With the most exciting recruitment news coming out of the Department of State in ages, State is finally offering a paid student internship! You know what, about time!
The paying of interns is a significant step forward by State. The lack of financial support deterred me when I was younger from interning at the Department. Even though interning would have been fantastic, I didn’t want to go into debt in one of the most expensive cities in the country if offered the opportunity.
The paid student internship is a significant step forward, but I can’t help but think it is just a step and not a leap. There are many positives to this paid internship. However, there are also negatives. This post will introduce the role, and I will also address areas for improvement.
But first, let’s dive into the details.
Department of State Paid Student Internship
Open & closing dates
04/04/2022 to 04/12/2022
$17.51 per hour
Internships – Interns are required to serve for a period of 10 consecutive weeks during Fall 2022. Interns are required to work 32-40 hours per week to successfully complete the internship.
The Department of State aims to provide student interns with opportunities both educationally and professionally substantive in nature. The purpose of the program is to provide students with insight into the work of U.S. foreign policy and the administration of the U.S. Department of State and its diplomatic facilities around the world. Specific duties and responsibilities vary according to the domestic office or overseas post of assignment. Generally, interns may:
- participate in meetings with senior-level U.S. Government or foreign government officials;
- draft, edit, or contribute to cables, reports, communications, talking points, or other materials used by policymakers in furthering U.S. foreign policy objectives; support events, including international and/or multilateral meetings and conferences;
- engage directly with U.S. audiences in helping to explain the work of the Department of State or foreign audiences in helping to promote U.S. foreign policy and improve understanding of U.S. culture and society.
Student interns may be required to do some routine administrative work.
Conditions of Employment
To qualify you must:
- Be a United States citizen at the time of application.
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Be in good academic standing with at least a 3.0 GPA or higher.
- Be pursuing a baccalaureate or graduate degree.
- Be a college junior, senior, or graduate student with at least 60 credit hours earned—you are considered a college junior if you will be starting your junior year immediately following the completion of your internship.
- Be enrolled in an accredited academic institution on at least a part-time basis at the time of application for the internship. The individual may qualify as a “student” even if the individual has a break in classes, as long as the break is no longer than five months at the time the individual begins the internship.
Applicants should be pursuing a baccalaureate or graduate degree, on at least a part-time basis, with at least a 3.0 GPA or higher. College juniors, seniors, or graduate students with at least 60 credit hours earned by the time the internship begins are encouraged to apply for this opportunity. Note: Applicants are considered a college junior if they will be starting the junior year of college immediately following the completion of the internship. Applicants must also be a continuing student with the expectation and intention of returning to their course of study the semester/quarter immediately following the completion of the internship – i.e., returning to school in the spring of 2023. Proof may be requested.
If your academic plans change after your application and you are no longer a continuing student or have a break in classes longer than five months before your internship begins, you will no longer be eligible for the internship.
All interns selected for a position will be officially notified by the Student Internship Program office by e-mail.
Participants in the Paid Student Internship Program are considered temporary employees. As such, they are eligible to accrue annual leave and sick leave but not eligible for Federal Employee Health Benefits or TSP coverage. Their internship service is not creditable for retirement benefits unless and until the intern is subsequently appointed into a federal career position. The program covers reasonable travel expenses to and from the internship and assists with housing.
How You Will Be Evaluated
You will be evaluated for this job based on how well you meet the qualifications above.
Students will be evaluated by the bureaus to which they have applied based upon a completed application denoting the applicant’s education, experience, training, and background.
Note: The selection process relies heavily on statements of interest in making their selections. Therefore, your statement of interest should be concise, well written, and it should tell your story. Explain how your academic courses and other personal experiences relate to the domestic or overseas assignment to which you are applying. You may discuss what you will bring to the work of the office or post, and what you hope to take away from the internship experience. You might highlight any disadvantages you may have overcome or relevant unique experiences. Also, you can expand on any of your answers to questions asked in the application, such as language ability or other special skills.
Once you have completed the online questionnaire and Statement of Interest (immediate paragraph above), you will be prompted to attach your transcript to your application for it to be considered complete. Applications submitted before the deadline without the required documents attached will not be considered.
Transcripts: your current or most recent school transcript must be included in your online application via the instructions below. Both official and unofficial transcripts are acceptable. However, if you are selected for an internship, you may be required to provide an official transcript before starting your internship. Should your official transcript indicate that you are not an eligible student, your internship offer will be rescinded. Transcripts can be added to the job application by uploading them.
Resume: You must build a resume in USAJOBS to be considered. No other resumes will be reviewed. A carefully crafted resume should include clubs and organizations, research experience, work experience, volunteer experience , and internships.
Internship On-boarding Deadlines
- Application Deadline (including all supporting documents): April 12
- Applicants Receive Email Notification of Selection/Non-selection: mid-late June
- Security Clearance Application (e-QIP): mid-late June
- Seasonal Security Clearance Deadline: November 11
- Internship Season: eligible from September 12 – January 27 (start date contingent upon security clearance)
Let’s evaluate the offer
- Wages: $17.25
- Benefits: eligible to accrue annual leave and sick leave
- Reasonable travel expenses
- Assists with housing
- Professional experience
- Secret clearance
When we compare it to what State has done in the past, this is a good offer.
The needs improvement
- One week open
- Open to the first 1,000 applicants (on this, USAJOBS does not state this as of the time of this publication, but both the main website, State’s Facebook account, and a DIR all confirm, images below)
- A lot of weight on the statement of interest
- Lack of transparency on how qualifications are evaluated
Now for a critique.
If there is one thing I really can’t stand is this open period and limitation to the first 1,000 applicants. I could understand the one-week open period if State notified folks ahead of time that such an opportunity was coming. Students could then prepare their applications. Instead, they elected to add this unnecessary time crunch on the applicants.
If I were a student, I’d be trying to figure out if I should wait until the weekend to write my application or rush the writing of my statement to make sure I am one of the first 1,000. This decision is significant as the selection process “relies heavily” on the statement of interest.
The one week of being open and limited to the first 1,000 applicants honestly feels like State made a last-minute decision on this opportunity and decided to test the response.
Look at what they wrote on their main website: “The Fall 2022 Unpaid Student Internship Program will be discontinued. If you applied for the Fall 2022 unpaid internship, you should reapply to the Paid Student Internship Program.” I hope they emailed everybody who applied. However, if they did, do these applicants now have an unfair advantage in getting their application submitted first? (I don’t know the unpaid internship application requirements, but I imagine it is similar).
This decision by State leads to a broader conversation on equity, which I will not do justice to here.
But in short, the Department of State is finally providing a paid internship. How about using this opportunity, and making a transparent statement in doing so, that you will focus on supporting students who have not historically been represented at State, are furthest from educational/social/economic/etc. justice, are from institutions that generally do not intern with State, and much more.
The above is especially acute when we consider that State still needs to work on its diversity.
Let’s bring it back to the statement of interest. Applicants are assessed the most here. What’s the evaluation tool or rubric State uses to determine what sets one applicant apart from another in their writing? Or is there one? It looks like bureaus/posts make their selections…
If you’re a student and you have the window, apply. It’s going to be a great experience. Also, my recommendation is to select that you are open to both being abroad and working in D.C.
In the end, you need to write a compelling Statement of Interest. Based on the description in the job post, here are some items to keep in mind that will hopefully help you:
- Don’t tell, show. Get descriptive.
- Don’t repeat what you write in the application unless it is necessary.
- Use active voice
- Plain talk your writing: U.S. government writing principles and State’s plain writing guidance
- Use Grammarly (my favorite) or Hemmingway App
- Before you submit, have at least one person read your SOI
- Review the new core precepts (if nothing else, it gives you an idea of what they are looking for in their employees)
Join the pFS Newsletter!
Receive 5 lessons to help you prep, study, and practice for the FSOT.
Plus! By signing-up you are also joining hundreds of other FSO applicants in a communal pursuit to join the Foreign Service.