University of Wisconsin–Madison

Government, Politics, Policy & Law

GOVERNMENT AGENCIES If you are seeking an internship or career where you can make a positive difference in the lives of your fellow citizens, protect our air, water, land, health, and food supply, improve the United States’ image abroad, identify terrorist threats before they come to fruition, protect our most vulnerable citizens, and much more, then there is place for you working in a local, state, or federal government agency!

POLITICS/POLICY Perhaps you are more about crafting policy that shapes the laws a state or federal legislative body enacts, or you are skilled in the power of persuasion and would love to lobby for an issue close to your heart. Maybe you think it would be great to run for office one day…or just work for someone who does. There is a place for you in politics or policy!

LAW To learn more about going to law school including how to prepare, what kind of internships to seek out during your undergrad years, and more,  make an appointment with the Center for Pre-Law Advising

***To find specific details and links related to a job or internship search in Government, Politics or Policy, please scroll to the bottom of this page to the DIG DEEPER section, then click on the appropriate tab(s)***


Student Spotlight: Lenai Johnson, 2018

  • Investigative Internship Pushes the Boundaries

    When UW-Madison senior Lenai Johnson visualizes her future, she doesn’t see herself working in jails and correctional facilities. But when she accepted an investigative internship last summer with the State Public Defender’s Office, the Fitchburg …

  • More Posts

49% of federal jobs are in the civil service. The other 51% are made up of excepted positions and the US Postal Service.

Check Out Related L&S Courses

There are a wide array of courses open to L&S student that will help you explore careers in Government, Policy, Politics & Law. Check them out to gain insight and earn academic credit:

Basic institutions and processes of American government. The role of constitutional structures, parties, interest groups and elections in the system; policy formulation and policy content. Learn more and register at MyUW

This course covers the major issues in international relations since the end of World War II including: the causes of war; civil wars and ethnic conflict; economic development; international trade; exchange rates and international monetary relations; international capital flows and financial crises; foreign direct investment; globalization and the environment; the UN, the IMF, World Bank, WTO, and other international organizations; and international law and human rights. The focus is on states’ relations with each other and the factors determining the nature and outcomes of these international interactions. The course seeks to develop analytical tools for thinking about important questions in world politics regardless of the countries or issues involved, to examine international affairs in a systematic way.  Learn more and register at MyUW

An umbrella course for variable credit topic courses, such as summer forum, intensive summer courses, and half-semester courses. Learn more and register at MyUW

Making Connections

Student/Professional Organizations

UW-Madison has a variety of government and policy related student organizations to consider joining. They range from criminal justice, political party, legal, and veteran issues. Check out a few on our list

Badger Mentors

Badger career coaches are here to help you.

Graduate School Resources

You might be thinking about graduate work beyond your bachelors degree. Take a look at the application process and things to consider before you apply

Government Agency Resume Samples

Resume Sample 1

Resume Sample 2

Resume Sample 3

DIG DEEPER 1: Internships & Jobs in Politics, Policy & Lobbying/Advocacy

Dig Deeper 2: Internships and Jobs with State, City or County Government Agencies

Dig Deeper 3: Internships & Jobs with Federal Government Agencies

  • Why Become a Fed? - Timelines and Benefits

    The federal government is our country’s largest employer with about 1.9 million people – including 15 cabinet-level agencies and over 200 independent agencies. As Baby Boomers continue to retire, federal agencies will need to hire new workers for “mission-critical” positions in almost every occupational field in locations throughout the country and the world.


    With very limited exceptions, Federal jobs and internships are only available to U.S. citizens. If you have dual citizenship between the US and another country, some agencies won’t mind while others might require you to give it up prior to being hired.

    If you do not have U.S. citizenship or have a green card, opportunities will range from nonexistent to extremely limited.


    The Federal Government does not have “hiring seasons” for the vast majority of its positions.  There are however several rules of thumb you can follow for when you should begin looking and applying for an internship or job:

    • INTELLIGENCE CAREERS — If the position will require a Top Secret or Secret security clearance (virtually any opportunity in the Intelligence Community), typically you will need to apply anywhere from 7 months to 1 year before you expect to start work. Please note that you cannot obtain a security clearance on your own. Clearances are conducted by the agency you will work/intern for and are tied to a COE (conditional offer of employment):
        1. For Internships: IC opportunities are typically open Sept/Oct for the following Summer, Jan/Feb for the following Fall, and June/July for the following Spring (there are always exceptions such as the CIA internship only open to freshman that accepts applications from January-April each year for internships to start the following summer. The CIA generally closes it’s following summer recruitment by May 1 of the previous year, but this is an exception to the rule.
        2. For full time jobs: Try to apply about a year before you graduate or would hope to start the job as it can take up to 18 months before you can EOD (enter on duty)
    • STANDARD CLEARANCES/NO CLEARANCES – If the internship or job does not require a high level clearance (most of the positions listed on USAJobs fall into this category)
        1. Begin looking at potential positions that might interest you 6-8 months before you plan to apply. The CFPB, Federal Reserve branches, and several other agencies hire their summer interns between October-December of the year preceding your EOD, but most won’t start to recruit till Feb-March of the year in which you would intern.
        2. Begin actively applying approximately 90 days before you’d like to start the job unless the above applies
        1. The official rule states that you must have already graduated before you can even apply for the job
        2. Some Recent Grads positions will allow you to apply several months before you graduate (read the announcement carefully before applying)
    • PATHWAYS INTERNSHIPS require that you continue being a student after completion of the internship, so you may not intern with a federal agency after you graduate unless you are already registered to attend graduate school the following fall

    WHY consider the Federal Government?

