This article covers a few of the top internship programs available for new cybersecurity students and professionals. If instead, you’re looking for how to get into cybersecurity in general, see our definitive guide here. For examples of the best entry-level cyber jobs (not internships, see our article here.
As a cybersecurity student, the opportunities for internships and co-ops are vast. From the National Security Agency to the United States Postal Service, whether you’re pursuing your bachelor’s degree or completing your doctorate, there are all kinds of student programs and internships to choose from.
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With so many choices, deciding which internship is best for you can be a challenging process. Weighing experience with great pay and benefits (and the potential for future employment), here are five of the most amazing on-the-job internship-based educational opportunities for cybersecurity students and developing professionals.
1) NSA’s Cooperative Education Program
Pros: The National Security Agency has one of the most amazing co-op opportunities for cybersecurity students in the world. Enrolled students will learn to work with a defense team, identifying and countering security threats.
As a co-op, you have paid time-off, partial tuition assistance, competitive pay, and potential housing assistance and travel reimbursement. Because of the work-intensive nature of the co-op, participating students who maintain their GPA and demonstrate their cybersecurity skills will have an advantage in securing a long-term position with a government agency. Not only will you already be prepped for working in an agency environment, but you will already have security clearance as a government student employee. Too good to be true, right?
Cons: As with all good things, there are a few downsides to consider before applying. You should have United States citizenship. As an applicant, you must be either an undergraduate, second-semester freshman or an undergraduate sophomore. This is not a position for graduate students. The program has two locations for cybersecurity majors—Honolulu, Hawaii, and Fort Meade, Maryland.
If you are accepted to the co-op program, you will be asked to relocate temporarily to one of these locations. There is potential for housing assistance, but it isn’t guaranteed, and if you are close to the D.C. area you may be in for a brutal commute. Also, while the benefits of the co-op program are undeniable, be aware that a program like this will slow your graduation. You are expected to work with the NSA full-time during a specific semester, fall or spring, and then return to your classes the following semester. You will also be required to submit for, and pass, a polygraph for employment, and the NSA will conduct a background check on you.
We’ve known several people that have been accepted into the NSA co-op program, and if you’re interested in getting into the public sector of cybersecurity, there really is no internship equal to this opportunity. If you work hard and do well in school while you’re in the co-op program, this internship can set you up for a phenomenal, enjoyable, and life-long career.
2) CIA’s Co-Op Program
Pros: Between the CIA and NSA’s co-op programs, it’s hard to decide which is the best opportunity. Both are incredible opportunities for cyber students with competitive pay and benefits. With the CIA, your annual salary ranges up to $161,000 a year. However, while the NSA will accept computer science, engineering, and specific language majors for their co-op program, the CIA is much more exclusive. Their program is specifically for students who are driven to be cybersecurity professionals.
That doesn’t mean computer science and engineering students need not apply—it only means that the focus of your program will be much narrower with only one potential employment outcome. As a student working with the Agency’s Cyber Security professional organization, you are being trained to protect the CIA’s interests. It’s an intense, challenging program, but on successful completion you may be offered a position as a full-time Cyber Security Officer.
Cons: Just like the NSA, you will be required to relocate. The CIA specifies relocation to the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area. You must be a United States citizen. Enrollment to a four-year college as an undergraduate student is necessary, and you should have already completed at least one year of relevant coursework (or have one year of relevant experience). Again, this is not a program for graduate students, but if you are pursuing a second bachelor’s in a relevant field this could be the program you’ve been waiting for.
Just like the co-op program from the NSA, the CIA co-op program is a winner for anyone that can pass a background check and is looking for cybersecurity work with the federal government. When completing the application and background check process, always be truthful and patient as the process plays out, and continue to work hard and succeed in the cybersecurity classroom.
3) Lockheed Martin Cybersecurity Intern
Pros: Lockheed Martin is one of the nation’s top designers for space and aircraft. It’s never been a more exciting time to be part of the space age. As a cybersecurity intern, you will be acting as an Information Systems Security Officer (ISSO), working within your organization and with customers to maintain security policies.
You’ll gain experience hardening systems (although you should already be somewhat familiar with the concept), you’ll be monitoring security events and participating in security inspections. This program provides valuable experience for an aspiring cybersecurity professional, and what’s more, it allows students the option of choosing between a co-op program and a summer internship. It also pays, with an annual estimated salary of $61,000-$81,000 a year.
As another bonus—this is one of the few student opportunities that is also open to graduate-level applicants. If you’re finishing your Master’s in a relevant field, you’re more than welcome to apply.
