Finding a job in your field of study can be daunting. Job searching seems simple—you do an internet search for the kind of job you want, tailor your resume, write an appropriate cover letter and start submitting applications.
But “the job you want” is among the biggest challenges college students and recent graduates must face. How could you know the job you want if you’ve never had a job? Many look to their college major as a guide to answering this question, though it doesn’t always provide clarity — there aren’t exactly many job listings for “Political Scientist.”
There are many different career paths down which your major can take you, but starting with an internship could help point you in the right direction. Internships are low-risk, high-reward test drives of a career. Not only do interns get a feel for the job they aspire to, but they also exit the internship complete with firsthand experience, new skills and tangible results of their efforts.
How do students in your shoes transform their majors into internships that will someday become a career? Take a look at some of the D.C. internships out there for Political Science majors!
Careers in Public Service
When they envision a career in politics, many students picture life in public service. Specifically, in some of America’s highest, most powerful political offices. Getting there as an intern in D.C. begins with an obvious choice – Capitol Hill.
Interns on the Hill may expect work supporting a sitting representative or senator, or one of the many congressional or senatorial committees. This can take many forms, depending on your specific skill set. Social media junkies may help manage an office’s Twitter account, whereas a policy wonk may review proposed legislation. Other common responsibilities can range from administrative tasks like answering constituent messages and running errands, to researching legislation for the elected official and their legislative staff, attending hearings and briefings, and conducting Capitol tours for visitors.
Internships on Capitol Hill prepare interns for public service careers through learning about the legislative process and the many other functions of a congressional office.
However, not all internships on the Hill are necessarily in a representative or senator’s office. For those fascinated by the day-to-day operation of the nation’s legislative body, there are opportunities in non-partisan offices that support Congress, such as the Office of the Parliamentarian for the House or the Senate.
In these offices, interns contribute to advising and assisting the respective chamber in its rules, precedents, and practices. They might find themselves working closely with editors compiling and cataloging parliamentary data sources or undertake ad hoc research projects on a variety of parliamentary topics.
While a Capitol Hill internship is a great opportunity for an up-close and personal look at the day-to-day life of a politician, it’s not the whole story of a career in politics. There are lots of other ways to get involved in the action unfolding on the Hill. Such roles may still involve frequent visits to the Hill or comparable opportunities to effect change.
There are a host of nonprofits, NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and service organizations that advocate for specific causes and conduct information campaigns. Students interning with this type of organization will put their critical thinking, research and writing skills to use in a variety of ways to persuade lawmakers.
These interns might track legislative progress and conduct research for use in an influence campaign. They may also support staff members who turn that research into legislative action. Day-to-day tasks could include writing daily reports, briefing senior level staff, and developing materials to be used in campaign activities or advocacy discussions.
If your internship is at an NGO, you may find yourself writing proposals for a development project, conducting grassroots outreach, or assisting with strategic campaign building and goal setting.
Away from the Hill, intern opportunities exist at organizations not directly involved in government, but must closely monitor developments there by researching, following and writing. It may occasionally involve covering a hearing, analyzing emerging areas of government policy or tracking the progress of legislation in Congress.
Regardless of how much time spent on the Hill, a political science major interning in D.C. will have no shortage of options to explore in determining the job they want. This is only a small portion of where a political science degree can take you and how an internship in D.C. can prepare you for that career path.
The benefits of an internship - the exposure to a professional setting where you apply your knowledge, skills, and interests to determine if this is for you - are critical components to answering the job you want question.
Interested in more? Find out the Four Reasons Why You Need an Internship or Why D.C. Is a Top Networking Destination for College Students.