    If you are seeking a career where you can make a positive difference in the lives of your fellow citizens, protect our air, water, land, and food supply, improve the United States’ image abroad, or identify terrorist threats before they come to fruition, the Federal Government has a job or internship for you!

    • Decent Salaries – Most salaries are comparable to those in the private sector. Pay is based on grade levels GS-1 to GS-15. Each grade contains 10 steps. Starting salaries are based on your geographic location, grade point average, and experience in the field.
      • With a Bachelor’s degree, expect to begin Federal service between GS-5 and GS-7 (roughly around $ 40,000 to start)
      • With a Master’s degree, the starting range is GS-9 to GS-11
      • PhDs typically start at GS-11 and go up from there.
    • Great Benefits – Have the opportunity to choose from some of the best health, dental, life, and long term care insurance
    • Student Loan Repayment – Overwhelmed with student loan debt? Certain agencies can assist you with your student loans! Some pay up to $60,000 for loan repayment as long as you work for them for three years or more. (See the section on Public Service Loan Forgiveness below)
    • Quick Advancement – Regularly scheduled and merit-based promotions are the rewards for good job performance.
    • Pensions – Coverage by secure pensions, difficult to find in the private sector.
    • Generous Vacations – Ten paid holidays and up to 26 days of vacation.
    • Flexible Schedules – Don’t want to work 9-to-5? Some agencies have flexible schedules, part time work, and telecommuting options. This is a great contributor to balancing your work and personal lives.
    • Looking for a purpose? A meaningful job? – You can impact the lives of people every day. Working for the government provides the opportunity to make our country better through interesting and challenging job opportunities.
    • They are hiring – As the approximately 250,000 Baby-Boomers currently in government service retire, some positions will be discontinued, others consolidated, but many entry level jobs will need to be filled as current employees move up the promotion ladder.

    Read up on the Basics

    If you can’t get to the government workshop series on campus, or you missed it, this two-part series written by the Bureau of Labor Statistics will at least get you started: Part One and Part Two

    Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

    The PSLF Program is intended to encourage individuals to enter and continue to work full-time in public service jobs. Under this program, you may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance due on your William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program (Direct Loan Program) loans after you have made 120 qualifying payments on those loans while employed full-time by certain public service employers. Since you must make 120 qualifying payments on your eligible federal student loans after October 1, 2007 before you qualify for the loan forgiveness, the first forgiveness of loan balances will not be granted until October 2017.  Any non-defaulted loan made under the Direct Loan Program is eligible for loan forgiveness. (See below for information on how non-Direct Loans may become eligible.) The Direct Loan Program includes the following loans:

    • Federal Direct Stafford/Ford Loans (Direct Subsidized Loans)
    • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford/Ford Loans (Direct Unsubsidized Loans)
    • Federal Direct PLUS Loans (Direct PLUS Loans)—for parents and graduate or professional students
    • Federal Direct Consolidation Loans (Direct Consolidation Loans)
  • Federal Job Search Resources - Categorized by Type

    This is the place to find nearly every helpful link related to your Federal job or internship search.  To make perusing the links a little easier, they have been categorized as follows:

    1. Learn how Uncle Sam “Works”
    2. USAJobs Resources
    3. Intelligence and National Security Internship & Career Resources
    4. Special Agency Career Websites
    5. Opportunities for those with Language Skills
    6. Resource Guides For a Variety of Career Directions


    Learn How Uncle Sam Works

    Learn to Speak “Governmentese”– Anyone who has tried to read a vacancy announcement on USAJobs knows that the government almost seems to speak a foreign language.  A Glossary of Federal Terminology lists some of the most common terminology you will encounter when reading vacancy announcements so you can begin to grasp what they are talking about.

    Figure out Which Job is Right for You – Almost every position in the Competitive Service has a 4 digit classification code and generalized PDF job description on OPM’s website

    The Partnership for Public Service has a great website called GoGovernment covering a lot of details pertaining to Federal job searches.

    Competitive/Civil Service vs Excepted Service – what’s the difference and why it matters

    • Competitive/Civil Service – These jobs are under OPM’s jurisdiction and subject to the civil service laws passed by Congress to ensure that applicants and employees receive fair and equal treatment in the hiring process. These laws give selecting officials broad authority to review more than one applicant source before determining the best-qualified candidate based on job-related criteria. A basic principle of Federal employment is that all candidates must meet the qualification requirements for the position for which they receive an appointment.
    • Excepted Service – Approximately 51% of Federal positions are “excepted” from the hiring criteria defined above.  They are generally not hired through USAJobs but directly through individual agency website postings. Both agencies and positions within an agency can be considered “Excepted” for hiring purposes.
    • NOTE: You should always visit agency websites to learn more about them and their mission whether you apply to them directly or through USAJobs

    Understand Pathways

    Pathways, which began in 2010, is special way for students and recent graduates to get hired into Federal agencies. It is made up of three components:

    1. Pathways Internships
    2. Pathways Recent Graduates Positions
    3. Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program. Note that the term “Recent Grads” applies to ANY degree level from Associates to PhD who has graduated within the past two years, and the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) is only available to graduate students.

    Find an Agency You’d Like to Work for (there are a LOT to choose from!). You’ve heard of the FBI and the EPA but how about OPIC or NIMH?  Don’t limit yourself to the agencies you’ve seen on TV.  Check out this comprehensive list of the over 200 Federal agencies and government corporations with descriptions of what they do to find others that may interest you.  Or if you prefer, you can also search by which branch of government they serve:  Executive  Legislative  or Judicial

    Intern:  Click here to view the internship pages for every major agency as well as the White House and Congress

    Federal and State Jobs Posted by Blacks in Government

    Learn about Pay Grades and Salary Levels

    • The General Schedule (GS) is the predominant pay schedule for federal employees. A good rule of thumb is that entry level with a BA/BS is typically GS 5-7, with an MA/MS between GS 7-11 and with a PhD GS 9 and above. NOTE: This is not a hard and fast rule – especially if you majored in a STEM field or have 1 year or more of relevant experience.
    • Calculate your potential salary by grade, step and locality.

    Be Marketable for Federal Positions (pdf) will tell you what agencies want and need from new hires.

    Special Government Hiring Programs give those who complete them a shorter path into government agency work. The link includes Federal, state, and local program opportunities.  There are also special hiring initiatives for candidates with disabilities, veterans, and people who have successfully completed Americorps Vista or Peace Corps service (see those tabs for more information about these programs).

    Who’s Hiring, How Many, and Where?

    • FedScope is the only comprehensive place to find hard data on numbers of those employed at Federal agencies. This can help answer your questions about how many Feds work in your state, or how long people have worked at an agency or the most common GS levels in an agency. Select a topic, select a “cube” and navigate as you would any Excel spreadsheet.
    • The annual Best Places to Work survey (updated every November) provides just what the name implies: data which displays the results of current and former Federal employee satisfaction surveys on a variety of metrics.

    Follow agencies on social media – The U.S. Digital Registry serves as the authoritative resource for agencies, citizens and developers to confirm the official status of social media and public-facing collaboration accounts, mobile apps and mobile websites, and help prevent exploitation from unofficial sources, phishing scams or malicious entities.

    USAJobs Resources

    About 49% of all Federal jobs are posted on USAJobs.  Some things to note:

    • It is not the sole source of Federal work opportunities (see the Excepted Service above)
    • It is where you will find all Civil/Competitive Service jobs (except Postal) and the vast majority of Federal  internships (both paid and unpaid).
    • Most positions are listed by GS pay grades (see above) – but you will also see other grades when you view jobs.
    • The USAJobs YouTube channel is full of helpful videos about Federal hiring.
    • Federal Occupations by College Major
    • Need an SF 86 or an SF 15?  Standard Forms and Optional Forms often requested as part of a complete application can be found at this link.

    Intelligence and National Security Career & Internship Resources should be your first stop if you are considering a career in the intelligence field.  The site is like a USAJobs for the IC (Intelligence Community) and four of the 17 agencies in the IC post their jobs directly to this site. The IC website also hosts a bi-annual virtual career fair (typically in October and February) where you can “talk to” recruiters from the 17 IC agencies.

        • The 17 agencies that make up the IC
        • What kinds of IC careers are available
        • What majors they typically seek
        • Take a quiz to find your best career fit

    Read more about the Intelligence Profession

    Learn how the CIA recruits and some of the questions they ask in interviews (from Forbes)

    Booklet: Intelligence as a Career.  Is it right for you?  Are you right for it?

    How to get a job in intelligence – Even though it’s from 2009, this blog has a wealth of good information on it and is well worth your time to read. The gentleman who wrote it has also written a brand new e-book on the topic available for Kindle download from Also read this blog about how to draft a compelling resume for an analyst job:  How to Write an Intelligence Analysis ResumeYou can also utilize the publicly available resources of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers

    Understanding Security Clearances

    • If the Intelligence Community is for you read through this Security Clearance FAQ
    • This link will provide further information on obtaining and maintaining security clearances along with information about the different levels of clearance
    • The Security Clearance YouTube channel is devoted to issues pertaining to security clearances
    • NOTE: You cannot obtain your own security clearance.  It is part of the hiring process for any agency that requires it.  All you do is fill out the SF 85 or 86 as truthfully and completely as possible, then sit back and let it run its course

    Special Agency Career Websites

    The Federal Reserve is an Excepted agency which hires a wide range of majors and backgrounds. Its internships and careers are only posted to one of two agency-managed websites:

    • The Federal Reserve Board in DC where you can search by job function or career level (e.g. internship, entry…) for opportunities at the main Fed in Washington DC
    • If you are interested in a position at one of the Federal Reserve Banks, you should apply through the respective Bank’s web site. You may also find postings here.

    The Department of Defense’s GoDefense website will help you navigate the labyrinth that is the DoD. If you are interested in a civilian career with any of its agencies this site can help you learn more and find job openings – especially Excepted positions not listed on USAJobs.  This site also does a good job of explaining how the DoD is organized and making positions easier to locate.

    The State Department’s special careers website is a goldmine of information. Sign up for email notices, view chat boards and learn about the myriad of opportunities available with the agency

    • This organizational chart of State Dept bureaus can be a bit difficult to read, but it can also help you better understand the Civil Service and where you might like to intern if you want to gain experience in DC
    • Careers in Diplomacy is a highly recommended State Department group on LinkedIn. State has virtually every kind of social media presence you can think of, so look for them on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc.

    The FBI

    Opportunities for those with Language Skills

    The Federal government has a great need for people who speak certain “critically needed” languages such as Arabic, Farsi, Chinese, Russian, Hindi, Korean, Turkish, Urdu and many others.

    • UW’s own  Language Institute hosted this panel of Federal employers talking about Professional Opportunities in National Security and Intelligence for those with language skills.
    • Languages targeted for Foreign Language Proficiency Pay (FLPP)
    • Boren Scholarships/Fellowships – If you are studying one of the many critical needs languages as defined by NSEP, you may be eligible to apply for up to $20,000 in funding to study your language abroad. (Scholarships are for undergrads, Fellowships are for grad students).
    • Critical Language Scholarship Program –  The CLS is a fully-funded overseas language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students. CLS provides study opportunities to a diverse range of students from across the United States at every level of language learning.
    • View a pre-recorded webinar about the CLS here

    The most common scale used to rate and rank language applicants is the ILR Scale.  The website will tell you all that you need to know about the ILR including how to prepare for testing and what proficiencies are expected at each level.

    DoD agencies and the US Military typically use a different language scale called the DLPT.

    Resource Guides For a Variety of Career Directions (PDF)

    Getting Into Government
    Hot to find land and keep govt job
    A Guide to Structured Federal Interviews
    Comprehensive Guidebook: Interns Washington DC and the Federal Government
    Making Global Impact: A Guide to International Jobs in Government
    Govloop’s Unofficial Guide to Getting a Federal Job
    Path to PMF Guidebook
    DHS Academic Resource Guide

    Federal Career Guides by Interest Area (PDF)

    Administration & Program Management
    Art and Design
    Biological and Enviornmental Sciences
    Business & Finance (great for math and stats majors)
    Foreign Service
    International Relations
    Information Technology
    Medical & Public Health
    Physical Sciences
    Security & Protection
    Social Sciences

    Other Guides (somewhat old)

    Liberal Arts Jobs – Making a Difference with your Liberal Arts Degree
    Public Health Jobs in Government
    Business Jobs in Government
    Homeland Security Jobs in Government
    Engineering Jobs in Government

  • How to Write a Federal Resume & Cover Letter

    If you have clicked on this tab, you are already a major step ahead of 75% of the other applicants for any federal government job or internship.

    What Is/Isn’t a Federal Resume?

    1. A true Federal Resume is not the same as the 1 page resume that most career advisors and well-meaning parents will teach you to write.
        • It is much longer; averaging between 2-5 pages
        • The content is deeper and broader than a single sentence bullet point can ever cover
        • Bullet points on federal resumes are basically mini behavioral interview questions on paper; often headed by a keyword describing your skill in that area (see KSAs below)
        • Each entry should ideally contain at least one Key Accomplishment (overarching success you had in that position) if you had one
    2. Federal Resumes are not used for every kind of government job
        • You would not need a “federal resume” to apply to a position with Congress, a think tank, or a federal contractor
        • You might not need a “federal resume” to apply to a government agency internship
    Learn All About KSAs and Make Them Work For You

    KSAs (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) are how government decides which candidates are the Best Qualified to be referred to a hiring manager.

    1. The Importance of KSAs on this website provides a detailed explanation of what KSAs are and gives examples of good ones and bad ones. This was written for when KSAs were more often essays than bullet points, but if you ignore the personal pronouns (I/me/my) in the examples, they show you how to build good KSA bullets for your resume.
    2. Utilize this KSA Worksheet
    3. Your resume should be tailored using the KSAs mentioned:
      • In the duties section of the vacancy announcement
      • On the application questionnaire (a preview of which can normally be found in the vacancy announcement)
      • And potentially in the PDF describing the Job Series of which the position is a part
    4. Visit ONET to read all about the Knowledge, Skills or Abilities you may have to draw from

    Competitive Service Jobs Applied for on USAJobs

    If you are applying for a job through USAJobs, you should use the resume builder. USAJobs does give you the option to upload a resume instead of using the builder, but if you are applying for a career position, the resume builder is preferred for a variety of reasons.

    The finished resume will typically be 3-5 pages long. As a recent college graduate, try not to go longer than 5 pages unless you really do have a significant amount of truly relevant experience.

    It is also possible to create a Job Series keyworded resume for a particular type of job (E.g.: Read the PDF for a 1530 position and create a generic 1530 resume using the keywords you find there. When a specific 1530 series job opens up, tweak that generic 1530 resume to make sure the generic KSAs of the position align with the agency’s specific needs).

    Once completed, your resume will look something like this Fiona Federal Sample Federal Resume for Competitive Service Jobs

    Excepted Service Jobs

    1. You will most likely not be applying on USAJobs (occasionally excepted positions are posted there, but their application and hiring process remains a bit different)
    2. You will probably not need to use the Resume Builder (unless the agency asks you to do so)
    3. You are unlikely to have either a job series description or an application questionnaire to pull keywords from, so you will have to pull the KSAs from:
        • The job posting on the agency’s website (which often doesn’t say very much)
        • Skills and abilities you possess that you infer the employer will want (Oral Communication, Written Communication, Leadership and Supervision, Research, etc…) given the nature of the job duties
        • The agency’s mission & vision statements and social media presence which can tell you a lot about who is a good fit

    You will notice that Frank Federal’s Sample Federal Resume for Excepted Services Positions is a bit more like a private sector resume than Fiona Federal’s, but it contains a comparable level of descriptive detail and tends to be 2-3 pages long rather than 3-5 pages long

        • Start with a Qualifications Profile or Professional Summary. Think of it as your elevator pitch on paper (this is not the same thing as an objective statement)
        • Employ some of the components that the Resume Builder would automatically have prompted you to enter: Hours worked per week, supervisor’s name and contact information, etc…


    When applying for a Federal Internship – most of which are at least advertised on USAJobs – you usually have several options:

    1. Upload a federal style resume you create yourself not using the Resume Builder (see Frank Federal example for one type you could emulate):
      • Start with a Qualifications Profile or Professional Summary. Think of it as your elevator pitch on paper (this is not the same thing as an objective statement)
      • Employ some of the components that the Resume Builder would automatically have prompted you to enter: Hours worked per week, supervisor’s name and contact information, etc…
      • Internship postings often give very little in the way of KSAs (see above) to build keyworded paragraphs around
        • Either don’t worry about selecting the “right” keywords and just give as much detail on your accomplishments and achievements as you can in a readable format OR
        • Select keywords that you feel will be important to the employer/position based on whatever the job description provides as well as your own sense of your strongest relevant skills
    2. Use the USAJobs resume builder as described above.  Some positions require interns to use the Resume Builder, so always read the application instructions in the vacancy announcement carefully to ensure that you have done as the agency has requested
    3. Upload and use a standard 1-2 page resume that does not make any special allowances or additions just because it’s a government agency.  While it won’t present you in as much detail as option #1 or #2, often this can work out just fine

    Resume Resources

    If you are interested in Intelligence Analysis positions: Guide to Writing an IA Resume

    US Customs and Border Patrol recently added some very clear and concise guidance for writing federal resumes to its careers page. Note the similarities and differences between the content desired for the two positions; one agency, but two slightly different skills required:

    Tailor Your Cover Letter to a Federal Job

    The Federal Resume Guidebook by Kathryn Troutman

    Student’s Federal Career Guide by Kathryn Troutman and Paul Binkley

    The Federal Resume Guide by The National Archives and Records Administration

  • Housing in DC

    This is in no way meant to be a definitive list, but should give you someplace to start.  If you need housing while in DC the following options have been successfully utilized by UW Madison students in the past.

    Being listed here does not in any way construe an endorsement of these housing options by SuccessWorks or the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

    George Washington University Summer Housing

    George Mason University Summer Housing

    American University Summer Housing

    Georgetown Law Summer Housing – You don’t have to be a law student

    Washington Intern Student Housing – WISH

    Craigslist D.C. – Sublets and Temp Housing

    The Washington Intern Housing Network

    Cheap D.C. Intern Housing

    Hillzoo’s Housing Listings Page

  • Finding & Applying for Federal Internships

    QUESTION: “What is the best way to obtain a Federal job after I graduate?”
    ANSWER: “Get a Federal internship while you are still a student and make a positive impact on your supervisor!”

    Useful PDF Document on Internships, Fellowships and Other Work Experience Opportunities in Government


    PATHWAYS INTERNSHIPS:  Internships which are part of the Pathways program are always paid and always listed on USAJobs. Click the box marked INTERNSHIPS to see what is currently available. Keep in mind that internships may be meant for undergrads, current grad students, or current medical or law students. Also, be aware that internships are offered throughout the year, not just during the summer, so if you can take a semester off to intern (similar to studying abroad) this is a great chance to really understand what it is like to work in a Federal agency – and you will have much less competition for prized positions.

    EXCEPTED SERVICE INTERNSHIPS: In addition to Pathways internships there are internships and intern programs offered in agencies which typically do all or most of their hiring through the Excepted Service. These must be found and applied for on individual agency websites (see link below).

    THE PMF: The prestigious Presidential Management Fellows program (known as the PMF) is a part of Pathways but is exclusively for graduate students. It is extremely competitive and takes on a new cohort of interns each May following an application process which begins the previous November. Many students have felt that the Path to PMF Website and Guidebook can be more helpful than the official PMF site.


    Unpaid Federal internships are considered volunteer positions and can be found either on USAJobs or on agency websites. If you don’t see a volunteer opportunity listed on an agency’s website but would like to volunteer with that agency (particularly at a branch within your city/state) you are encouraged to contact the agency directly to let them know of your interest.

    Knowing that there are paid internships may make volunteering sound less appealing at first, but remember Federal volunteering can give you experiences and networking possibilities comparable with most paid internship experiences. Examples of popular Federal volunteer opportunities include many with the State Department both in the US and abroad and the White House internship program.

