; formerly retired persons also came back to work on a part-time basis.

Layne is a wonderful person with great intentions for public health safety. Snohomish Health District is lucky to have someone like her regulating over Snohomish County!

Ali E.: An Informational Interview with an Environmental Health Officer

An Informational Interview with an Environmental Health Officer

By Ali E.

During these past few weeks at my internship, I’ve met a handful of different environmental health officers (EHOs) who all have varying interests, backgrounds, and stories. I’ve learned the different ways they ended up within the Office of Environmental Health in the Indian Health Service, and where they see themselves going in the future. Of all these people, there was one in particular who had a really interesting career path and who participated in an informational interview with me.

Learning how to conduct a pool survey

I met Kate a few weeks into my internship because she’s the EHO within our district with the most experience with pools. Because my project for the summer dealt with pools, I was able to go visit her field office for a few days. I learned the ins and outs of pool surveys, including debriefing with the pool operators, checking safety equipment, testing pool chemical levels, checking equipment maintenance, checking for proper documentation and chemical use, and above all how to give recommendations on how to improve the facility. Aside from learning how to properly and thoroughly conduct a pool survey, I learned a lot about Kate’s history that led her to where she is today.

Kate got her bachelor’s degree in exercise sport science because she was an athlete and loved sports and considered becoming an OT. She signed up for a Master of Public Administration program, but after a year changed to environmental health. Like me, she kind of stumbled unknowingly into environmental health because she liked the electives it offered.

The interesting part of Kate’s educational background is that she did an online master’s program that she spread out over the course of six years, which allowed her to travel around the world and work in various jobs while completing her degree. Prior to this summer, I hadn’t met a lot of people who had done their master’s degrees online, but I learned about the many advantages, as well as disadvantages, to going the online route. Kate is currently looking at getting a graduate certificate in epidemiology because her long-term goal is to get her doctorate and to work abroad, potentially with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doing environmental health work. I didn’t know that certificates existed before meeting Kate, and she showed me that there are a multitude of ways to go about education at the graduate level, and that there is plenty of time to do so. I personally want to take some time off before pursuing a master’s to work in different settings to find my niche. Kate showed me that it isn’t necessary to rush through your education just to get a degree, but that it’s more valuable to take time to find what you’re really passionate about.

Hien N.: About My Internship with Snohomish Health District

About My Internship with Snohomish Health District

By Hien N.

I’ll be interning at Snohomish Health District in Everett, Washington for 10 weeks. As an intern, I will shadow environmental health specialists throughout the field. One project I know I’ll be working on is a risk factor study on temporary event violations; this project will show what the common violations are at temporary events such as carnivals, fairs, and others.

I will most likely be assigned to more projects throughout my internship in other sections of the environmental health division. I will work with a large number of people at Snohomish Health District; I don’t think I’ll have a specific mentor. However, I know there will be people I work with more than others, so they are like mentors.

I’m most excited to learn more about daily environmental health–the knowledge and expertise that everyday health specialists use to do their jobs. I still haven’t taken every core environmental health class yet, so I’m excited to learn from this internship what I can’t learn in classes.

This is my first internship. Because it is brand new to me, I’m nervous about this overall experience. I guess I’m most nervous about a new environment with new people. However, I get along with others readily, so I don’t think making friends with people will be a challenge.

This internship has been an option for UW environmental health students for a while now. They like to host multiple interns from UW each summer. I was the only intern they are hosting this summer. I found this internship through emails and the DEOHS portal page. They sent out letters that included details about the internship, I emailed the email listed with my cover letter and resume. Soon, I received an email back for an interview and moved on from there.

Kathleen Y.: An Informational Interview with a Food Inspector

An Informational Interview with a Food Inspector

By Kathleen Y.

Kathleen Y. inspecting a pool

I conducted an interview with Amber, an Environmental Health Specialist in the food program at the Pierce County Health Department. My interview was also a dual job shadow, since I had the opportunity to follow her on several food inspections. Throughout the job shadow, we stopped at a few different types of restaurants, including a fast food restaurant, a diner, and a sushi restaurant. It was a really interesting experience to watch Amber at work. She was very much in control and confident in her work, and she was not afraid to ask the difficult questions during her inspections. It felt a little hectic at times as we entered some kitchens during a lunch rush, but Amber was able to do her job efficiently while still being thorough.

Between inspections, I had the chance to ask her a few questions about her professional background. Amber completed her undergraduate degree at Washington State University with a major in biology. She had a diverse number of jobs before starting her position as a food inspector at the health department. She worked as a restaurant manager, as a phlebotomist at a blood bank, and as a clerical employee at the same blood bank. She said a family member informed her of the position at the health department, and she has been working there for the last three years.