Cons: Unfortunately, the level of experience you’d gain with Lockheed Martin comes with a price. This position requires a move to Boulder, Colorado, and there is no financial assistance for travel expenses. Keep in mind, however, that this is a paid position and if you aren’t a local applicant your salary may cover your losses and make up for it in the long run. Again, you must be a United States citizen to apply, and you should be a student completing your Bachelor’s or Master’s in cybersecurity, computer science, information technology, or another related field. You do need to be familiar with basic security concepts.
Lockheed is one of the big names in the private sector for contracted government work in cybersecurity, which is why it made our list. Many interns at companies like these are able to get a security clearance through the company, and some will jump from a contractual position here and go into a government position since they will have a clearance at that time. Programs like these are great resume-builders, and are highly selective.
See our article on what you need to know about security clearances here. We also have an interview with a government contractor here.
4) IBM Security Services Specialist Internship
Pros: The International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation is one of the world’s leaders in cyber security technology. They offer solutions for federal security and are leading developers in biometric, mobile, and artificial intelligence security solutions. Consequently, they’re also looking to hire a lot of cyber professionals.
The Security Services Specialist internship is designed to train you as a security developer, creating new solutions to cyber threats while working closely with IBM’s Security Services group.
If you’re not interested in a co-op program, this may be the internship for you. It’s intense, only one summer long, but will provide you with lasting experience in how to create effective solutions to cyber threats. An added plus is that it does not require you to be a current student, so wherever you are in your career as a cyber professional, this opportunity is open to you. And it’s paid, with an estimated salary at $86,000-$110,000.
If you are just starting in cybersecurity, this internship is probably not the best option for you—but if you do have the relevant knowledge, the experience you would gain as an intern would be invaluable.
5) Facebook Security Analyst Intern
Pros: While many of the available internship opportunities are designed for undergraduate students, this internship is designed for graduate students. If you are pursuing your Master’s or Doctorate you should certainly consider applying.
This internship does not require relocation at all, though you must have work authorization in the country where you live—no United States citizenship needed. With a salary between $85,000-$110,000, this position is a dream come true for graduate students looking to exercise their cyber skills.
As a Facebook Security Analyst intern, you will work with investigators to study adversary tactics, help reinforce internal security, respond to attack scenarios, and handle sensitive content issues. As part of Facebook’s Threat Intelligence Team, you will use your cybersecurity skills proactively, anticipating as well as recognizing threats. This position is listed as both an internship and a co-op, so if you have more than one semester left in your graduate program you may have the opportunity of keeping this position through your education.
Cons: Because a high level of education is required, you should be very familiar with cybersecurity investigation techniques. You need to be a more than competent coder, and for this position, Python and SQL are the languages of choice. You also need to apply prior to the semester you graduate (you should be returning to your studies after the internship or co-op period).
It seems like the people we know that have interviewed at companies like Facebook are also able to get interviews at other social media and silicon valley companies, such as Google and Apple. If going into this type of employment environment (which is notoriously modern and forward-thinking) appeals to you, you may want to consider the other related companies as well.
It’s good to keep in mind that internships are everywhere, and while we just outlined five of the most prominent, there are opportunities as less well-known employers as well. To improve your chances of landing a cyber or It internship, consider these tips:
- Keep in mind that many employers don’t use the word internship, so be flexible when looking and see if they also have part-time or contractual opportunities.
- You can get college credit for many internship opportunities, but in these situations, you’re now adding a third party into the mix (your college), so be sure to weigh the pros and cons.
- Apply for more internships and opportunities than you want or need. This will open up your options and will help you compare. See our article on the cyber job-seeker’s mindset for more information.
- Keep in mind that during an internship, you are still there to serve the company, not the other way around. Many internships do include a good bit of lower-level work, and since it may be temporary, don’t be surprised if the company is hesitant to invest in teaching you higher-level tasks.
- Be the best intern/employee you can be, be positive, and don’t complain. If you can solve problems for the company, it will open doors for future employment, connections, and references, which will really help you moving forward.
- If you don’t land an internship, check out our article on how to get cybersecurity experience for more tips, or our article on volunteering to find volunteering opportunities.
Because the options for cyber internships are boundless, this is a far from comprehensive list. There are opportunities for cybersecurity students worldwide, and it’s really up to you to find the position that fits you best. Whether it’s your dream to work with the NSA or for private business, cyber professionals are in demand now more than ever before.
Searching for internships can quickly become overwhelming, even if you know what to expect. Be sure and take your time to weigh the pros and cons of each, whether it’s the commute, the salary, or balancing your schoolwork. Make sure that you exhaust all the possibilities before making your choice, because a few choice keywords can dig up educational opportunities you may not find on your first search.
Even if you don’t see an internship listed for your dream job, odds are an internship with another organization will have you well-prepped for a full-time career not as an intern, but a qualified professional.