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Government Internships: Your Path to Success

Government internship programs

Wondering how to start a career in the public sector? Government internship programs could be your gateway to success. For those looking to make a name in the field of public policy, internships are available with prestigious offices like the Executive Office of the President (EOP), including the White House Internship Program (WHIP), which offers hands-on experience in the central administration and can give interns insight into national policymaking.

Additionally, federal agencies across various sectors provide distinctive internships catering to students' and graduates’ interests in fields ranging from national security to environmental protection, facilitating professional growth and meaningful contributions to public service.

What Do Government Interns Do?

Depending on a student's placement, government interns may attend briefings, handle office operations, draft correspondence, conduct research, and assist with policy and communications materials on various issues. They also participate in meetings and work on various administrative and research tasks. In addition to these tasks, interns often have the opportunity to network with professionals in their field, attend workshops and seminars for professional development, and gain firsthand insight into the inner workings of government processes.

By engaging in these activities, interns can apply their academic knowledge in a practical setting, enhancing their skills and preparing for a future career in public service. The exposure to the multifaceted challenges faced by government agencies allows interns to contribute fresh perspectives and innovative ideas, which can be invaluable to the agency's mission and objectives.

U.S. Legislative Internships: Senate and House of Representatives

Obtaining an internship in the U.S. Capital can be a highly competitive yet rewarding endeavor and can give you a foot in the door to pursuing a full-time career as a Hill staffer. The first step to receiving an internship offer at the capital is research. Explore the websites of government agencies, congressional offices, and advocacy groups based in Washington, D.C. Each office and organization will provide specific instructions to their internship program and provide you steps on how to apply as well as necessary requirements.

Consider reaching out to alumni from your university who may currently work at the Capital or have had previous experience there. Building relationships with those who have roles that interest you are crucial in understanding the processes and skill set for different positions. These people can provide valuable insights and possibly even recommend you for opportunities.

A great place to begin is identifying the senators and representatives of your home state. Often, these offices exclusively hire students from their state as they desire individuals passionate about serving constituents from their state. 

Pathways Programs: Opportunities for Students and Recent Graduates

The Pathways Program is a set of programs offered by the US State Department that provide internships and potential careers for those interested in pursuing a career in the Civil Service.

These programs, designed specifically for students and recent graduates, offer a gateway to federal internships and potential careers in the public service sector. With a focus on personnel management, the Pathways Programs consist of two tracks: the Internship Experience Program (IEP) for non-temporary roles and the Internship Temporary Program (ITEP) for temporary positions.

The IEP and ITEP offer:

  • Paid positions provide a significant advantage over many private-sector internships
  • Real-world experience
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Potential pathways to full-time employment

Pathways Internship Program

The Pathways Internship Program is designed for current students, offering part-time or full-time placement opportunities. It’s the IEP track of the Pathways Programs, providing non-temporary positions for students throughout their academic programs with federal employee benefits. The other track, the ITEP, offers seasonal work during academic breaks, with the potential for conversion to permanent roles after completion.

The program allows students to gain crucial work experience in their chosen field while still studying. Students may transition into a competitive service role after completing their studies and achieving at least 640 hours of work experience.

Pathways Recent Graduates Program

The Pathways Recent Graduates Program offers:

  • Specialized track for individuals who have recently completed their education
  • Specialized training that extends for a year or longer, providing graduates with the tools they need to kick-start their careers.

Executive Office of the President Internships

For individuals intrigued by the idea of working at the White House, internships within the Executive Office of the President (EOP) offer an extraordinary opportunity. These internships provide a sneak peek into the fast-paced environment of the White House Office, the Office of the Vice President, and other EOP offices.

White House Internship Program

The White House Internship Program (WHIP) is a unique program that caters to emerging leaders. It offers public service leadership and development opportunities, allowing interns to support the work of the White House Office. 

Interns in this program serve in various capacities, including policy or communication support for the White House Office and engagement with domestic, economic, and national security tasks for the Office of the Vice President.

Other EOP Internships

Beyond the White House Internship Program, several other internships are available within the EOP, including the Council of Economic Advisers, Council on Environmental Quality, and Office of Administration, among others. Each internship offers unique opportunities to gain experience in different facets of government, from economic report preparation to environmental policy development.

Intelligence and National Security Internships

For those drawn to the world of intelligence and national security, internships within agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) offer an unparalleled opportunity for students considering a career in these fields, providing invaluable exposure and experience.

