If you already know that Government, Policy or International Affairs are the areas for you and you simply need resources, please scroll to the bottom of this page to the Dig Deeper section, then click on the appropriate tab(s) to find the resources you are looking for.
Just starting your Career Community search? Read on!
GOVERNMENT AGENCIES: Are you seeking an internship or career where you can make a positive difference in the lives of your fellow citizens? Then there is place for you in a local, state, or federal government agency!
POLICY/POLITICS: Or perhaps your interest is more in helping to research, craft and/or promote policies that may one day become laws. Or 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 policy/politics!
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Maybe your focus is on world issues and you are passionate about diplomacy or international development. We have some ideas about how to get started in this rewarding and highly competitive field.
LAW: Need assistance with taking the LSAT, or learning how to prepare for law school (what kind of internships to seek out during your undergrad years, etc…)? View the fabulous resources from the Center for Pre-Law Advising or make an appointment to go in and chat with one of the Pre-Law advisors. BUT if your interests are more related to careers in the legal field that don’t involve law school (e.g. criminal justice, paralegal, etc.), or related to what you might do during a “gap year” prior to law school, then come on over to SuccessWorks and let’s chat!
Student Spotlight: Lenai Johnson, 2018
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 …
Explore and Connect
Find UW-Madison alumni by location, organization, job and skills
Set up your profile in Handshake to take care of everything you need to explore career events, manage your campus interviews and apply to jobs and internships from 200,000+ employers around the country.
Think you might be interested in an internship or career in Government, Policy, International Affairs, or the Legal Field?
Schedule an appointment with Marie Koko to talk about job and internship opportunities, get networking tips, prepare for conversations with employers, review your application materials, learn how to write a government resume, negotiate a job offer, and more.
Be in the know: The Government, Policy, International Affairs & Law facebook group is the place to find job and internship notices and connect with current students and alums. If you do not use Facebook, you may join the GPIAL listserv by sending a blank email from your Wisc.edu address to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Spend a semester or summer on an internship in Washington, DC, focusing on domestic or international policy issues while living in the heart of the nation's capital. As you earn academic credit for your internship, you'll gain first-hand experience in the political sphere of Washington, DC, connecting with UW alumni and other professionals. Semester students will have the option to take a course taught by our Ambassador in Residence.
The Peace Corps
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is proud of our long-standing and significant role in promoting Peace Corps on our campus. Since 1961, more than 3,200 University of Wisconsin-Madison graduates have put their education and experience to work around the world in the areas of education, health, environment, community and economic development, agriculture, and youth in development.
49% of federal jobs are in the civil service. The other 51% are made up of excepted positions and the US Postal Service.
Government Agency Resume Samples
Resume Sample 1
Resume Sample 2
Resume Sample 3
DIG DEEPER 1: Policy, Politics, Lobbying & Law
What is Policy? Skills Needed for Success. Potential Policy Careers
What is Policy?
In a nutshell, we can think of public policy as a system of laws, regulations, and courses of action implemented by government. These directives touch every aspect of our lives, including education, law enforcement, the allocation of environmental resources, healthcare, etc. Ideally, public policy is developed to serve the public interest. But ideas about what is “best” for the public are always changing, influenced by shifting values, and evolving social, political, and economic needs. Therefore public policy is constantly in flux. Government commitments change. Public interests change. How do decision-makers choose which new policies to introduce, and how best to develop and implement them? Enter the public policy analyst. Public policy analysts advise governments, at all levels, on which new policies are needed and what’s involved in launching those policies.
Five Key Skills Needed for Success in a Policy Career
- Research – Every policy recommendation begins with in-depth research. Some of this research takes place on a regular basis, and includes staying abreast of relevant current events, public opinions, and political developments. Other aspects require deep dives into data, research studies, reports, surveys, and other informational resources. Policy analysts must be comfortable using a range of research tools and methodologies, in order to develop a thorough, evidence-based understanding of the problem at hand, from every possible angle.
- Data Analysis – Research and analysis go hand-in-hand for policy analysts. They must be able to cut through masses of information and diverging views, and actually make sense of the information they gather. This generally involves analyzing and integrating large volumes of qualitative and quantitative data. The goal? To get a clear and objective sense of the facts; to lay the groundwork for what must come next—proposing solutions.
- Critical Thinking & Creativity – In order to develop feasible solutions, and fully understand their pros and cons, policy analysts must synthesize all of the research they’ve gathered and analyzed, and then add something to it: creative insight. Creativity is necessary to envision innovative new solutions—but it must be balanced with a talent for critical thinking. Only then can policy analysts anticipate the issues and needs that will arise from each approach they envision, and identify the most fair and effective option.
- Persuasive Communication – Communication is key for policy makers, who must be able to present their ideas to government authorities in persuasive ways. This includes both writing and verbal skills, and the ability to respond to feedback, criticism, and questions in productive ways.Great policy-advising doesn’t happen from behind a desk. Analysts must go through the right channels, and be ready to make a compelling case for their views. They must be good at breaking down the key messages and most salient points of their analysis, and delivering those main ideas with precision and clarity.
- Collaboration – Policy making doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Analysts must collaborate with colleagues, elected officials, specialists, and the public when developing policy proposals. Strong interpersonal skills are an absolute must for this role, along with open-mindedness and patience.
The Robert M La Follette School of Public Affairs at UW-Madison – Earn your MPA or MIPA in a wide range of policy areas right here at UW’s own La Follette School.
La Follette Accelerated Program – Are you a Junior who knows policy is for you? The LaFollette School of Public Affairs admits highly motivated undergraduates to its “accelerated program” after 5 semesters of undergraduate study.
APPAM – A group dedicated to improving public policy and management by fostering excellence in research, analysis and education (contains career advice and links)
District Daybook – The premier job listing resource for political and policy professionals in Washington D.C.
Professional Policy Organizations – You may want to join one or more of these groups for networking or job postings
Potential Policy Careers
Think Tanks, Trade Associations, and Lobbying
“Think tanks” are dedicated to discovering what is best for all, or at least most, of us. What they bring to the process is not only honest research, but also heart-felt ideology and what is often a dedication to differing priorities and outcomes.It is often the think tanks which best articulate policy, and which both inspire and inform our nation’s leaders.The links below can help you find a think tank that researches policy topics important to you. Nearly all have at least a slight (or overt) partisan bent, so do your homework to avoid a mismatch between your values and the policy focus of the think tank you want to work for.
List of US Think Tanks – Wikipedia listing of over 200 think tanks in the US sorted by broad research focus
US Think Tanks from Harvard-Kennedy School – listing of worldwide think tanks
List of Think Tanks from the US Department of State – Specific focus on diplomacy focused think tanks worldwide
Think Tanks Listed by Partisan Bent – from Libertarian to Socialist to nonpartisan they’re listed by political preference (or lack thereof)
Governmental Research Association (GRA) Organizations – Categorized A-Z this lists the current members of the GRA. Many are think tanks, others are trade associations, government agencies, or congressional committees. Governmental research involves the collection, analysis, and distribution of factual information on governmental activities to citizens and officials for the improvement of government and the reduction of its cost
Search for Common Ground – An international non-profit organization that promotes peaceful resolution of conflict
Gender and Social Policy Organizations in the DC Area – a wide range of organizations, both large and small, including national research and policy institutions, grassroots activist organizations, local women’s shelters, lobbying groups, and professional associations
Urban Institute – Economic and Social Policy Research for social justice in the USA
Public Policy Forum – has internships and jobs in Milwaukee
Public Policy Institute – focuses on poverty alleviation in Milwaukee
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs – The Council is an independent, nonpartisan organization committed to bringing clarity and offering solutions to issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world
Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) – PILI’s mission is to cultivate a lifelong commitment to public interest law and pro bono service within the Illinois legal community to expand the availability of legal services for people, families and communities in need.
Trade Associations & Lobbying/Advocacy
A trade association, also known as an industry trade group, business association, sector association or industry body, is an organization founded and funded by businesses that operate in a specific industry. A trade association participates in public relations activities such as advertising, education, political donations, lobbying and publishing, but its focus is collaboration between companies. Associations may offer other services, such as producing conferences, networking or charitable events or offering classes or educational materials. Many associations are non-profit organizations governed by bylaws and directed by officers who are also members.
Thinks tanks and policy research firms may look into the issues, but the folks who make their living lobbying are the ones who convince Congressmen to support their employer’s point of view and make (or remove) laws. This is a great career for those who have great sale skills, unshakable passion for a cause, and love talking to people. Typically, lobbyists come from the ranks of those who have spent several years working on Capitol Hill because they have a cell phone full of contacts whom they can call to set up a meeting. Gain experience either by interning for a trade organization, or for a state or federal member of Congress/State Legislature. To find out who the major “players” are in the lobbying game, see below.
District Daybook – lists jobs in trade associations in addition to think tanks and legislative organizations
DC Public Affairs – Washington DC area jobs and internships in public affairs, communications, public relations, media, web development, lobbying and related fields.
National Trade Organizations – most (if not all) of which employ lobbyists
GRA Member Policy Organizations – Categorized A-Z this lists the current members of the Governmental Research Association. Some are trade associations, others are think tanks, government agencies, or congressional committees
Open Secrets – Money in politics. See who’s giving and who’s getting
Washington Lobbyist News – all the latest from K Street and beyond
State of Wisconsin Legislators and Legislative Organizations
How to Find an Internship at the State Capitol
Given the proximity of the UW campus to our State Capitol in Madison, it probably comes as no surprise that many of our students intern with State Senators or Representatives, the office of the Governor or Lt. Governor, and on legislative committees. There are several ways to find and apply for these opportunities. Since most entry-level Legislative Staffers are “promoted” from the ranks of former interns, interning at the capitol is a great way to get your foot in the door.
- Personal Referral – See if anyone in your network might have connections and could facilitate an introduction to a legislator
- Direct Contact – Contact the office, division, or committee where you would like to work and inquire about openings directly (see links below)
- Handshake will often have internship listings from legislators both in Wisconsin and elsewhere
- The GPIAL Facebook Group and The Government, Policy, International Affairs & Law Listserv share internships and jobs sent to SuccessWorks from a variety of legislators
- Take a Class – Our Political Science Department offers a 3 credit course: PoliSci 427 Legislative Internship and also posts opportunities on its North Hall Blog
- The National Conference of State Legislatures has a full list of jobs and a wealth of information about state legislative opportunities in any of the 50 U.S. states
- The UW Madison College Democrats page
- The UW Madison College Republicans page
Internship Opportunities with Elected Officials in Wisconsin
The office of the Lt. Governor – Barnes
The Office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms – Senate Messenger
The Office of the Assembly Sergeant at Arms – Assembly Messenger
Find a person with whom you would like to intern by name/party
Each committee page below lists the members of that committee and the bills currently under debate by the committee. Match your interests to an elected official who shares them and see if you can score an internship helping with legislative research.
Working the Campaign Circuit
Ballotpedia can show you all of the candidates up for election in any current cycle. You can start there to find out who is running in just about every election throughout the country. Most campaigns are understaffed and overworked, so chances are good that if you walk in the door and ask to help, they will put you to work, and reliable campaign workers often become staffers if the candidate is elected or re-elected.
US Congress, Congressional Committees, and Legislative Agencies
Interning on Capitol Hill
For many of you, the idea of working on “The Hill” instantly conjures up an image of the Capitol Rotunda, the Houses of Congress or even the White House. You dream of helping to create and craft new laws, or of helping to repeal old, ineffective ones to ensure that the will of the American people is enacted. Many of us were first introduced to the concept of lawmaking by this now classic Schoolhouse Rock video which explains how a bill becomes a law in its simplest and most basic form.
Interning in DC can be a great experience, but go into it knowing that it’s a “company town” where who you know often trumps what you know. And getting ahead requires you to become an expert networker. UW has a lot of alums in DC who are happy to help. Make sure you connect with Badger Bridge, the DC Alumni Chapter, and SuccessWorks own Alumni Relations Specialist.
Secrets From Capitol Hill’s Back Rooms – How to get hired on the hill
Daily Life – What it’s really like to be a member of congress or a congressional staffer
How to Land a Job Working for a New Member of Congress – Tips and tricks from those who know
Pages of the United States Congress: Selection, Duties, and Program Administration– PDF on the Page program
The Ultimate Capitol Hill Internship Guide offering career advice and office etiquette for interns and congressional staffers
- The Ultimate Capitol Hill Internship Guide (PDF) – Part 1
- Ultimate Capitol Hill Internship Guide (HTML) – Part 2
The U.S. Senate
U.S. Senate Internships – Lists all 100 Senators with links to their office internship pages
U.S. Senate Employment Information – General information and links
U.S. Senate Employment Bulletin – Currently available positions
List of U.S. Senate Committees – Many of which take interns
The U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. House of Representatives Job Line – (202) 226-4504
U.S. House of Representatives vacancy announcement lists available in two locations:
- First Call Service Center, Longworth House Office Building, Suite B227, (202) 225-8000
- House Vacancy Announcement and Placement Service Office, Longworth House Office Building, Suite B-235, (202) 226-5836
The White House Internship Program
The White House Internship Program is a public service leadership program that provides a unique opportunity to gain valuable professional experience and build leadership skills. This hands-on program is designed to mentor and cultivate today’s young leaders, strengthen their understanding of the Executive Office, and prepare them for future public service opportunities. White House Departments to choose from for your internship.
White House Fellows Program Selected individuals typically spend a year working as a full-time, paid Fellow to senior White House Staff, Cabinet Secretaries and other top-ranking government officials. Fellows also participate in an education program consisting of round-table discussions with renowned leaders from the private and public sectors, and trips to study U.S. policy in action both domestically and internationally. Fellowships are awarded on a strictly non-partisan basis.
Legislative Agency Jobs
National Political Party Organizations
Internships with National Democratic Party Organizations
Jobs with National Democratic Party Organizations
Jobs and Internships with Republican Party Organizations
**Please note that the GOP organizations did not offer separate links for job listings**
Wisconsin City Management & School Boards
This section provides links to some resources for Madison (and its surrounding cities), but for the most part you’ll need to do some Google searching to find these opportunities in other areas. This website can get you started on finding local government websites throughout the US, but then you’ll still need to search for where you want to intern or where you want to run for office.
Elected Officials in Madison and Surrounding Areas
Boards and Commissions – both state and local; appointed by the governor’s office
Madison School Board – includes Fitchburg
Law and Other Opportunities in the Legal Profession
The Center for Pre-Law Advising (located on the second floor of the Middleton Bldg on Linden St across from Nancy Nicholas Hall) is the place to go if you want to learn more about:
- Taking or preparing to take the LSAT
- The typical law school timeline
- Learning what being in law school is really like
- Learning what practicing law is really like
- Figuring out what experiences you should gain during your undergrad years to help you be a competitive law school candidate
CPLA offers some fabulous resources and you can also make an appointment to go in and chat 1:1 with the Pre-Law advisors. All of them hold JDs and can be of great help to students – whether you are just starting to consider law, or have been playing lawyer since you were in the 2nd grade!
UW Pre-Law Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) Program – Open to students who have completed their freshman or sophomore years in college, the program is designed to help students explore legal education and careers in law and to help them succeed in applying to, enrolling in, and graduating from law school. This transformative experience is offered at no cost to you. As a program participant, you will receive tuition, free room and board for the duration of the program, and a $1,000 stipend. You will also receive a fee waiver from the Law School Admissions Council for the LSAT and Credential Assembly Service.
Options in the Legal Profession That Don’t Involve Law School
If your interests are more related to
- Careers in the legal field that don’t involve attending law school (see below)
- Or perhaps you are trying to figure out what you might do during a “gap year” prior to attending law school
Schedule an appointment with Marie Koko, the Career and Internship Specialist for this community
Common careers in the legal/criminal justice field for non-lawyers
Corrections, Probation, Parole, Juvenile justice, Victim’s Assistance, Court reporting/transcription services, Legal Assistance/Research, Global Intelligence, Private Investigation, Internet Security, Surveillance, Loss Prevention, Social Work, Property Loss Management, and many more….
Madison Area Paralegal Association (MAPA) – Madison Area Paralegal Association (MAPA) is a non-profit organization affiliated with NALA – The Paralegal Association. We are a strong group of paralegals, legal professionals and students who live and work in Madison, Wisconsin and the surrounding areas. MAPA’s primary purposes are to provide educational opportunities for professional development and to promote the paralegal profession. PDF Brochure to learn more.
Campus Programs Help Prepare Students for Legal/Criminal/Social Justice Jobs
The Center for Law, Society and Justice (CLSJ) houses two interdisciplinary undergraduate programs related to law, legal institutions, and criminal justice:
- The Legal Studies major – The program’s mission is to provide a liberal education across traditional disciplines, focusing on the theory and operation of law and legal institutions. The courses in the Legal Studies major expose students to the many facets of law as a social phenomenon – its evolution, function, motivating ideas and effects. The major is not intended as preparation for law school because the emphasis is on exploring broadly defined questions about law from a variety of perspectives, rather than on training for the profession. The Legal Studies major is, however, suitable for pre-law students.
- The Criminal Justice Certificate – Students gain a broad understanding of the philosophy, theories, and operation of the adult and juvenile justice systems. Studies focus on the causes of crime and delinquency, examine fundamental concepts underlying the practice of justice, and analyze the impact of crime on our society. The inner workings of criminal justice agencies are reviewed through an internship component and options for controlling crime are surveyed. Students are challenged to consider new ways of preventing and handling crime.
The Department of Sociology – Sociologists study a broad array of topics including intimate relationships, friendship groups, families, education, politics, economic arrangements, organizations, crime, inequality (for example, by race, gender, and class), illness, and much more. We are curious about what is going on in the world and more importantly: why and how? Because it is a such broad field of inquiry, sociology majors are equipped to enter a wide range of occupational areas, including corporations, government agencies, social service institutions, and law enforcement agencies. An undergraduate sociology major is also an excellent foundation for graduate study.
The School of Social Work -Seeks to enhance human well-being and promote human rights and social and economic justice for people who are disadvantaged to achieve an equitable, healthy, and productive society. The school aims to: Create, advance, strengthen, and integrate interdisciplinary knowledge for students and the profession through research, scholarship, teaching and practice. Educate students to become highly skilled, culturally competent and ethical practitioners who will provide effective leadership for the profession of social work within the State of Wisconsin, nationally, and internationally. Promote change at levels ranging from the individual to national policy, including empowering communities and populations that are disadvantaged and developing humane service delivery systems. Create and disseminate knowledge regarding the prevention and amelioration of social problems.
Dig Deeper 2: International Affairs
General Advice About Getting Into International Affairs
Understanding the International Affairs Field
Training in international affairs prepares you to solve problems through diplomacy, defense, and development work. You can help manufacturers, communication firms, consultants, energy companies, and others move products and ideas around the world. You can build the capacity of students and organizations through international education and cross-cultural training. You can stop conflicts, fight disease, and slow environmental degradation. Students with a background in IA find meaningful careers addressing these issues in the public, private, non-profit, and multilateral sectors. However, it can be a challenging world to break into. The resources below should help guide you as you set out on a path to a global career.
What Can You Do With an IA Degree? – A helpful exploration of the many areas that people go into
To the Graduate who Wants to Work in International Affairs – Good advice; read this thoroughly
Selected Articles Focused on the International Development Field
- 5 Emerging Career Opportunities in International Development
- Current Hiring Practices and Trends in the Development Sector
- Gender Equity in the Development Sector
- How to Work Safely in a Conflict Zone
- Micro Credit in Developing Countries
- Career Choices in Conflict Zones
- For more like the above, the website Indev has a bunch of great articles about working in International Development (12 pages worth on a wide range of topics; select based on your own interests)
Suggestions of things to do while you are still a student at UW – Madison
- Explore and plan a study abroad program to gain global perspectives
- Study the language of the country/countries you may wish to work in one day
- Get international experience through an international internship (during or in addition to your study abroad program)
- Apply for a Boren Scholarship (undergrad) or Fellowship (grad) to fund international language study in countries with languages of “critical need” to federal government agencies.
- Explore Wisconsin Idea Fellowships which provide funding to undergraduate student projects working towards solving a challenge identified along with local or global community partner
- Make an appointment to meet with our Campus Peace Corps Representative to learn about service in the Peace Corps. It may even pay up to 33% of your graduate school tuition!
- Join a student org focused on international development issues such as WUD Global Connections
- Apply to the Virtual Student Federal Service program which allows you to intern all over the world without ever leaving Madison! (recruits only in July for year-long virtual internships)
- Connect with IRIS Outreach – which supports and enhances international and global awareness in our communities and inspires informed thinking about the complexities of our world
International Careers With the US Department of State
- What is Being a Foreign Service Officer Like?
- Foreign Service Officer Job Description and Career Tracks
- Official FSOT FAQ
- Official FSOT Exam Application
- How to Ace the FSOT
- How to Practice for the FSOT
The State Department Consular Fellows Program – Foreign Service Consular Fellows serve in U.S. embassies and consulates overseas alongside Foreign Service Officers, other U.S. agency personnel, and locally-employed staff. Using their language skills in Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, or Arabic, their primary duty is to adjudicate visas for foreign nationals. Duties and responsibilities are similar to those of entry-level career Foreign Service Officers. While at post, Consular Fellows are members of the embassy or consulate community and receive many of the same benefits that career Foreign Service members receive, such as housing and educational allowances for eligible family members.
Diplomatic Couriers – Foreign Service Diplomatic Couriers assist in worldwide security programs that provide secure transportation services for Department of State classified diplomatic pouches.
The State Department Foreign Service Specialist – The U.S. Department of State offers career opportunities to professionals in specialized functions needed to meet Foreign Service responsibilities around the world. As a Foreign Service Specialist, you will provide important technical, management, healthcare or administrative services at one over 270 posts overseas, in Washington, D.C., or elsewhere in the United States.
Other Federal Agencies with an International Focus
OPIC – The Overseas Private Investment Corporation is a self-sustaining U.S. Government agency that helps American businesses invest in emerging markets.
The Intelligence Community – Made of of 17 agencies working together to protect the United States of America. We focus on an ever-expanding range of issues, from terrorist financing to drug trafficking, from climate change and environmental issues to foreign technology threats and nuclear proliferation.
USAID – USAID is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. USAID’s work advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity, demonstrates American generosity, and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience.
US Commercial Service – The U.S. Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. U.S. Commercial Service trade professionals in over 100 U.S. cities and in more than 75 countries help U.S. companies get started in exporting or increase sales to new global markets
And a Great List for STEM majors – These federal science and technology agencies have information specifically about international matters. Use these links to reach the main “international” component of their site. These agency sites may also contain additional international information.
Popular International Affairs Organizations
The United Nations Young Professionals Programme – The YPP exam is offered annually with applications opening typically in July/August in a variety of subjects which change each year
The United Nations Junior Professional Officer Programme (JPO) – Recruits by participating nation only
Helsinki Commission – Interns research issues on human rights, religious liberties, corruption and rule of law, and free media; communicate with House and Senate offices regarding pending foreign policy initiatives and much more
NATO Internship Programme – Recruits 1x/year (mid March-mid April)
The World Bank – Works with governments, civil society groups, the private sector and others in developing countries around the world, assisting people in all areas of development, from policy and strategic advice to the identification, preparation, appraisal and supervision of development projects.
