The Application Process

*** Deadlines updated January 5, 2019***

***As of June 2019 this page has been updated to reflect NASA's migration from OSSI to***

If you think you are bad at math, you aren’t talented enough in science, or you can’t work for NASA because you’re in a non-science field…

Think again!

The fact is 90%* of you qualify for a NASA internship. If your major is science, math, engineering, journalism, English, history, communication, business (accounting, management, whatever!), graphic design, architecture, a language, or even if you're undecided, you qualify.

*not an exact number

Here you can expect to read information about how to apply and what kind of internships to apply for regardless of your major or level of education (high school, college, graduate school… there are options!). You will also find some helpful advice sprinkled throughout this page.

Pro Tip #1

You can intern at NASA if you are in high school, college, or graduate school. You can intern even if you haven't taken math in college yet. You can intern if you haven't determined a major but you have some interests in something like those areas listed above. You can intern if you're in high school and just think it's a cool thing to do. The point is: you can intern!

Step 1: Sign Up for the Application

All NASA internships are on, which is not usually something you stumble across on NASA’s main website. Go to New User > Click Here and answer the questions.

Note: if you are NOT a US citizen just answer "no" and you will be redirected to a website for international applicants.

Now it's all you. Fill out Steps 1, 2, and 3 completely. You will be asked to give personal information, be sure to fill it out completely!

Step 2: Complete Your Profile

Across the top of the page there are seven tabs:

  1. Home

  2. Internship Application

  3. Choose Availability

  4. Available Projects

  5. View My Projects

  6. View My Offers

  7. More.

First you want to fill out the Internship Application and note that it will take some time but is worth putting extra thought in to. The application asks for a lot. Among the easier things to fill out include information about you, your address, demographics, citizenship, education, and skills. Then the application requires a history of employment, other experience, documents, previous NASA experience, and letters of recommendation.

Step 3: Personal Statements

You do have to fill out the form completely before you can search for specific internships. The system won't let you check available projects until you do. When you do apply for specific internships, the bulk of your application is already done! That being said, keep in mind that every internship you apply to will see the information in step 2 so be sure to fill it out completely!

Pro Tip #2:

What you should focus on in your application is, in my opinion, your answer to, "why do you want a NASA internship?" When you address this, elaborate on any experience you have on your resume. Things to think about:

  • If you have previous work experience, why do you want to be at NASA instead? Or now? Or in addition to that experience?

  • What did that previous job inspire you to learn? How will NASA help you expand that knowledge?

  • How will NASA fit in to your academic goals?

  • Are you looking for NASA experience, research experience, or experience living far from home?

Step 4: Find Relevant Internships

You should know you can apply for up to 15 internships at NASA but no more than 15 in one term (summer, spring, or fall). Additionally, all summer internships (as far as I know) pay $7,300!!! (as of fall 2018).

Note: this is taxable income!

Pro Tip #2

Check out this map of NASA centers and be honest with yourself about where you’re willing to go. Where can you feasibly travel to in the summer? Are you willing to move across the country for 10 weeks? There is housing available at most NASA centers at discounted rates for interns (check out my post on that!). You will also be paid to relocate in the summer (between $500 - $1,000 depending on the distance).

I moved from Nebraska to California and was paid $600 to do so. It didn't cover everything but it certainly helped ease the move. Some of my friends came from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina and had over $1,000 reimbursed for their plane tickets.

Pick the centers you'd like to be at and some categories of internships relevant to your interests. You can pick more than one category. My major was Environmental Science and my interests were in Atmospheric science so I looked for categories related to the keywords: environment, climate, atmospheric, data, math, physics, etc.

Pro Tip #3

If you don't think you qualify for a position but you would love to work it - apply anyway! You might learn how to do the work on the job or you might appear relevant for a different internship from the same person. You just never know, so apply!

Step 5: Waiting

It’s the worst part, I know. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and acceptance emails arrive throughout the application period. For summer 2019, that application period typically ends early April 2019. You will get an email and see your offer on the intern website under View My Offers, which is also where you accept the position.

Pro Tip #4

Email your mentor and her (him)! You're going to be working closely with this person all term. Just say hi!

Pro Tip #5

You may call the Office of Education for your NASA Center at any time. They are there for you and they are there to help. They can answer questions about lodge availability, pay rates, pay dates, orientations, badging, and more.

You will likely be paid by an organization called something like “NASA (state) Space Grant,” for me it was the NASA Nebraska Space Grant. Who pays you depends on the state you are coming from, which is not necessarily your home state! When you get information requests from these organizations, they are legitimate and you need to fill them out!

Important Dates (As of January 5, 2019):

  • Spring 2019 Internship Application Ends: November 5, 2018

  • Summer 2019 Internship Application Ends: April 1, 2019

Summer interns, you'll start hearing back on a rolling basis, usually between December & April depending on when you applied.

  • Fall 2018 Internship Application Ends: July 1, 2019

Stuff You May be Wondering…

How did you get a job at NASA?

I applied. Literally just like what you read above. I. Just. Applied.

I live in the Midwest and probably can't get to any of these.

Ha! So did I! This Minnesotan-turned-college-Nebraskan drove her ass a few thousand miles to get to Ames. Three times. I packed up my Buick and headed west! I also moved out here in the same car with Alex and a trailer in tow behind him. You can do it!

Those dorms look awful and I don't know if I want to spend my summer miserable.

You won't be miserable. It's amazing how a dorm becomes your home. True in college, yes? That anxiety-inducing-white-cement-room in college becomes a little home in no time and so will the lodge. Plus, there are workers who come refill your coffee, clean the room, wash your sheets, etc. It isn't glamorous, but it is fun. All your friends are there and some centers offer a bar with food & beer on base (at least at Ames) and you can watch the military planes on the tarmac. You get to explore the city you are in with the greatest friends you'll ever meet at an internship!

Doesn't look like there's much room in the kitchens...

Me: Nope, there isn't. I only used those kitchens maybe three times. There's so much you can make in a microwave! Baked potatoes, eggs (any way you like them), bacon, pasta, mac & cheese, cakes, brownies, s'mores, veggies, and more! I should do a post on those recipes...

I'm afraid the work will be too hard and they'll fire me.

This is an internship which means it is first and foremost a learning experience. You are not hired with the same expectations as that of a full-time employee.

If you're just not cut out for the project you've been assigned, they'll give you another one! You can always ask your mentor to teach you how to do the job you don't know how to do. Case and point: my job was retrieving Mars Curiosity data from the rover on Mars, analyzing it for errors, manipulating it, adjusting it for Curiosity's climb up Mount Sharp, and providing a nice, clean dataset for the research they'd do later (which they ended up hiring me to do). All of that requires programming knowledge and the application even said so, but I didn’t have that knowledge. Mel taught me everything I know during my internship. I’m proficient in Fortran 77, Fortran 90, IDL, and Python today.

Honestly, I'm just nervous about the whole thing. Nothing in particular, just everything.

Dude, same. Life is like that. Here's the thing. Scary makes you grow. The more often you do the brave thing the easier it gets the next time. I wasn't nervous to move to California for this job permanently because I'd already taken a leap of going out of state for college and across the country for an internship. Just do it and trust you'll make friends, meet awesome people, and love your experience. Trust the process.

My Acceptance Letter is Below (this was OSSI, the old format)