9 immersive career programs in Pittsburgh where kids can experience jobs firsthand

What do you want to be when you grow up? That’s a tough question for many kids to really answer. If they haven’t seen many careers up close, how can they know what a job might be like, or what it will take to get there? Fortunately, there are many local programs where kids experience potential careers up close. These immersive career programs in Pittsburgh and surrounding communities put a spotlight on professions that range from engineering and veterinary medicine to scientific research and teaching.

Check out what’s available:

immersive career programs in Pittsburgh
Side-by-side rehearsal. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Symphony.

1. Student Side-By-Side, Pittsburgh Symphony

Musically inclined kids might wonder about a future as a classical musician. To find out, students in grades 9-12 can apply for the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Side By Side program. They will receive personal instruction from their symphony musician counterpart, attend rehearsals and eventually perform at a symphony concert on stage, side-by-side with their mentor. Students at any level of musical skill can apply with a teacher’s recommendation. Applications are accepted through Feb. 15 this year, with rehearsals beginning on April 5 for the May 10 concert.

immersive career programs in Pittsburgh
Photo courtesy of Carnegie Science Center.

2. Tour Your Future, Carnegie Science Center

Carnegie Science Center’s Tour Your Future series offers girls and non-binary kids ages 11-17 the chance to visit with women in STEM careers. They will learn firsthand what it’s like to work in industries that rely on training in science, technology, engineering and math.

Choose from sessions like Allegheny Health Network’s STAR Center (happening on Feb. 21 this year), where kids will be immersed in simulated scenarios in an operating room, ambulance and nursery. Or visit Philips Sleep and Respiratory Care on April 11 to spend time with engineers and product managers. Kids at this session will tackle a hands-on design activity. Other tour stops feature topics like agriculture technology, environmental science, pharmacy and vaccine research. Registration for each session is $10.

immersive career programs in Pittsburgh
Photo by Fauxels.

3. Genius, Joy, and Love Summer Academy, University of Pittsburgh School of Education

For kids interested in pursuing a teaching career, this is among the best immersive career programs in Pittsburgh. The folks behind the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program, Advancing Educators of Color (AEC), and Pitt’s School of Education have teamed together to launch a paid summer academy for high school seniors. It’s part of an initiative that aims to add 35 Black educators to the Pittsburgh Public Schools system. The Genius, Joy, and Love Summer Academy will begin this summer with 10-20 rising seniors. Students will be paired with undergraduate and graduate student mentors for hands-on learning that will take place over four weeks on the Pitt campus. College readiness and guidance on applications and financial aid will be included in the sessions. And in the spirit of paying it forward, this summer’s academy students will return next year to support the next group.

immersive career programs in Pittsburgh
Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

4. Urban EcoStewards and Young Naturalists, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

High school kids interested in conservation and ecology can get involved in one of two Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy programs. High School Urban EcoStewards work in teams that adopt a section of parkland to perform hands-on restoration projects, improve watershed health, control erosion and remove invasive plant species. The Young Naturalists program is for teens who have completed the EcoStewards course. These paid positions give kids experience in a leadership role while working outdoors on physically demanding tasks. Young Naturalists are also offered insight into pursuing a degree and career related to sustainability and environmental science. Learn more here.

immersive career programs in Pittsburgh
Photo courtesy of School 2 Career.

5. School 2 Career, Oakland Planning and Development Corporation

The Oakland Planning and Development Corporation’s School 2 Career operates year-round, beginning with a paid summer orientation. Then, throughout the school year, kids work at paid internships with employers throughout the region to develop new skills, professional contacts and experience in a variety of careers. Students receive academic support with free tutoring, plus Microsoft Office training and certificates. Keeping college goals in mind, the program helps with the application process and SAT prep. The program boasts 100 percent of its students graduate from high school, are accepted into a college and are Pittsburgh Promise eligible. Apply here.

A seven-week Health Showcase is underway through March 9 at the Hill/Blakely Center. The showcase meets twice weekly, featuring hands-on learning activities in fields like physical therapy, pharmacy, social medicine and biological sciences. Interested? Register here.

immersive career programs in Pittsburgh
Youth Invasion. Photo courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum.

6. Youth Arts Council, Andy Warhol Museum

The Andy Warhol Museum helps teens develop leadership roles and professional museum experience with its Youth Arts Council. High school kids in the yearlong program work behind the scenes at the museum, receive stipends and collaborate with museum staff and artists. Council members develop cool programming for teens like the Teen Fashion Show on March 25 and Youth Invasion on April 29, when teens take over the Warhol as artists, performers and designers. The Youth Arts Council application for the 2021-2022 school year is now closed, but watch here for the 2022-2023 announcement.

And in the meantime, interested teens can get involved with planning the LGBTQ+ Youth Prom. The gender-inclusive prom, open for kids ages 13-20, is on the calendar for June 4. The Warhol provides transportation support, food and a prom ticket to all Prom Planning Committee members. Registration is free for the monthly planning meetings.

immersive career programs in Pittsburgh
Photo by Dmitry Zvolskiy.

7. Zoo U. and Keeper Interactions, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

High school students with an interest in animal-related careers will benefit from Zoo U. at the Pittsburgh Zoo. The curriculum presents areas of study, such as marine biology, zoology, veterinary medicine, animal husbandry and field research. Kids engage with zoo professionals to learn what it’s like to work in these fields. Animal encounters and insider visits to areas of the zoo are included. The current Zoo U. Wild Careers program has already launched and is sold out.

But on March 12 and 13, Zoo U. All About Alpacas puts the spotlight on this trendy animal over a two-day weekend. The first day includes alpaca genetics, breeding and husbandry, with the second day at an alpaca farm in Claysville. Transportation will be provided to and from the zoo. Registration is $175. Watch for additional Zoo U. programming throughout the year.

Keeper Interactions, also for high school kids, are scheduled on the first Tuesday of the month through April. The $14 admission includes a tour of a specific area of the zoo and the chance to talk with zoo staff about their work. Kids in grades 6-8 have their opportunity to learn about a career in conservancy through the Junior Conservationists program running on Saturdays through April 9.

immersive career programs in Pittsburgh
Photo by Chokniti Khongchum.

8. Gene Team, Pitt Biology Outreach

Science-minded teens from Pittsburgh’s urban high schools with an interest in biology are invited to apply for a position in the Gene Team program. Pitt Biology Outreach will provide state-of-the-art laboratory training to collect data for a current research project. The five-week program meets daily from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on the Pitt campus. Bus passes will be supplied and participants will receive a stipend at the end of the program. Sessions will include a focus on strategies and skills that will help with college applications. To be eligible, kids must have completed one year of high school biology. Stay tuned for the 2022 dates and application information.

immersive career programs in Pittsburgh
Photo courtesy of Innovation Works.

9. Startable, Innovation Works

Kids ages 13-17 with entrepreneurial spirits will have their chance to shine with Innovation Work’s Startable program. The six-week summer program guides kids on how to design and commercialize hardware products and build their own businesses. This year, the program will be a hybrid model that includes virtual with in-person sessions. Participants will complete their work by producing a three-minute video pitch to compete for a share of $10,000 in prizes. Applications will open in May for the summer program that begins June 27 this year.