IIW participants find their own internships, but IIW will assist you in securing one. In general, there is more demand for interns in the fall and spring than IIW has students. The summer is more competitive.
There are thousands of offices and organizations that hire interns in Washington, DC. Internships are available in every field, including international relations and foreign policy, national security, economics, health care, social services, law, entertainment, real estate, education, STEM, etc. Most organizations focus on issues related to public policy. Internships generally involve administrative work with opportunities for more substantive work. You will usually have more opportunities to work one-on-one with internship staff in the fall and spring semesters than in summer due to the semester length and the more hectic pace of the summer months. Most internships in DC are unpaid.
Why should you intern?
An internship offers a learning experience that you cannot get in a classroom, and provides you with a new perspective on your career goals and education. It builds your skills, gives you training and experience, and informs choices that shape the rest of your life. IIW alumni often describe their IIW participation as one of the best experiences they had in college, and many alumni have found that their IIW experiences have helped them network and secure employment.
Where will I intern, and how can I find an internship?
IIW does not place students in internships, but we assist you in finding a position. We send you announcements about internship openings, notify you of organizations that work in your areas of interest, and review your cover letters and resume. 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. It is important to start applying for internships as soon as possible. Ideally, you should begin applying for internships well before even applying for IIW. Some employers will make internship hiring decisions a year or more in advance, so you will want to research internship opportunities as early as possible.
Given the competitiveness of DC internships, students may need to intern at an office that is not their top choice. And, while you may consider interning at a high-profile organization, please keep in mind that smaller organizations often offer internships that are less competitive, and involve 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 as helpful and educational as a semester performing more substantive work for a lesser known organization.
Every student who has participated in IIW has found an internship. On occasion, students have found internships after arriving in DC. Many IIW students intern with members of Congress. A list of Illinois Members of Congress is available here. Please check their offices’ websites for application instructions. Members of Congress from other states have also hired IIW students. Beyond Capitol Hill, these are thousands of internships available, especially when it comes to federal agencies and non-profit/advocacy organizations. Internship opportunities are often advertised on websites like indeed.com, idealist.org, daybook.com and usajobs.gov. A list of federal agencies is available here. When applying for internships, you may want to get feedback from the University of Illinois Career Center about your resume and cover letter and participate in their Mock Interview Program, where you can practice your interviewing skills. Additional information and links about internship options are below.
What will my internship schedule be like in Washington?
You will work full-time at your internship site (for example, 9 AM to 6 PM or 8:30 AM to 5 PM). Internships must start no later than two weeks after the first day of class. Depending on the semester in which you are enrolled, your schedule would be:
- Fall and Spring Semesters: Class for PS491 and PS125 meet on Fridays 10 AM-11:30 AM and 1-4 PM, respectively. Students taking PS321 will also meet one evening a week, 7-9 PM. You will work at your internship Monday through Thursday. Internships must last at least 12 weeks, and at least 30 hours/week.
- Summer Semesters: Class for PS491 meets one evening each week, 7-9 PM. You will work at your internship Monday through Friday. Internships must last at least 10 weeks, and at least 30 hours/week.
You will work directly with your internship provider 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.
Additional Information and Resources
If you have questions about internships or the IIW program, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or make an appointment to meet with the IIW Advisor at https://my.atlas.illinois.edu/login.asp?/advising/index.asp. Additional information is available at: