What a summer internship can do for you


Too many students and recent grads waste their summers flipping burgers when they could be working interesting, career-boosting jobs. But in this tough job market, how can young people—go-getters though they may be—afford to toss away their spatulas for meaningful jobs? By landing dynamic federal summer internships.

Granted: Some federal internships are dominated by busywork. But one of the best kept secrets in government is that dozens of federal internship programs—located throughout the U.S.—are specially designed to offer incomparable opportunities to schmooze with power brokers, gain resume-stuffing experience, receive mentoring, network and earn competitive salaries.

Some summer federal internship programs are already accepting applications for next summer. Deadlines for applying for many programs will close later in 2015 and early 2016.

So if your professional or personal circle includes college or grad students, consider advising them to launch their quest for a dynamic federal internship for next summer now.

The designs of internship programs vary: They each recruit students or recent graduates of different levels; have varied application requirements; address varied subjects; and offer different types and amounts of career-boosting activities. Salaries also vary, so it is important to research opportunities. In addition, some programs specially recruit for minorities, women and people with disabilities.

A sample of paying federally-funded internships:

  • Collegiate Leaders in Environmental Health: Undergrads who are passionate about environmental and human health issues are placed in environmental health programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in Atlanta, Georgia. They participate in environmental health projects, interact with federal officials and scientists, visit important environmental health sites and attend lectures by leaders in the field.


  • Transportation Department Internships for Diverse Groups: College/university students receive hands-on experience, on-the-job training and mentoring designed to strengthen their understanding of the transportation industry and prepare them for future leadership positions in public service. The program, which is located in Washington, D.C. and provides housing, specially recruits for women, people with disabilities, and members of diverse groups.


  • Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science: Does it get any better than this? During successive summers, undergrads conduct cutting-edge research in the field and state-of-the-art labs in hip and beautiful Boulder, Colorado. In something akin to a total immersion experience, interns are mentored by multiple top scientists, attend workshops, prepare scientific papers, present their research in professional meetings and live together in modern group housing. Travel expenses are covered.


  • National Gallery of Art: Undergrads and grad students work on projects directed by a Gallery curator or department head in Washington, D.C. Seminars introduce interns to a broad spectrum of museum work, programs and Gallery staff.


  • FBI Honors Internship Program: Undergrads and grad students get an insider’s view of FBI operations—from counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and fraud investigations to vital support services, such as laboratory exams, fingerprint identification and behavioral analysis. Also, interns explore the agency’s varied career opportunities. Interns are assigned to FBI field office or Headquarters in Washington, D.C.; the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia; the Criminal Justice Information Services Division in Clarksburg, West Virginia or other sites.

Application Tips

Applicants should customize their application to each target program. One creative way to do so: the applicant should contact the program manager of each target program to obtain the contact information for several program alumni. The applicant should ask these alumni about what they learned from their internship activities and interactions with fellow interns, and then incorporate resulting information into his application and interview.

In addition, the applicant should explain in his application and interview how: 1) his interests align with the internship; 2) his skills and knowledge would contribute to the program; and 3) the internship would help him advance his academic and professional goals. He should also convey zest.


About Author

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Ask your career questions by email to lwhiteman@federaltimes.com or by Twitter to @Lilymwhiteman.

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