Graduate Student Summer Associate Program

Eligibility | Structure of Program | Application Process | About RAND | Recent Projects | FAQs

Note: The 2021 application period is now closed.

Applications for summer 2022 will be accepted starting mid-October, 2021.

Internship term 12 weeks in the summer (start date flexible)
Eligibility Current graduate students (2nd year or later) enrolled in doctoral or professional degree program; some exceptions for certain types of master's degrees—see detail below
Applications due December 4, 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time
Decisions are generally made by March

Our Summer Associate program will be a remote/virtual program for summer 2021.

RAND's Summer Associate Program introduces outstanding graduate students to RAND, an institution that conducts research on a wide range of national security problems and domestic and international social policy issues.

The program receives several hundred applications each year; approximately 35–45 students are placed in each cohort. The selection process matches potential Summer Associates with mentors and projects based on their skills, interests, and expertise. Summer Associates work on currently funded projects that have the capacity to support a Summer Associate's work.

The program runs in the summer months only. Summer Associates work at RAND full-time for a 12-week period. Positions will be available for remote workers residing in the U.S. (excluding U.S. territories) for the duration of virtual summer associate assignments. Students receive bi-weekly compensation and are given the opportunity to conduct research that can be completed during the summer they are at RAND. The summer earnings for 2021 will be approximately $13,500 (before taxes) for the 12 weeks of full-time research.


The program is designed for full-time students who have completed at least two years of graduate work leading to a doctorate (e.g., PhD, EDD, DRPH, SciD, etc.) or professional degree (e.g., law or medical degree, professional engineer certificate). Students must be enrolled full-time in a graduate degree program during the spring and fall of 2021 to be considered for the program. Students graduating prior to September 2021 are encouraged to look at our full-time positions at

U.S. citizenship is not necessary except when required for certain types of project work (e.g., the project contract requires it or the project work itself requires a security clearance). Residency in the U.S. (excluding U.S. territories) will be required since the program will proceed in a remote/virtual model.

Most of RAND's professional hiring is at the PhD level, so our summer program is oriented toward individuals who are generally within a year or two of completing their doctorates. Exceptions are made for master's students applying for our engineering and computer or information science positions.

Who is not eligible: The program does not hire high school students, undergraduates, or postdoctoral fellows at this time. Graduate students who will graduate prior to the summer of employment are not eligible. The program typically does not consider master's degree students except in the Engineering, Computer or Information Science, and Operations Research disciplines.

Structure of the Program

Each Summer Associate is matched to a research project and a mentor. A student is offered a position only after the student and RAND agree that a good match exists between the student's interests and skills and the needs of an ongoing RAND research project.

Past Summer Associates have worked on a wide range of projects. Each student will present a brief seminar at the end of their summer associate experience.

Summer Associates have access to RAND's research facilities as needed to support their project work. RAND provides an array of research support services, including an information infrastructure that facilitates work across multiple locations; highly sophisticated computing software and hardware systems; an extensive data collection facility; schedule management systems for tracking projects; and professional advisory groups that contribute statistical, survey, and communications support to projects; and ongoing research seminar series.

Application Process

RAND accepts applications only through our website. Applications mailed directly to RAND or emailed to our Summer Director will not be considered. Summer Associate applications are organized according to the following categories of graduate training:

  • • Policy Research
  • • Economics
  • • Sociology & Demography
  • • Statistics
  • • Political Science & History
  • • Psychology
  • • Engineering, Computer Science, Math, Data Science, Physical Sciences
  • • Operations Research, Ind Eng/Sys Eng, Mgmt Sci, Supply Chain, Risk Analysis

In order to submit a complete application, please be prepared to provide the documents and additional information outlined below. If you are selected for an interview, you will be asked to provide two letters of recommendation. The application requires that you identify the individuals who will provide letters of recommendation. Writing samples will not be required at the time of application but may be requested for applicants selected for an interview.

  1. Applicant information (University, Department, Degree program, etc.)
  2. Resume or curriculum vitae
  3. Cover Letter
  4. Short answer questions (which will be filled out in the online application, limit 250 words per question):
    1. Briefly describe your substantive interest and past experience in those areas
    2. Briefly describe your skills and methodological expertise and how you have used those tools in previous research experiences
    3. Briefly describe why you are interested in the RAND Summer Associate Program and what role you see this experience playing in your career development
  5. Two (2) references (name, organization, and email address). These references should be professors or advisors familiar with your research work. NOTE: You will be notified prior to references being contacted.

Only one application will be considered per applicant. If there are several positions that are of interest, applicants should choose the one position that best matches their background and interest. Submitting more than one application will not increase the chances of being selected as one application will be randomly withdrawn. Thus it is best to highlight all relevant strengths in a single application.

Applicants will receive an automated email notifying them of their successful submission.

All applications are due by December 4, 2020, 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time. Applicants will be notified of RAND's interest in conducting an interview after the application period has ended. You will be contacted directly only if you are selected for interview. Interviews will be conducted beginning in late January, continuing as late as February and March. Offers are typically extended in late March.

Frequently Asked Questions Recent Projects Program Brochure (PDF)

Please review the FAQs as they may address most common inquiries. If you have additional questions about the Graduate Student Summer Associate Program, please contact

About RAND

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. As such, it provides a distinctive environment for graduate students.

RAND's primary activity is research. The environment provides a rich variety of ongoing studies and an experienced staff of professional researchers with whom Summer Associates interact.

RAND projects are typically interdisciplinary. Some research projects bring together economists, psychologists, statisticians, and health professionals, for example, whereas others bring together engineers, operations researchers, and students of organizational behavior. Learn more about the RAND environment.

RAND's core research areas include: