Government Internship and Job Search

Benefits of government employment include the opportunity to serve your country or community in an enormous range of roles, a greater degree of job security than some sectors, and excellent benefits (health insurance, vacation time, etc.).

Getting into government jobs may be a long process, requiring persistence and patience.  However, once in the system, it can be easy to move around within it. 

There are many U.S. (federal), state, county, and city governments that hire students and graduates like you to do important work (don't overlook cities and counties!). Each is a different employer.  If you’re new to government employment, note that federal government is that of the entire United States, such as the U.S Department of Agriculture (v. the Minnesota Department of Agriculture).

Quick State and Federal Resume Tips:

  • Preparing government resumes can be time-consuming, and positions may be open for only a few days, so prepare your government resume now.
  • Your resume must clearly indicate that you meet all the minimum qualifications.
  •  Nothing will be assumed. If you don’t include and describe it, you won’t get credit for it.
  • Describe your skills and experiences in detail (one page will NOT be enough).
  • Include number of hours at each experience, and start and end dates if possible.
  • Answer all supplemental questions completely, thoroughly. Do not say “see resume”.
  • As is true of many employers, some value cover letters and others do not. Ask, or write a great one that may sway a selection committee in your favor!
  • Read on for much more, including federal resume samples!

State of Minnesota Application Tips:

- Search for State of Minnesota internships and jobs.
Application and Selection Process, including creating a job search agent to receive email alerts when new positions are posted that match your search criteria.

  • “Job Summaries” are posted on the State of Minnesota jobs website. To fully understand a position and be able to adequately target your cover letter and resume, request a complete position description from the contact person listed on each posting.
  • On your resume, be sure to include the number of hours worked each week or month for each position, and the actual dates (or at least months) of your experiences.
  • As an affirmative action employer, the State of Minnesota encourages applicants to complete the demographic questionnaire when applying.
  • State job "Minimum Qualifications" are not flexible. In order to be considered for any position at the State, your resume must clearly and explicitly (in the plainest possible language) demonstrate exactly how you meet the minimum qualifications. If you also possess the preferred qualifications, they too should be stated as plainly as possible.
  • Never use an experience-based resume to apply to the State of Minnesota. Your resume must be laid out chronologically so that candidates can be compared in the most equitable way. Resumes are read by humans, not Applicant Tracking Software.
  • Applicants must be authorized to work in the United States.  Reach out to the contact name listed on the posting if you have questions.
  • You can appeal a finding of “does not meet minimum qualifications” by following instructions (within 24 hrs) on notification email.
  • Interviewees will usually have 15-30 minutes to review interview questions before interviews begin.

Federal Application Tips:

- Internships and jobs are posted at usajobs.gov.
- Create a profile to prepare your application documents and save your searches (you’ll receive email notifications when new positions become available).

  • Getting in to federal government employment can be very competitive.  Volunteer or get an internship in the federal government as a student to make yourself more competitive later!
  • The Pathways Program provides students and recent graduates (up to 2 years out) the opportunity to intern or work within the federal government without having to compete with the general public. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door.
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or national to work for the Federal Government, but there are some exceptions.  There are opportunities for international students to work with governments through non-profit organizations (such as Friends of the Mississippi River).
  • Most applications require the completion of a questionnaire. Rate yourself as high as you possibly can on each item on the questionnaire (compare yourself to someone who has never done the skill in question).  Then, go back to your resume to be sure you have provided evidence for your ratings on the questionnaire. Your resume must clearly support your questionnaire ratings.
  • Interviewers may not ask follow-up questions so be sure to provide complete answers.

GREAT RESOURCES: Federal resume samples and tips:

GREAT RESOURCEPDF iconDetailed Tips for Searching, Resumes, Questionnaires

Learn about the Federal Application Process. For more detail, see:

    Federal job search assistance webinar schedule.  Topics include:

    • Writing Your Federal Resume
    • Pathways - Recruiting and Hiring Students and Recent Graduates
    • Navigating USAJOBS - Finding and Applying for Federal Jobs

    GoGovernment.org. Another source for help finding and applying to federal government jobs.

      Special Student Programs and Resources

      U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service automatic job postings (sign up for automatic notices).

      U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) internships

      The Diversity Joint Venture for Conservation Careers (DJV) is a partnership of federal and state agencies, universities, non-governmental organizations, foundations, and professional societies that work together to increase the number of women and people of color in the conservation workforce. Resources there include:

      AmeriCorps, a network of national service programs with benefits including student loan deferment, living allowance, education award for future education or school loan repayment. Emphases include:

      MN Naturalist Corps for paid positions presenting recreational and educational programs under the mentorship of a MN DNR Parks and Trails naturalist.

      Community Volunteer Ambassador Program for internships at National Parks.

      Career Info for YOUR major, including info about related careers, internships completed by classmates before you, alumni job titles and employers, and non-government employers.

      Federal (U.S.), State, City and County Job Related Sites

      Minnesota State Departments, Agencies, Boards, Commissions include:

      U.S. government (federal) departments and agencies include: