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Ten Ways to Find Federal Internships

Ten Ways to Find Federal Internships

I'm often asked: I'm studying for my liberal arts degree, and I'd like to work for the government when I graduate. What can I do without having to go to grad school?

Many government agencies offer paid internships for college students. These experiences help you learn about government work and the culture of government agencies before you decide on a specific career track. The experience you'll gain through a federal internship will be valuable whether you pursue a career in government or not. Find one with these 10 tips:

  • See if the counselors at your college career center have information about federal career internship programs. Two specific programs -- the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) and the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) -- can connect you with paid internships at various agencies.
  • Search USAJOBS using the terms "internships, students" (throughout the US) to see what jobs come up. You will probably select NO at the bottom of the search screen unless you have been in the military or have other federal hiring preferences.
  • Search USAJOBS by your city and state for jobs.
  • Find out which federal agencies are at or near your college, and look them up on the Internet. If you are in Durham, North Carolina, you can search USAJOBS for all jobs in Research Triangle Park in the GS 5-7 grade range (this is typical for bachelor's level or almost bachelor's level).
  • Try this search again for grade levels GS 4-15. This might include jobs you are not qualified for, but it may yield some results.
  • Go to the Web sites of agencies with jobs in your target area. Most have a page for specific jobs and internships. Some of these might be the same listings you've already seen on USAJOBS, but you may find a few unique listings.
  • Write to people at agencies you've targeted. Study what they do and why they do it so you'll be ready to answer when asked, "Why do you want to work for us?"
  • Put your resume in federal format. Be aware that federal resumes are much longer and more complicated than private sector ones.
  • Connect with student recruiters at the agencies you're interested in, and get to know your college's career counselors -- they could make a phone call that gets you in the door.
  • Keep at it. Landing a federal internship takes perseverance and determination. If you like a challenge, you will enjoy this government job search game. It's not easy, but the jobs are there.

Learn more about government careers.

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