How to Secure Entry-Level Jobs and Internships with the Federal Government

If you would like to obtain professional work experience and you are interested in working for the federal government, then the Pathways Program may be a career opportunity for you!  “Pathways” describes the three primary ways that students and recent graduates can receive internship or entry-level experience with the federal government.  The three programs within Pathways are:

  1. The Internship Program: Paid internships designed for students currently enrolled in high school all the way up to graduate school and provides opportunities to work within various federal agencies.
  2. The Recent Graduates Program: Created for those who completed their academic program within the last two years (with the exception of some veterans), this is a one-year program and offers full-time, paid work experiences and training.
  3. Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program: A leadership development program for individuals who completed a graduate degree within the last two years, this competitive program offers participants a two-year appointment complete with full salary, benefits, and professional development training. Applications for the PMF program are due in the fall, so look for more about this program in the coming months.

All three Pathways programs might result in a permanent position within the federal government, and they all offer great ways to gain experience to enhance your resume.  Here are some tips for finding and applying for these opportunities:

Tip #1: Find these Opportunities using USA Jobs

USAJOBS is the primary place to finding federal jobs including Pathways Internship and Recent Graduates opportunities.  Over the past few weeks, numerous jobs have been posted for the Internship and Recent Graduates Program.  Many of these are advertised on CareerQuest, UMUC’s job and internship board. However, you can see all Pathways opportunities that are currently available on USAJOBS.

Tip #2: Apply Using a Federal Resume

There are important differences between a resume that you would use to apply to a  job in the private sector to one that you would send to a federal agency.  Some of these differences include the resume’s length and how you describe your experiences.  UMUC Career Services created a resume tutorial which explains some of these differences in greater detail.  You can also see a side-by-side comparison of a traditional vs. federal resume by clicking here.

Tip #3: Don’t Miss the Deadline!

All federal vacancy announcements include a firm deadline, and applicants will be unable to apply for the position if the deadline has past.  Particularly with Pathways positions, the deadline to apply may only be a few days after the position was posted.  Agencies do this to limit the number of applicants they receive and the resulting administrative burden associated with vetting those applications.  In fact, some Pathways positions specifically say that only the first 50 or 100 applicants will be considered.

Applying for federal positions can be a tedious process, so you should begin your application as soon as you find the opportunity and submit it as quickly as possible.  Better yet, create your federal resume now so that it is ready when you find your ideal job.  You can set up a profile in USAJOBS to save your federal resume and your searches.  By saving your searches, you can choose to receive daily or weekly emails with listings of jobs that match your interests.

For a variety of reasons, the federal government is a highly sought after employer for job seekers. Veteran students may be eligible for veteran’s preference when competing for Pathways positions.  Particularly for those who may be switching careers, Pathways opportunities are a great way to gain experience in a federal agency.  If you need assistance with these applications or any other part of this process, UMUC Career Services is happy to help!

Kristin Schrader is the assistant director of InternPlus at University of Maryland University College.  She has a background in human resources and has worked in career services at four universities.  Most recently, she was the Lead Trainer in Europe for the U.S. Department of Labor Employment Workshop teaching transitioning service members about the civilian job search.  She is passionate about helping others obtain their professional goals.