Central Intelligence Agency

At the CIA, internships and fellowships offer a deep dive into the world of intelligence. These programs cater to both undergraduate and graduate students, fostering a deeper understanding of the intelligence community and offering work assignments at the agency before graduation.

Interns at the CIA work in areas such as:

  • Accountability
  • Finance
  • Foreign languages
  • Economics
  • Engineering
  • Information technology
  • International development

Internships in the above categories support the agency’s critical mission of keeping the nation safe. It’s an opportunity to gain an insider’s perspective on the workings of one of the world’s most respected intelligence agencies.

National Security Agency

The National Security Agency (NSA) offers a range of programs for students across educational levels. From internships to scholarships and cooperative education programs, the NSA provides opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience in the field of national security.

The NSA’s programs offer a rare opportunity to work in the field of national security and play a part in protecting the nation while also adhering to guidelines set by the National Labor Relations Board.

Defense Intelligence Agency

At the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), college students have various opportunities, including internships, cooperative education programs, and scholarship programs. These programs provide hands-on experience and open doors to potential full-time employment upon successful completion.

By participating in these programs, students can join the DIA and become part of the next generation of professionals in defense intelligence.

Other Federal Government Agencies Offering Internships

Apart from the programs above, several federal agencies offer internships that provide students with invaluable experience. Some agencies that offer student internship programs include, but are not limited to:

Department of Homeland Security

Interns at the DHS work on critical security measures, from cybersecurity to emergency response. They gain unique insights into the nation's defense strategies and contribute to vital security operations.

Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA offers internships focused on environmental science, policy, and regulation. Interns engage in projects aimed at protecting the environment and ensuring sustainable practices.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The EEOC provides internships that involve research, analysis, and assistance in enforcing laws against workplace discrimination. Interns support the EEOC's mission to promote equality in the workplace.

Federal Communications Commission

Interns at the FCC engage in a dynamic regulatory environment, contributing to developing and enforcing communications law, policy, and technology. These internships provide an opportunity to understand the inner workings of the FCC and its role in overseeing various forms of interstate and international communications, such as radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

At the FDIC, interns can expect to learn about the financial regulatory environment, including how the FDIC protects depositors and ensures economic prosperity and the banking system's health.

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Internships at FEMA involve preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters. Interns support FEMA's mission to help people before, during, and after disasters.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

The FERC offers internships related to the regulation and oversight of energy industries. Interns gain experience in areas such as energy markets, environmental review, and legal aspects of energy policy.

Federal Housing Finance Agency

Interns at the FHFA work on projects related to the housing finance system, including the supervision of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Bank System.

Federal Trade Commission

The FTC provides student internship opportunities to learn about consumer protection, antitrust laws, and economic research to prevent deceptive and unfair business practices.

Minority Business Development Agency

At the MBDA, interns support the agency's efforts to grow and compete globally by promoting and advancing minority-owned businesses.

National Credit Union Administration

The NCUA offers internships that provide insight into the regulation and supervision of credit unions, ensuring the safety and soundness of the federal credit union system.

National Science Foundation

Interns at the NSF participate in research and administrative projects that support science and engineering education and innovation, contributing to the nation's scientific progress.

State-Level Government Internship Programs

Government internship programs

While federal internships often grab the limelight, it’s essential not to overlook state-level government internships. These internships provide opportunities to gain valuable experience in public policy and administration at the state level. They can offer more localized insights into government operations..

Tips for Securing a Government Internship

Securing a government internship can be a challenging task. However, with the right approach and resources, it’s entirely achievable. One vital first step is visiting official government job portals and websites to access the most accurate and up-to-date internship listings.

Another vital aspect to consider is the preparation of a strong resume. Unlike regular resumes, a federal resume should be detailed, extend to multiple pages, and align closely with the job announcement’s criteria. Building a professional network during the internship can also open doors to further career opportunities.

The Role of a Master's Degree in Public Policy

Government internship programs

A Master’s Degree in Public Policy (MPP) can be a game-changer for students aiming for a career in public policy. An MPP program equips students with a critical understanding of political systems and offers specializations in various areas like American Policy, State and Local Policy, and International Relations.

Obtaining an MPP can prepare students for impactful government internships by providing relevant experience and specialized policy understanding. It also often includes an internship requirement, which provides students with practical knowledge and lays the groundwork for their future careers as policy influencers and makers.