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Indian Health Service The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives

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IHS Extern Program

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Become an IHS Extern

The Indian Health Service (IHS) offers scholarship recipients, as well as other health profession students, the opportunity to participate in a hands-on instructive experience that will complement the knowledge and skills developed in school. This experience will help to enhance pre-professional training, while also familiarizing yourself with Native communities that are of interest to you when you begin your health professions career.

IHS externs are employed for 30 to 120 workdays per calendar year during non-academic periods.

To learn more about obtaining practical, pre-professional experience in Dentistry, Pharmacy and Optometry, visit:

Dental Externships
Pharmacy Externships
Optometry Externships

Eligibility to Apply

IHS externships are available to students who are:

Priorities for Selection

Funding for the IHS Extern Program is limited and selections are based on the needs of the Indian health program. Below is a priority listing of those eligible (including USPHS JRCOSTEP participants) for the IHS Extern Program:

  • Health Professions scholarship recipients.
  • Health professions students (non-recipients) who are American Indian or Alaska Native.
  • Non-American Indian/Alaska Native health professions students (non-recipients).
  • Preparatory or Pre-Graduate scholarship recipients.

Application Deadline

Summer Externship

The summer externship application cycle is closed. Please return in September to apply for winter externship opportunities.

How to Apply

Applications must be submitted through USAJOBS. The online system provides a detailed overview including:

  • A job summary.
  • Key requirements.
  • Duties.
  • Qualifications.
  • Evaluation details.
  • Benefits.
  • Required documentation.


Externs receive a salary based on experience and years of academic training that is comparable to industry standards. IHS will waive your salary if the externship fulfills a required academic field placement or an internship, in which case it will instead pay all required tuition, fees and regular monthly stipend (scholarship students only).

Read the Qualifications section of the USAJOBS Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving overview for more information.


You must submit a Request for Extern Travel Reimbursement (IHS-856-18) [PDF - 37 KB] form to request reimbursement for one round trip to the externship site before you plan any travel. IHS authorizes travel reimbursement based on federal regulations for travel and transportation allowances. If a travel advance is required, contact your Area Scholarship Coordinator and the IHS Area office, Service Unit or health clinic where you are assigned.

Do not, under any circumstances, travel without authorized travel orders.


You are responsible for finding your own housing. Your Area Scholarship Coordinator or the local site can provide that information to you. You are eligible to receive a minimal allowance for transportation of goods, but IHS must provide advanced authorization on your travel orders.

Please stay in touch with your Area Scholarship Coordinator and Extern Coordinator to verify all of your arrangements before traveling to the externship site.