When asked about her favorite aspects of her job, Amber said that she enjoys being able to talk to many different types of people while working and not being stuck in an office all day. She also said she enjoys being able to help to improve facilities’ health and safety practices as she encounters many teaching opportunities during her inspections. When asked about the negative aspects of her job, Amber said that she is often met with confrontation during her inspections. During my short time job shadowing her, I myself noticed how restaurant managers and employees could be defensive about some of their practices. Amber said that she has caught restaurant employees in outright lies, some even trying to hide food that they know have been improperly prepared. Although it could be difficult at times, Amber says that she enjoys her work and that her time at the Pierce County Health Department has been an overall positive experience.

Bowen L.: About My Internship

About My Internship

By Bowen L.

Bowen measures exposure by bicycle in Chengdu.

As I mentioned in the last blog, my internship over the summer was a research project that mainly targets community-level and personal exposure to air and noise pollution in Chengdu, China in this summer. In this blog, I am going to describe my activities for this internship.

There were two primary studies in this project: the stationary community study and the mobile commute study. In the community study, we selected four sites within the inner ring and four sites on the outer ring of Chengdu city as our measurement sites. Based on our discussions and findings, people who live or spend a lot of time at these sites were susceptible to be exposed to heavy air and noise pollution because of either the heavy traffic, road construction, or the presence of other aerosol producers there. Also, on the roof of CDC office building, we set up a bulky community air monitor to collect long-time measurements.

In the mobile commute study, we had three pre-determined routes that represented high, medium, and low personal exposure to air and noise pollution. We made measurements while we traveled on these routes by different transportation means. We also had a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route added for investigating people’s exposure on the newly constructed transportation mode in this city. For both studies, we wanted to investigate the level of exposure by measuring the concentration of various aerosol components such as particular matter and black carbon. We also used other supplementary measurements, such as GPS and accelerator data, to help us plot a geographic exposure map.

My routine daily work comprised field work and office time. Each day I went to the field, traveled on the route, took measurements, and then returned to the office to meet and upload our findings to the database. We usually did the field work first in the morning, but later we recognized the need to expand the time range of measurements. We had flexible field work and office hours in a day. I had a lot of challenges during the field work. For many days, the weather was quite hot and sometimes there were storms. Our work sometimes would be questioned and we’d be stopped by police officers and even citizens concerned that we might interfere the traffic. Each day, there was a long distance to travel by foot, bike, and automobile. Even though my field work was strenuous, I felt a sense of achievement. I believed it was worthy because someday the measurements would potentially help people to choose the best route for their commute.

Tayna T.: Finding an Internship You’re Passionate About

Finding an Internship You’re Passionate About

By Tayna T.

Tayna at her desk at UW EH&S

I am interning at the UW Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) department as a compliance analyst. UW Environmental Health and Safety department is responsible for providing a safe work place on campus by identifying the hazards, evaluating the risk associated with the work environment, and developing preventative procedures and policies that are in compliance with federal and state regulations. In addition, EH&S offers safety training for UW employees and students. Besides overseeing the occupational safety program at the UW, EH&S also administers programs pertaining to environmental hygiene such as hazardous waste and recycling. My supervisor is the assistant director of the occupational health and safety unit within the EH&S department. People I work with are the industrial hygienist, the accident prevention hygienist, fleet manager, and more.

I will develop a safety program for golf carts and low speed vehicles (LSV) by benchmarking data, visiting different departments at UW, and writing a white paper. I will have to research and summarize the golf cart safety programs of universities across the nation, focusing on elements such as program ownership, training procedures, and maintenance. By learning how programs at other universities operate, I hope to develop a good program that includes all successful aspects of a golf cart safety program. I will also visit several departments on campus to collect data about the golf carts and LSV. The data will help me assess the current issues at the UW and address the problems pertinent to the UW in my white paper.

I’m not familiar with regulations regarding golf carts and LSV. Therefore, I’m excited about learning how to amalgamate what I read in those regulatory documents and the data I collect into a paper–one that can convince the stakeholders to adopt the program. The thing that I’m thrilled about is also the thing makes me nervous. I have never worked at an occupational health and safety department before, let alone written any important document. In addition, I have only taken two environmental health classes in my major, and none of the two classes emphasizes employee safety.

I saw a job opening one day on a UW work study website while I was browsing to look for new job openings, since my current one had ended. Then I saw that the UW EH&S department was looking for a compliance analyst intern to work on developing a golf cart and LSV safety program. As an environmental health and occupational safety major, I could not ignore this opportunity. I applied but did not think that I would get hired because I had no experience working in an occupational safety field. All I had was my passion and fourteen plus years of education, along with communication skills I am not one hundred percent confident of. Putting aside my pessimism, I applied. The person whom I contacted, my future supervisor, asked me to come I for an interview. I was hired afterward!

At the UW EH&S, each division has its own corner. For instance, the occupational health and safety division that I work at is located at a corner with four offices and a meeting room. The structure of the floor conveniently organizes the composition of the department as a whole. It feels as though I have my own group of people within the department on whom I can rely. Everyone I met was friendly and helpful. For example, if my co-workers find useful information on golf cart and LSV regulations or information that related to the project I am working on, they inform me. My supervisor also helps me tremendously by showing me how to find and use the correct information. More importantly, she guides me through my first time working as a compliance analyst intern.