    Federal Volunteering Guidelines & Information

    INTERNSHIP LINKS (may be paid or unpaid)

    Executive Branch Internships:

    Executive/Legislative/Judicial Agency Internships:

    • ALL Agency Internship Pages  – This page contains links to nearly every Agency’s dedicated internship page, plus the White House and Congress. NOTE:  This page will look fake!  And it sometimes opens a “SPAM” page along with the internships page.  If so, close the extra page – do not open any links, just close it – and proceed to the agency listings
    • State Department Opportunities
      • State Department (unpaid) Internship Program – Recruits for Fall, Spring and Summer opportunities both domestically and abroad
      • State Department Pathways Internships – These are paid and typically posted in October and March with only the first 100-200 application being accepted.  Sign up to receive notification emails here
      • Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) – Each year, U.S. students can apply to their top three VSFS projects from July 1-31 on Supervisors will review applications in August and may contact VSFS candidates for a virtual interview. As part of the interview, candidates may be asked to show examples of their expertise and work. All candidates will learn by early September if they have been offered a position.  It allows you to intern all over the world without ever leaving Madison
      • State Department Fellowships – Other than the above
      • USAID – Offers both paid and unpaid internships to qualified students during the academic year (mostly for graduate students)
    • Special Internship and Fellowship Opportunities in STEM
      • A fairly comprehensive list of opportunities for those interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine
      • ORISE – Offers hundreds of  internships, fellowships, scholarships, and science education experiences for undergrads and grads at national laboratories and federal agencies
      • Zintellect – Allows candidates to access information for hundreds of opportunities and the corresponding applications offered through ORAU. Applicants complete a general profile with common questions among all programs. Once the profile is complete, applicants may apply to specific opportunities available in the system by answering a few questions specific to a particular program. Applicants are able to customize their references, resumes, and responses based on each opportunity to which they apply.
      • FDA Office of Policy Internships – Offers unpaid internships for interested graduate (including masters, law, and other doctoral programs) and undergraduate students
    • Other Good Internship Opportunities

    Wisconsin In Washington Internship Program

    Wisconsin in Washington – an opportunity for UW-Madison juniors or seniors who are pursuing a wide variety of academic majors and certificates to spend a semester or summer interning and studying in our nation’s capital in areas including government, politics, media, law, international affairs, business, nonprofits, marketing, public relation, environmental policy, public health and much more! Offered Fall, Spring and Summer.  Deadlines are VERY early (eg: November for summer and following fall internships) so check the website and watch for updates. Note: This program is not required in order to intern in DC, but it is a good option that allows you to remain enrolled during your internship semester.

    Additional Internship Resources (not necessarily federal agency or DC based)

    Organizations That Facilitate Federal Internship Opportunities for Members of Underrepresented Groups

    The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities National Internship Program (HNIP)

    Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) (programming is specifically for women)

    Washington Internships for Native American Students (WINS)

    FINAL NOTES:  Like most employers, Federal agencies prefer to hire “known quantities” when a job becomes available. By interning in a Federal agency, you not only gain great experience, you also get to prove your value to supervisors and colleagues who then often work very hard to see that there is a place for you to join them after you graduate.

  • Finding & Applying for Entry-Level Federal Jobs

    Obtaining a Federal job may be more difficult than it was a few years ago, but there are still plenty of opportunities to be had. Remember, getting in is the hardest part, so if your first assignment isn’t your dream job, don’t worry! Once you are a Federal employee, you can begin to build up your skills, and increase your access to other opportunities – either within your agency, or at another one.

    Competitive Civil Service Positions

    Competitive Service positions are listed on USAJobs.  There are many ways to search for positions: by Grade, by Classification Number or by Agency are some common approaches::

    Search by Grade Level:  This is how most American citizens enter the Federal service.  When you search USAJobs, keep the following in mind:

    • Entry level with a Bachelor’s degree is typically GS 5-7 (7 can be iffy sometimes)
    • Entry level with a Master’s is between GS 7-11 (11 can be a stretch sometimes)
    • Entry level with a PhD ranges from GS 9-13 (13 can be a stretch sometimes)
    • If you have experience plus a degree, you can search one grade up from the lowest level listed here and may get lucky
    • If you majored in or have significant expertise in a STEM field (esp cyber) you may well be able to find an entry level job with just a Bachelor’s degree at GS9 or above
    • Some agencies/positions do not use the GS pay grade system but USAJobs will attempt to normalize those pay grades with your GS search

    Pathways Recent Grads positions:  These positions (always listed on USAJobs) are a great way to get a start in government. To be eligible, you must have graduated from a qualifying institution (UW qualifies!) no more than 2 years prior to the closing date of the announcement.

    If you are about to graduate, you don’t technically qualify to apply for these positions, however:

    • If you will have your entire degree completed and awarded within no more than two months following the closing date of the announcement, it may be worth it to go ahead and apply. Just don’t lie when they ask if you have already earned your degree! Say no, but show your anticipated graduation date on your resume.
    • Some agencies (like the CFPB) state in their announcements that you can apply several months prior to graduation, so read announcements carefully – you might be totally fine to apply before you graduate!

    Search by Job Series Code:  Every Federal position in the Competitive Service has a classification number assigned to it.  These numbers describe the common duties of and expectations for that position at each relevant grade level. Doing a series job search can save you a lot of time as many keywords (like policy) are too common to provide you with helpful results on USAJobs.

    Direct Search – Most Federal agencies are under the Executive Branch, but there are a host of agencies that serve the Legislative and Judicial branches directly and these may or may not be listed on USAJobs.

    Excepted Agencies/Positions

    In order to find and apply for Excepted Service positions, you will need to go directly to the agency’s webpage.   Excepted Service positions (such as those with the CIA) are seldom (if ever) advertised on USAJobs.  Excepted Service positions also have a hiring structure which may make them more attainable by recent graduates.

    This is a full list of all Federal agencies both Competitive and Excepted

    Other Useful Resources for Entering Government Careers

    Public Service Careers – Website mixes government, policy and nonprofit opportunities from a wide range of sources

    Negotiating Your First Government Salary – article on how/when to negotiate and what to negotiate for

    Best Places to Work – Just like the name implies. All the agencies rated and ranked by their employees

    FedScope – For those who aren’t scared of way too much data.  This will tell you how many people agencies hired in a quarter or year, the ages of its employess, salaries, and much, much more all in a super fun and hard to navigate Excel document

    Federal Employment Training Module – from the VA but helpful to anyone

    Federal Recruitment Studio – Want to know what OPM tells agencies when it comes to hiring rules and practices?

    Final Thoughts:  Consider the following as you start your job search:  A less desirable (to you) location, an agency other than at your “dream agency,” a Part-Time, Term, or Temporary assignment rather than looking only at traditional Full-Time jobs, entering government service at a slightly lower pay grade/level than you might have hoped for, or even military service to gain relevant experience for a variety of desirable careers (see the Military Officer Careers tab for more info).

  • Careers in the US Military

    The US military has a wide variety of career options whether you choose to enter as an officer (must have a Bachelor’s degree or higher) or enlisted.

    Serving in the armed forces can be a gateway to:

    • Another government career (e.g. FBI, Secret Service, or Clandestine Service Agent, or a position tied more closely to your service connected skills such as communications specialist, IT, or scientist)
    • A career in the private sector (consulting for government contractors, working KNR, or just about anything you can think of – see the Info for Vets tab for more resources)
    • Returning to college to earn an advanced degree on the GI Bill
    • Or…you may decide to stay a full 20 or more and make the service your career

    To learn all about what it’s like to join the military including career paths, pay, and day-to-day life – either as an officer or enlisted – you can visit Today’s Military.

    For those of you heading toward pre-med, pre-dental or related disciplines, the Department of Defense created this handy website specifically to focus on Medicine and the Military. It covers all service branches with their own medical corps and discusses the training programs and career paths.

    This handy guide shows all the insignia designating different ranks in all five military branches.

    U.S. Navy

    Recruiter: Andrew Dzyuba

    They have a special website for Navy STEM careers.The US Navy offers a Career Comparison Tool that attempts to match your interests, background, and skills with the Navy’s needs.

    Opportunities to serve as an officer in the Navy include:
    Arts, Music, & Media (writers, photographers, public affairs, musicians)
    Aviation (Fun Fact: the Navy has both more aircraft and more pilots than the Air Force!)
    Business and Legal (yes, there really is a JAG corps)
    Information & Technology (this is where you will find Navy Intelligence opportunities)
    Special Opps (Navy SEALS, divers, etc…)
    and Others

    There is also a special website explaining the many opportunities available in a Navy Medical career (the Marine Corps is served by Navy medical personnel and does not have its own medical corps).

    Our medical recruiter (see above, right) can give you more information, but the Navy also offers opportunities for qualifying individuals to get their Medical, Dental, P.A. Nursing, Clinical Psychology, or Social Work degree 100% paid for, while earning a salary through the HPSP and HSCP Scholarship Programs.

    U.S. Marine Corps

    Capt. David Abma
    Officer Selection Officer

    James Schmidt,

    The US Marine Corps also has a Career Selection Tool that can help your find your potential fit as one of “The few. The proud.”

    You can learn more about being a Marine here Fun Fact: The Marine Corps is 175,000 strong (the smallest branch of the armed services), but only 18,000 men and women are selected to become officers.  A Marine Corps officer is the best of the best.

    This page features videos showcasing the various career opportunities ranging from Aviation, to Intelligence, to JAG, to Public Affairs.

    As mentioned above, there is no Marine Corps Medical per se since all health care is provided by Naval personnel.

    If you are interested in enlisting, there is also a Career Tool for enlisted opportunities.

    US Air Force

    Recruiter: Solomon Griffin
    Office: 414-761-1657

    You can find opportunities to become an Air Force officer on their Careers page.  Their career opportunities are similar to the Navy’s (Arts & Education, Intelligence, Aviation – naturally, Special Ops, Natural Science, and much more.

    Wonder what life in the Air Force is like?

    Watch a video to learn about different MOSs (that’s military occupational specialties)

    Learn about career paths and opportunities for Air Force Healthcare including Educational Opportunities to help pay for school

    U.S. Army

    Recruiter: Thomas Werner

    The U.S. Army has an Interactive Career Tool to help you find your path

    They also have a tool called the Army Career Explorer

    This page covers Specialized Army Careers including Linguists, JAG, Special Forces, and Music

    Careers in Army Medicine has its own dedicated site including Educational Opportunities to help pay for school

    U.S. Coast Guard

    Recruiter: Andrew Royse

    The Coast Guard is a military, multi-mission, maritime force offering a unique blend of military, law enforcement, humanitarian, regulatory, and diplomatic capabilities. Their three broad roles are: maritime safety, maritime security, and maritime stewardship.

    Become an officer in the Coast Guard

    Specific Officer Programs and Health Professions Programs

    Coast Guard Missions

    College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (Scholarship Program) – CSPI provides college sophomores and juniors with valuable leadership, management, law enforcement, navigation and marine science skills and training, while fully funding up to two years of college. Following college graduation, CSPI students receive a guaranteed position at officer candidate school training

  • Ferderal Job Information for Veterans

    The Federal Government has a long and outstanding record of employing veterans. Veterans have technical skills in areas of critical importance, and many also already have security clearances required for some Federal positions. Federal service provides a means for veterans to continue their noble service to this country.