The International Finance Corporation – The IFC uses capital, expertise, and influence to help change the world for the better – to eliminate extreme poverty and to boost share prosperity
The Alliance for International Exchange – An association of 90 nongovernmental organizations comprising the international educational and cultural exchange community in the United States
This page provides a list of organizations “doing good” throughout the world as well as aid-working job sites, where you might be able to get your hands on a job to do your own “good”
Other sites that list international development opportunities
- Idealist is the closest thing you’ll find to a worldwide NGO homepage. Search for organizations all over the world that do the things you’re passionate about, then reach out to see how you can get involved
- Resources for Finding International Internships & Jobs (PDF)
- Volunteer Match has opportunity listings worldwide
- I/O Jobs Database
- DevNet Jobs
- World Wide Helpers
- Global Health Corps
- Global Aid Workers
- NGO Aid Map shares information about international development and humanitarian response by mapping diverse projects visually and interactively.
- Volunteer Service Overseas
The Peace Corps
The Peace Corps was established by an Executive Order issued by President John F. Kennedy on March 1, 1961 which was followed up on 3/2/61 by Kennedy’s famous “Ask not…” speech. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers have gone on to achieve extraordinary success in all kinds of fields. Some, inspired by their service, stay in education or health-related professions, or choose to join the Foreign Service. Others pursue careers in business, from entrepreneurial startups to management at major companies. The alumni network is huge and can be a real benefit when you are searching for the first post-service job.
Unlike many years ago, Peace Corps volunteers are no longer sent “wherever” with no say in their placement (unless they choose this option), but instead can select a specific program, project, or country to serve with. Some common questions about and benefits of Peace Corps service are listed below.
Financial Incentives Linked to Service – Financial assistance is available to returned Peace Corps Volunteers at more than 90 partner schools in a wide range of disciplines through the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program. All fellows complete internships in under-served American communities, allowing them to bring home, and expand upon, the skills they learned as Volunteers. If accepted to a partner school, up to 33% of your graduation tuition may be paid.
Federal Job Benefits Linked to Service – Like Americorps Vista alums, Peace Corps alums who complete the full 2 years of service receive Non-Competitive Eligibility for Federal jobs for one year following completion of their program. You can view opportunities (Federal and NGO) for returned Peace Corps Volunteers on their Career Link.
UW Campus Peace Corps Representative – Visit with a returned Peace Corps volunteer who can assist you with your application, site selection, and more. Many events and opportunities are offered throughout the year. You will find them listed on the page.
UW’s Peace Corps Recruitment Ranking – Simply put: WE’RE #1!!!!!
Dig Deeper 3: State, City and County Government Agencies
What Can You Do in State, City, or County Government?
Working in Your Local Community or For Your State
When students think about looking for a government job, they often think of the nation’s largest employer – The Federal Government – but for those of you who would rather make a difference closer to home (or lack the flexibility to move anywhere in the nation or the world), there is a great alternative: working in state, local, or county government.
Route 50 is a good information site that talks about issues of importance to those who work in State and Local Government. You can subscribe to their daily newsletter or just visit the site and search topics of interest.
State Agency Work – Keep WI (or IL or MN or…) running smoothly
As a state government employee, you get the opportunity to do much of the same work that you could do at the Federal level. State employees work on a wide range of issues from the implementation of policies regarding healthcare, education, and public works, to state travel and tourism initiatives, to international trade affecting companies located in the state, to working with the state’s elected officials.
City Agency Work – Your next door neighbor is your employer
Racine, Onalaska, Mauston, Green Bay…every city in Wisconsin has a government that makes sure that the city functions properly. While city jobs are much harder to obtain if you don’t have work experience beyond the classroom, they do give you the chance to see the effect of your work on the daily lives, health, and education of your friends and neighbors! (Leslie Knope would definitely approve!)
County Government – From 911 to the Sheriff to the M.E.
It’s hard to know sometimes whether the job you want is found most often at the Federal, state, local or county level. Most students overlook county jobs entirely since they don’t know what might be there for them. Hopefully this list will give you a better idea of what kind of jobs exist at the county level.
State of Wisconsin Government Agencies
Internships and Jobs with State of Wisconsin Government Agencies
The State of Wisconsin is one of the largest employers in Wisconsin. All educational backgrounds are considered for the vast majority of opportunities. Some of the top skills and expertise areas held by those working for the State of Wisconsin include Constituent Relations, Legislative Research, Parole Services, Constituent Services, and AODA (drug and alcohol abuse prevention and counseling).
