4 Tips for Landing Federal Internships

4 Tips for Landing Federal Internships

When people think about interning in D.C., the kind of internships that usually come to mind are working on Capitol Hill, at a law firm, with a lobbying group, or in an advocacy organization. However, another huge sector in D.C. is the federal government. For students interested in politics and making an impact, interning with the federal government can provide a tangible way to affect people’s lives.


The Washington Center partners with a few government agencies (so you could be matched with one through the internship matching process), but you also have the option of applying for an internship with a government agency on your own. Breaking into the world of federal government can be difficult though, since it has its own set of rules and there are several departments, like the Department of State, which are very competitive. As a current intern at the Peace Corps, and a former intern at the Department of Justice, I thought I would pass along the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way for finding and landing federal internships.


Department of Justice


1. Create a USAJOBS account

This is perhaps the most crucial thing you can do to find and get a federal internship. Almost all federal agencies, regardless of the city, will post their job vacancies onto one database: USAJOBS. And this includes internships! There are two essential tips for navigating USAJOBS. First, make sure you start a job search where you can filter postings to student/recent grads and set the location to Washington, D.C. Once you’ve done this, you can save the search and set up weekly or daily notifications - that way you never miss a posting.


The second tip is to really read the entirety of each job posting you see! All of the details on what qualifications you need and how to apply will be included in each posting, so be sure to read it thoroughly and follow the instructions. Many federal job applications get thrown out because they were missing requirements listed in the original posting. Don’t make this mistake!


2. Include all of your experience on your resume

I think we’ve all heard the rule that your resume cannot be longer than one page, but this doesn’t apply to federal jobs. In the federal world, they will accept a resume of any length because they want to know about all the experience you have to meet the job qualifications. Furthermore, for most federal positions, even internships, you will have to go through a background check (thus the importance of disclosing your full job history). Take advantage of this and really make your resume stand out! One thing to be careful of is letting your resume get too overwhelmed with job and job descriptions; use concise language that is relevant to the position you’re applying for. USAJOBS has some tips you can use when writing your federal resume.


3. Follow the agencies you’re interested in on LinkedIn and Twitter

This is actually how I found my internship at the Department of Justice! I was following their page on LinkedIn and saw their post about internships. I highly recommend taking advantage of social media to keep track of the agencies you’re interested in so you don’t miss their posts! Following an agency’s social media pages is also useful because (here’s a secret) not all federal opportunities are listed on USAJOBS. There are a few agencies that have the ability to share listings to their own sites, therefore they won’t be on USAJOB searches. Be sure to find the agencies you’re interested in early, because some internship opportunities are shared months to a year in advance, and you want to get your application in as soon as possible!


4. Use your school alumni network

For my last tip, I suggest you look to your school’s alumni network to find connections. There is bound to be someone somewhere in the federal government who can offer insight and help you get your foot in the door. Once you’re in the federal government, it’s very easy to move around and connect to other agencies. Someone out there in your school’s alumni network could have the connection that makes your career, and it never hurts to reach out and ask. You’ll never know if you never try!


Peace Corps


I hope these tips help you find and land a federal internship! The federal government is an extremely rewarding career path that provides the chance to do impactful work (plus it has some pretty amazing benefits). I’ve been nothing but pleased with my experiences so far, and I can’t wait to see where this path takes me!




Read Kelsey's previous blog posts

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