There are thousands of organizations that hire interns in Washington, DC. There are over federal agencies alone, and there are organizations that focus on every type of issue and concern, such as international relations and foreign policy, national security, economics, health care, social services, law, entertainment, real estate, education, STEM, etc. That being said, most organizations in the DC area focus in some way the public policies that influence a particular issue. Internships generally involve a fair amount of administrative work with opportunities for more substantive work. You will usually have more opportunities to work one-on-one with staff in the fall and spring than in the summer, due to the length of the semesters and the more frenetic pace of the summer months. Fall and spring internships are generally less competitive than summer internships as well. Most internships in DC are unpaid.
Why Do An Internship?
An internship offers a learning experience that you can’t get in a classroom. An internship is an opportunity:
it can show you the path to the career you have always planned or illuminate unthought-of possibilities. An internship provides you with a new perspective on your life and education. It builds your skills, gives you training and experience, and informs choices that shape the rest of your life.
While other internships may involve only a site and a student, the academic internships offered through IIW connect the student, the internship site, and the university. Our program is designed to deepen your knowledge and experience through reflection. We apply your academic learning in the workplace and analyze your workplace experiences in the classroom and through your coursework, providing a richer, more meaningful experience.
Where will I intern, and how can I find an internship?
Illinois in Washington does not place students in internships, but we assist you in securing a position. We send you announcements of internship openings, advise you of organizations that work in your areas of interest, and review your cover letters and resume. However, it is up to you to apply to internships. There is an organization for every interest in Washington.
It is important to start applying for internships as soon as possible. Some employers will make internship hiring decisions a year or more in advance, so you will want to research internship opportunities at your earliest convenience.
What will my internship schedule be like in Washington?
You will intern full-time during working hours at your internship site (for example, 9 to 6 or 8:30 to 5), Monday through Thursday. You will have classes on Fridays during the day and, for most spring and fall students, on Monday nights from 7 to 9 pm. It is very common of interns to take Fridays off for classes, and most organizations are accommodating to this. Internships in the fall and spring semester must last at least 12 weeks, and summer internships must last at least 8 weeks. Internships must start no later than two weeks after the first day of class, and you must work at least 30 hours/week of your internship. You will work directly with your employer to set your hours and other working conditions. Please notify IIW if your internship schedule does not meet IIW requirements so that IIW can determine what adjustments, if any, can be made to accommodate your schedule.
With the abundance of internships in Washington, DC, there is a high likelihood of getting a job that is a good fit for your career and academic goals. You should expect to apply for at least 20 internships, and possibly more. While you may apply to some high-profile organizations, please keep in mind that the smaller organizations often offer internships that are less competitive, and offer more substantive work and opportunities to work one-on-one with staff. A semester performing administrate work for a high-profile organization may not be nearly as helpful and educational as a semester performing more substantive work for a lesser known organization.
Students may need to intern at an office that was not their top choice, given the competitiveness of DC internships. Every student who has participated in IIW has found an internship. You need to plan to apply to internships early, prior to applying to IIW. Summer is the most competitive time for internships, fall the least. In a handful of cases, students have found internships after arriving in DC. Below are some of the places where students have either interned or applied, please note these are only some of the thousand of internships available, especially when it comes to non-profit/advocacy organizations. We encourage students to utilize websites like indeed.com and idealist.org to help with their internship search.