Government and Public Service

Federal, state and local governments support a huge workforce. Governments need employees with all kinds of talents, skills and career interests. Working in government is a way to make a difference in building and improving communities. 

While some roles in government require election, most do not. Many of the same roles in the private sector can be found in government such as financial planning and analysis, technology and cybersecurity, communications, engineering and law. 

You can do additional research on this field in the Firsthand Guide to Government Jobs

Gaining experience

Coursework, volunteering and internships are critical in helping you decide which areas interest you most. Once you start to narrow down your interests and geographical preferences for a job or internship, you can start to visit respective government websites to search for open positions. 

The U.S. Department of State’s Pathways Internship Program, which includes both the Internship Experience Program (IEP) and the Internship Temporary Program (ITEP), provides students with opportunities to explore federal careers while being paid for their work.

The Department of State also offers a graduate program, Pathways Recent Graduates Program. Applicants must apply within two years of earning their degree. The Presidential Management Fellows Program is another great way to gain experience in government for those who have completed a graduate degree.

Service and volunteer opportunities like the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps are other options to gain experience. The Peace Corps is a service opportunity in which you move abroad to serve and work with local communities. It can be a step toward a career or expanding an area of interest, such as education, sustainability, community and economic development and/or public health.

AmeriCorps is a network of domestic service opportunities, made up of three programs - AmeriCorps NCCC, AmeriCorps State & National and AmeriCorps VISTA. AmeriCorps members help communities recover from natural disasters, build affordable housing, grow mentorship programs, work on environmental projects and more. 

Hiring process and timeline

If you are considering a career in government and public service, this is an area you will need to plan in advance, often about a year ahead. It’s important to think about what area of government you are interested in and be aware that deadlines for these positions vary widely and the government tends to take a long time to hire.

Many government agencies require security clearance on top of the federal hiring process, which increases the hiring timeline. Some major internships and fellowships have deadlines early-to-mid-fall for the following summer, such as the Department of State.

Princeton resources

Centers and campus offices

Undergraduate student groups

Graduate student groups

Internship, fellowship, funding and related opportunities:

Professional organizations and associations

Professional organizations and associations are membership-based groups comprised of people working in a similar field. They can be helpful resources for students to learn more about a field, develop connections and discover related opportunities. You can search for related organizations and associations using a database provided by the Princeton University Library.

Princeton Alumni