Widgets Magazine
MIGHTY TRENDING

The NSA needs teenagers to protect democracy

Remember your first summer job? This author's was as a door corp member, a host, at his local Waffle House. He was fine at that job and terrible as a waiter on Sunday mornings. But the NSA has a program for teens who want to make a bigger impact: Come to the NSA as an intern before college. And the benefits are better than what this author gets now.


The Gifted & Talented STEM Program seeks high school students with credits for physics, calculus, and either computer science, programming, or engineering. Combine those credits with a 1200 or above on the SAT or 25 or above on the ACT, and those students can get a job at an actual spy agency.

The students work full-time over the summer for between 10 and 12 weeks. Benefits include paid time off, holiday and sick leave, housing assistance, free courses, and travel reimbursement.

If the students are really interested in the NSA for a career, they can then enroll in the Stokes Educational Scholarship Program as well. That has all the same benefits of the G&T STEM Program, but they also get up to $30,000 in tuition assistance, health and life insurance, and credit toward federal retirement.

In addition to the technical internships, the NSA has a language program for high school seniors with an aptitude for the Chinese, Russian, Korean, Farsi, or Arabic languages. There are also high school work-study programs where students work 20 to 32 hours a week during the school year, earning about $11-12 an hour.

Now, students with those great academic credentials can make real contributions to national security, but the NSA is pretty open about why they really want students to come to the agency for a few summers in a row.

It helps them poach talent away from Silicon Valley.

The NSA is part of the Department of Defense, and it's the military's primary arm for cyber security and defense as well as other espionage activities. It absolutely needs top-tier computer talent to do its job and to protect American service members and enable offensive activities across the globe.

But recruiting that talent is tough, especially since software and computer companies have deeper pockets and are looking for the same people. So the NSA hopes that, by allowing the students to see the meaningful impact of their work early on, those same students will come back to the agency after graduation.

In fact, all students that complete their degree on the Stokes scholarship are required to work at the NSA for 1.5 times their length of study. So, six years for the average bachelor's degree and nine years for the average master's program.

Students can apply to the current batch of work-study jobs through October 31, while next summer's G&T and Stokes slots are open for applications through November 15. Remember that next year is 2020, and there's another election coming up. The NSA is one of the agencies charged with safeguarding those elections, so this year's interns could be in for an interesting summer.