Learn About Careers: Job Shadow Programs

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Job shadow programs and internships can help you learn more about a career and focus your education.


A shadow program can turn into an internship if you network well. If you decide that you would like to learn more, start to look for an internship.

Job shadow programs allow students to see how the knowledge they gained in an academic setting is applied to an actual business environment. These programs also begin laying the foundation for future networking and employment opportunities.

Before committing your time to education, training and job preparation, you can make sure you are genuinely interested in a career by enrolling in a job shadow program. Many students enjoy these types of programs because they gain firsthand experience in their perspective fields, without the risk of committing to a full-time job.

Job Shadow Programs vs. Internships

Although these two vocational programs share many similarities, there are multiple points of distinction you should understand before deciding which (or both, in some cases) you plan to pursue.

  • Job shadow programs typically last several days. You follow (or “shadow”) an industry professional in order to get an in-depth look at the day-to-day responsibilities that job entails. Your role is strictly observational – you will not be asked to assist in any way.
  • Internships take a much more hands-on role, as you are actually an employee of the company. Pay is dependent on where you work – some internships offer financial compensation; others do not. However, an internship can provide invaluable work experience that will put you ahead of your peers.
  • The best way to approach these programs is to start off with a job shadow program. If you decide that you would like to learn more, start to look for an internship. A shadow program can turn into an internship if you network well.

Examples of Job Shadow Programs

Most corporations and government agencies offer some sort of program for high school students who are interested in learning more about a specific career field. Some examples include:

  • AT&T: One of the largest programs of its kind, AT&T Aspire teams employees up with students in 211 cities across the United States. Visit the AT&T "Aspire Mentoring Academy" for more info.
  • Walgreens: High school students can monitor a pharmacy technician while learning more about their nationally accredited training program. For info about pharmacy tech roles and other job shadowing positions, visit Walgreens Careers.
  • United States Navy: Joining any of the armed services is a huge commitment. To ensure that candidates understand the rigors of this process, the United States Navy runs a shadow program for all prospective applicants.
  • Connecticut State Judicial Branch: Choose from one of 14 positions to follow, including an Attorney, Chief Judicial Marshal, and Law Librarian. Most states have comparable programs within all branches of the Government.
  • AEG: Students can choose from a variety of programs in entertainment, marketing, finance and non-profit work to learn about professionalism, business etiquette and the workplace through roles that will help them build business skills and confidence. For more information, visit the job shadow program site for AEG.

Quick Facts

  • Find a program that lasts several days, and not several hours. Give yourself enough time to truly get a feel for the job you are following.
  • Even though you are not working, dress professionally. You want to be respectful of the workplace and make a strong first impression on the employees.
  • The relationships you form during your program could lead to future opportunities, such as an internship or a full-time job. Make sure you maintain correspondence: send a letter to all employees you shadowed thanking them for taking the time to meet with you.
  • If you are having difficulty locating a program that appeals you, talk to your guidance counselor. She will be more than happy to lend her services based on your needs and interests.

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