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How to Find the Perfect Federal Internship

How to Find the Perfect Federal Internship

Kathryn Troutman /

Federal internships can be a great way to start a career in government. But before you get an internship, you have to find it, which in some ways can be trickier than finding a job.

The big difference between job hunting and looking for an internship is that internships are “excepted” positions, not “competitive” positions. What that means is instead of using Monster Gov’t/Public Service and USAJOBS to search all agencies at once, you have to go to each agency’s Web site.

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  • Do you want to learn more about careers with the federal government? Find one here.

  • Looking for scholarships to take your skill set to the next level? Find one here.

Here’s how you to start your hunt:

• Make a list of agencies that are of interest to you.

• Go to each agency’s home page.

• Look for a link for employment, careers, students or interns.

• If you can’t find any of the above, use the search field to look for “student internships.”

• Read through descriptions of internship programs.

• Once you find a program you like, try putting the name of the program in the search field to find more information.

• Look for actual program announcements with dates, pay and instructions for how to apply.

• Bookmark these pages and write information down or print it out.

• Write a federal-style resume that covers the skills in the announcement.

Here are how a few of my own federal internship hunts for positions at NASA and the National Science Foundation go:

National Air & Space Administration: I found a great Flash animation on the home page, but I couldn’t find the internship info for “regular students,” only Astronaut Educators. So I went to the top to search, typed in “Student Internships” and found NASA’s Student Intern Program Homepage. I still haven’t found the real internship/job announcement with dates, salary and how-to-apply instructions, but at least I found a good description of the internship programs.

National Science Foundation (NSF): Where are the internship listings with closing dates, salaries, and other job-related information? Time to use the search feature on the NSF site. I typed in “Student Internships” and found the Student Appointments page. This is a little better, with more information about the types of internship programs offered, but where are the real listings? Back on the search results page, I clicked on a link that took me to the Department of Energy’s Web site, which provides a good description of an internship for a science major on a page for Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships. This page includes dates, pay, length of appointment, and other information.

The Bottom Line

Yes, finding the good federal internship listings and descriptions with each agency can be time-consuming, but the time you spend is very worthwhile. Federal internships can pay well and include advancement and benefits.

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