Benefits offered by the State of Wisconsin include:
– Career mobility and advancement within over 1,800 classifications and various career paths
– A broad array of benefits that enhance competitive rates of pay
– Flexible work schedules in many jobs
– Deeply rooted communities, a world class university, and a family-friendly cost of living
– Jobs available in all counties
– Equal Opportunity Employer
Working for the State of Wisconsin
WiscJobs – The official employment site of Wisconsin State Government. Nearly all state agencies post opportunities here.
Positions with the Wisconsin Department of Justice – These are sometimes listed separately from what is posted to Wiscjobs
Wisconsin State Agency Websites – List of, and direct link to, every WI state agency website. Can be used to contact agency HR offices to inquire about possible internships, LTE, and/or project opportunities. If you give this a try, we suggest calling the agency versus emailing
Wisconsin Legislative Service Agencies – These agencies serve the needs of the State legislature at the capitol
Internships and Short-Term Agency Jobs (LTEs)
SAAIP – The Summer Affirmative Action Internship Program – Students must be sophomores, juniors, seniors or graduate students at an accredited four-year college or university
LTE Opportunities with the DNR – the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources often has limited term positions available. One of the best (only?) ways to break into this popular agency
Wisconsin Department of Justice internships – The WIDOJ runs its own internship program
WISDOT internships – Dept of Transportation also runs its own program
State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) – Offers internships throughout the year
General Resources to Help You Understand Employment with the State of Wisconsin
Wisconsin State Government LinkedIn Page – Follow to get job announcements
Government Jobs – a decent site for a host of state/city level jobs
Wisconsin Job Source – Links to government and major private employers in Wisconsin
City and County Government Agencies Throughout Wisconsin
Madison and Dane County
- City of Madison Volunteer and Internship Opportunities
- AASPIRE Summer Internship Program – Affirmative Action Student Professionals in Residence (accepts applications every mid February through early April)
- Paid Internship with City of Madison Wanda Fullmore Youth Program
- City of Madison Law Student Internship Program – For 1st year law students and beyond only
Other Major Wisconsin Cities
- City of Milwaukee E-Notify Job Registration
- City of Milwaukee Internships
- Milwaukee Summer Youth Internship Program (SYIP)
Additional Wisconsin Cities – Organized by county
Wisconsin Local Government Portal – Find the city, town or village you seek here
Wisconsin Villages and Towns – By county
Networking Group for Women in Local Government – Meet REAL Leslie Knopes in one of these groups
Alphabetical List of Wisconsin Counties – Since some county jobs might only be listed on county websites, it’s a good idea to look at the website for the county you are interested in as well as the central job site
State, City and County Government Agencies Throughout the US
State/City/County Government Agencies in States Throughout the US
The ICMA Job Center – Lists city employment and internship opportunities throughout the USA
Govern for America Fellowship – Govern for America recruits exceptional recent college graduates with in-demand skills to join our community of transformative leaders. We work with state partners to identify opportunities where Fellows can tackle our nation’s toughest problems and usher candidates through a selective application process to find the people to get the job done.
Lead for America Fellowship – Each year, we select a diverse class of outstanding young leaders from around the country to work with local government leaders who are actively confronting and addressing the nation’s most intractable problems. We believe that local governments are more effective and responsive to the people when they look like the community they serve, and thus we commit to selecting Fellows from underrepresented and overlooked backgrounds.
USA.Gov – Can help you find employment websites for all 50 states and US Territories
All other U.S. States – Directory of official state and local government websites for additional U.S. States. On this page you can also find links directly to states’ bureaus of Aging, Arts, Tourism, Regulation, Transportation, etc…
GovernmentJobs.com – Site devoted to government professionals seeking employment in the public sector. Find state and local government jobs for city, county and state agencies. Features job listings from over 2,000 government and non-profit entities
Dig Deeper 4: 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.
TIMELINES FOR APPLYING?
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 COMMUNITY– 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):
- 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.
- 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)
JOBS/INTERNSHIPS WITH 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
- 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
- Begin actively applying approximately 90 days before you’d like to start the job unless the above applies
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
- The official rule states that you must have already graduated before you can even apply for the job
- Some Recent Grads positions will allow you to apply several months before you graduate (read the announcement carefully before applying)
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.
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
- Learn how Uncle Sam “Works”
- USAJobs Resources
- Intelligence and National Security Internship & Career Resources
- Special Agency Career Websites
- Opportunities for those with Language Skills
- Government Networking Groups
- 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
- White Collar Jobs – click on “position classification standards” to see the full list
- Trades, Crafts and Labor Jobs – click on “job grading standards” to see the full list
- This link explains which jobs fit into which categories.
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.
- Wikipedia lists most of the agencies that hire through this authority along with links to their hiring websites so that you will know whether you should concentrate your search on USAJobs or on one or more agency websites.
- NOTE: You should always visit agency websites to learn more about them and their mission whether you apply to them directly or through USAJobs
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:
- Pathways Internships
- Pathways Recent Graduates Positions
- 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
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.
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
IntelligenceCareers.gov 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
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 Amazon.com. Also read this blog about how to draft a compelling resume for an analyst job: How to Write an Intelligence Analysis Resume. You 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.
- Learn about their career paths and find open vacancy announcements available to any US citizen
- Current students may be interested in the “Honors Internship” program which recruits late each summer for the following summer
- OR the Collegiate Hiring Initiative which recruits graduating seniors and grad students between August-October for job starts the following summer
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.
Government Networking Groups – a list of 70+ groups for every interest
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)
Medical & Public Health
Security & Protection
Other Guides (somewhat old)
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?
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Utilize this KSA Worksheet
- 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
- Visit ONET to read all about the Knowledge, Skills or Abilities you may have to draw from
When applying for a Federal Internship – most of which are at least advertised on USAJobs – you usually have several options:
- Create a federal style resume that you design yourself in MS Word (see Frank Federal resume for a sample you can emulate).
- Note: internship postings often give very little in the way of KSAs (see above) to build keyworded paragraphs around, so read the job description carefully to see what KSAs you can pull out.
- Don’t worry too much about selecting the “right” keywords and just give as much detail on your personal accomplishments and achievements as you can OR simply 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
- Optional (but recommended) items for your internship resume:
- If you have a lot of relevant experience, start your resume with a Qualifications Profile or Professional Summary that highlights your top 3-4 overarching skills/achievements that would be relevant to the employer. 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 USAJobs Resume Builder would automatically have prompted yu to enter such as: Hours worked per week, supervisor’s name and contact information, etc…
- Build a resume using the USAJobs resume builder as described below. 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
- Upload a standard 1-2 page resume that does not make any special allowances or additions just because you’re applying to 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 (not recommended for applications to Intelligence Agencies and Excepted Service positions in general)
Competitive/Civil 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 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
- 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)
- You will probably not need to use the Resume Builder (unless the agency asks you to do so)
- 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…
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:
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
- 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.
Finding and Applying for Federal Agency Iternships
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 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: 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 INTERNSHIPS & VOLUNTEERING
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
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 USAJOBS.gov. 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
- For Undergraduates – A fairly comprehensive list of opportunities for those interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine
- For Grad Students – 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
- CIA Directorate of Operations – 2 year internship (for freshmen ONLY)
- Department of Homeland Security Internships – Encompasses health & science, intelligence & analysis, law enforcement, public affairs, and legal
- The DoD Job Source Internships Page – This Dept. of Defense site has slightly odd navigation, but is fairly comprehensive; use grey arrows at right to navigate the opportunities. There are a lot of them
- Smithsonian Internships and Fellowships – Lots of great opportunities here for undergrads and grad students
- Library of Congress Internships and Fellowships – various opportunities for both grads and undergrads
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)
The Student Conservation Association (SCA) – Internships with SCA very often lead to future opportunities with Interior, NPS, F&WS, the BLM and other agencies concerned with the preservation and protection of our parks, monuments and public lands
Public Service Careers – Website combines government, policy and nonprofit opportunities from a variety of sources
DC Public Affairs & Communications – Washington DC area jobs and internships in public affairs, communications, public relations, media, web development, lobbying and related fields.
International Relations and National Security Internships Listings – This site lists internships with agencies, NGOs, Think Tanks, Congress, Law, Media and Advocacy
Organizations That Facilitate Federal Internship Opportunities for Members of Underrepresented Groups
Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) – programming is specifically for women
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.
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
Civil 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.
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).
- Search by Grade Level: This is how most American citizens enter the Federal service. When you search USAJobs, keep the following in mind:
Housing in DC
Finding your own temporary 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**
Georgetown Law Summer Housing – You don’t have to be a law student
Careers in the US Military
The US military
The 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.
Recruiter: Andrew Dzyuba
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…)
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
AND 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
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)
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
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.
Coast Guard Missions
- Port & Waterway Security
- Drug Interdiction
- Aids to Navigation
- Search & Rescue
- Living Marine Resources
- Marine Safety
- Defense Readiness
- Migrant Interdiction
- Marine Environmental Protection
- Ice Operations
- Law Enforcement
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
Special 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
TAOnline.com bills itself as the “Largest Source” of military transition assistance information and job listings on the web
Special 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:
The ABCs of Schedule A for applicants with disabilities – Tips for getting Federal jobs
Definitions and terminology related to disability hiring
What are considered “reasonable accommodations” in Federal service
SF 256 specifically lists federally target disabilities for hiring purposes
Information on the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP)
Disability.gov’s Resource Guide for candidates with disabilities
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Enforcement Guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Psychiatric Disabilities
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)
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.