    Federal employment can sometimes seem complicated and overwhelming, particularly when you factor in things such as veterans’ preference and special hiring authorities for veterans. Honorably discharged vets (upon presentation of their DD214 and any other requested documentation) receive an automatic 5 or 10 point preference in Federal hiring for life. There are also special hiring incentives given to those with 30% or more service connected disabilities.

    The resources below will be helpful to both the veteran interested in working for the Federal government, and the veteran interested in resources to help them apply for private sector jobs.

    Resources to help vets navigate the Federal hiring process

    Federal Employment Training Course for veterans and their family members

    USAJobs has a special veterans portal that can start you on your journey

    This page will help you understand the special Federal hiring authorities that apply to vets.

    The Office of Personnel Management in support of the President’s Veterans Employment Initiative, created a one-stop web site resource for Federal veteran employment information. The information on this site is designed to ensure veterans, transitioning service members, and their families receive accurate and consistent information regarding veteran’s employment in the Federal Government.

    The Department of Labor’s Mil to Fed website can show you how your military experience translates into Federal jobs.  Just enter your service branch, rank, and grade and get some idea of which Federal jobs are a perfect fit.

    Legal information on disability preference eligibility for Federal jobs

    VA for Vets highlights careers for veterans with the Veteran’s Administration

    Resources to help vets translate military skills to the civilian world

    If you are looking to see what general skills your rank and grade equipped you with, this military skills translator will provide not only a list of skills, but some examples of jobs requiring those skills.

    Another resource to translate your Military Occupational Code to a civilian job

    If your particular MOC does not directly translate, use this skills profiler to help determine your strongest skills as they can apply to civilian jobs.

    Resume Engine offers a resume builder that helps translate your skills and put them onto a resume broken down by service branch.

    General Resources For Vets

    Rally Point is a vet to vet peer connection website that seeks to connect veterans with each other to help with just about any question you can think of (including employment and transition)

    My Next Move on O*net features special resources devoted to veterans and their careers

    Career One Stop has a veterans employment info page with a variety of useful information including links to job centers nationwide

    LinkedIn offers free Premium Job Seeker accounts for veterans

    The UW Veteran’s Services and Military Assistance Center page has some helpful links for student vets on it. The Veteran’s Center is located at 333 E. Campus Mall, Suite 10301.

    Civilian employers looking to hire vets

    100,000 Jobs Mission bills itself as having over 190 companies with a common goal of hiring veterans

    GI Jobs offers all sorts of useful resources including transition profiles, salary calculators and a list of military friendly employers bills itself as the “Largest Source” of military transition assistance information and job listings on the web

  • Federal Job Information for Candidates with Disabilities

    The Federal Government is actively recruiting and hiring persons with disabilities.  People with disabilities can be appointed to Federal jobs non-competitively through a process called Schedule A. People with disabilities may also apply for jobs through the traditional or competitive process.

    General information about the hiring process for candidates with disabilities

    Further general information about the hiring process for candidates with disabilities

    Learn how to be considered for Federal jobs under the Schedule A noncompetitive process.

    Find a Selective Placement Program Coordinator (SPPC) in an agency that appeals to you

    SPPCs and SEMs – a disability candidate’s partner in hiring

    One of your best friends in the hiring process may be your SPPC or SEM.  Most Federal agencies have someone called a Selective Placement Program Coordinator (SPPC), Special Emphasis Manager for employment of adults with disabilities (SEM), or their equivalent. Their job is to assist agency management with recruiting, hiring and accommodating individuals with disabilities at that agency.

    The Workforce Recruitment Program

    The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) is a federal program that connects public and private sector employers across the United States with college students and recent graduates with disabilities who are eager to demonstrate their abilities through paid internships.  Since1995, over 6,000 students and recent graduates have received temporary and permanent employment opportunities through the WRP.

    At UW-Madison, WRP is managed through the McBurney Disability Resource Center.  WRP normally recruits in the fall semester each year.

    Additional Helpful Links for the Job Search Process:

  • Selected Federal Scholarships & Fellowships

    Boren Awards (Scholarships for undergrads, Fellowships for grad students)

    Charles B Rangel International Affairs Summer Enrichment Program (for undergrads)

    Charles B Rangel International Affairs Fellowship Program (for undergrads headed to grad school)

    Donald M Payne International Development Fellowship Program (for undergrads headed to grad school)

    Thomas R Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship (for undergrads headed to grad school)

    The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation (for outstanding Juniors who plan to attend grad school)

    The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (a variety of options in several areas)

  • Federal Contracting

    When a government agency can’t, won’t or lacks the money to resolve a public issue on its own, for-profit businesses bid on contracts to get the work done.  Some of the names you may know: Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton, G.E., and many, many more.

    Typically people go work for contractors after a period of time on Capitol Hill or working for a Federal Agency.  If you’d like to break into government by working for one of the hundreds of federal contractors, this list will help by providing the names of some of the biggest players.  Keep in mind, many will ask for a security clearance and it is IMPOSSIBLE to get one yourself.  You only get one by working for a federal agency first. Or if the contractor will sponsor you to get one.