Career opportunities in government - federal, state, and local - are endless. Government employees are scientists, engineers, policy workers, administrators, economists, writers, psychologists, artists, and everything in between. The big plus for working in government is that career training and development are part of the professional culture, there are great opportunities for advancement, and the field is known for relatively high job security. Often, the best method for securing a full-time position in this industry is through internships, volunteering, and/or networking.
Perhaps a stint in politics interests you. There are two basic strategies for entering the political scene, (1), starting out in a role or office and working your way up, and (2), developing an area of expertise first and then seeking to transfer in at a higher level. Look beyond the obvious.
The most important part of your career development process is understanding your values, interests, skills, personality, motivations, and what you have learned from each of your unique experiences. To determine what kind of work you might want to do, you want to continually examine what drives you. By reflecting on each of these pieces, you can get clues about occupations that fit you best.
A Good Place to Start:
- Review the Self-Inquiry Guide to begin learning more about your skills, knowledge, and interests
- You can schedule an appointment with a career adviser to have a conversation about your career questions and ideas.
TIP: Talk with (or develop) your Board of Directors those individuals who know you well and could also reflect back to you strengths, patterns, etc. you may not realize about yourself. This information can be part of your discovery process, too!
To discover what opportunities exist for the careers you’re considering, make time to learn about work that aligns with your interests. Take time to both expand your options and narrow your list as you learn more. You’ll be taking into account the things you know about yourself that influence you as you explore various career paths.
Resources for learning more about careers:
- What can I do with this major?
Connects academic majors or departments to possible career paths, typical employers, and strategies designed to maximize career opportunities
- O*NET and Occupational Outlook Handbook
Search for and learn career information including professional environments, salaries, used skills, and educational requirements
TIP: Research Duke departmental websites for more extensive career-related information according to specific majors of interest.
Examples of career opportunities in local, state, and federal government sectors:
Opportunities within local, state, and federal government are abundant. Local and state governments not only elect officials, they also manage city utilities, oversee permitting, and offer emergency services, among many other job possibilities.
Federal job options are available that align with all areas of study. The most urgent hiring needs with federal agencies include opportunities in public health, engineering, science, human resources, technology, and economics. For general information on job and internship titles in the federal government, see the Partnership for Public Service information on student and entry-level hiring.
- Legislative Assistant
- Policy Analyst
- Political Scientist
- Urban and Regional Planner
- Social Science Research Assistants
News sources and books help you stay abreast of current news, changes and developments in your career areas of interest. Examples include:
- Partnership for Public Service
Learn about federal agencies, internships, and jobs in a clear, direct manner
- The Resume Place: Building Careers in the U.S. Government
- Government Executive
- Best Places to Work
- Governing: The States and Localities
- Learn How to Become
Professional Organizations provide excellent resources for students, ranging from career development resources and student memberships to job and internship postings. Examples include:
- Federal Managers Association
- The American Federation of Government Employees
- Young Government Leaders
TIP: Search out professional organizations in career clusters of interest to learn more about career options, mentoring opportunities, recent news and research, and more.
Learn from other Dukies:
- Reach out to Duke alumni through LinkedIn and the Duke Alumni Network LinkedIn Group to have a discussion about career paths, companies, and jobs.
- Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy LinkedIn Page View the Career Insights section to see what federal opportunities Policy students have pursued.
- Join the email list for the Duke Public Policy Network, a D.C.-based networking group.
- More experienced Duke students are great resources for learning about experiences, finding opportunities, and networking with other Duke alumni.
Once you investigate options, now it’s time to gain experience, and any experience counts! Ask yourself what you want to learn, and pursue opportunities that lead to self-discovery. Test your interests by taking action.
Paid experience is the only type of experience that counts when testing out interests.
ALL experience counts as possible ways to explore your interests and develop skills. Think about both specific skills developed in a particular environment and transferable skills that you can invest in a variety of places and situations.
Student Organizations and Volunteer Opportunities
Provide connections with others interested in similar career pursuits. Check out Duke Groups to find student organizations across campus such as:
- Public Policy Studies Majors Union
- Duke Healthcare Policy Forum
- Duke Sanford Journal of Public Policy
- Duke American Grand Strategy Program
- Duke Democrats
- Duke Republicans
- Young Americans for Liberty
DukeEngage offers a large number of summer programs, both domestic and abroad, which relate to service, policy, and community action
Conducting research can be a great way to get involved on campus, explore a specific academic topic, and work closely with faculty members and graduate students. The Undergraduate Research Support Office offers resources for getting involved in research both on campus and at other institutions- check out the “opportunities” page to explore options.
Research positions are often secured through identifying research currently occurring at Duke or elsewhere and reaching out to faculty members directly. Consider looking at the work of faculty members, and identifying funding for research opportunities through the Office of Research Support Funding.
Additionally, here are a few specific research programs available at Duke:
- Bass Connections
University-wide interdisciplinary research program
- POLIS The Center for Political Leadership Innovation Service
Seeks to engage in politics and enlist the creative energies of the Duke community—students, faculty, staff, and alumni—to promote what politics could be
- Duke Center for Child and Family Policy
Pursues science-based solutions to important problems affecting today’s children and families
- Center for Health Policy & Inequalities
To improve the health of individuals and communities, locally, nationally, and internationally, by addressing health inequities through interdisciplinary policy-relevant evaluative and intervention-based research
- The Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy
To improve health and the value of health care by developing and implementing evidence-based policy solutions locally, nationally, and globally
- Counterterrorism & Public Policy Fellowship Program
Designed to provide professionals in the national security and counterterrorism fields with an intensive educational experience
- Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security
Faculty conduct research, comment on current events and policy debates, and run executive education programs
Short-term opportunities to get experience in a particular sector. Many companies and organizations have formal, well-defined internship experiences, but you may find a valuable experience that doesn’t have internship for a title. Excellent resources to begin your search for positions include:
- USA Jobs
Current students or recent graduates for eligibility in entry-level hiring or the federal internship program called Pathways
- Internship Series Online
3000+ organizations offering internships and summer jobs for students
Duke’s source for internship and full-time job postings
Now that you’ve gained experience through talking with others and getting career experience, it’s time to prepare. Your search strategy includes integration, reflection, and action. Effective search strategy is built upon elements of self-inquiry, career research, networking, and sharing your story and intentions with others. Review the Strategic Search Skills Guide for more information.
Networking is a crucial part of an effective search—developing relationships with others
- Career Center Networking Guide
Learn the basics of networking and tips for success
Search for Duke alumni by industry, geography, company, and more—use this video tutorial to help you create a strong profile
Networking is something I won’t need to do if I am pursuing opportunities in the nonprofit sector.
Whether you are headed to professional school or nonprofit work, reaching out to those who are doing work of interest to you, or who may know of possible opportunities, is invaluable in your search and learning process.
Held on campus with various employers throughout the academic year—check lists of employers attending to identify those who align with your interests in the nonprofit sector
- Nonprofit & Government Career Fair
Review this list to discover all career fairs promoted by the Career Center, both in-person and online
- Information Sessions
Monitor the CareerConnections calendar to see when employers of interest may be holding information sessions, either on campus or virtually
- Georgetown University’s Government & Nonprofit Expo
Duke students are invited to attend this annual internship and job fair in Washington, D.C.
Job, Internship, and Fellowship Resources:
- USA Jobs
Links to all federal agencies, student jobs and internships in government
- Pathways Internship Program
Foreign service jobs/internships in U.S. embassies abroad
- Government Jobs
Posts state and local government job opportunities across the country
- Public Service Careers
Internships and job listings in public service
Careers in public employment
- FindLaw- For Legal Professionals
Job listings for legal professionals
- Think Tanks
A list of think tanks.
- State and Local Government Positions
Links to the websites of state and local governments.
Duke’s source for internship and full-time job postings
TIP: Don’t depend solely on finding posted opportunities for gaining experience or internships. Talk with professors, your Board of Directors, friends of your family, parents of friends, former supervisors or teachers, etc. to potentially identify opportunities that haven’t been—or won’t be—posted in some database or online.
If I don’t have an internship/a job secured by [fill in an early semester date] I will never find one.
Be aware that different industries—and companies and organizations within industries—operate on different hiring timelines and recruiting schedules. Not many nonprofit organizations will come to campus to recruit, but that doesn’t mean there are not positions available to Duke students at your organization of interest!
Interviewing is a skill that is learned best through practice, and it’s never too early to get started. In addition to the following online resources, consider asking your career adviser to schedule a mock interview and get feedback on how to build your interviewing skills.
- Career Center Interviewing Guide
Learn about the STAR method for behavioral interviews, and see examples of common interview questions
Use this site to look up a company or positions with similar titles to learn about others’ experiences and questions you may encounter
Examples of employers who have hired Duke students interested in Government and Politics
(this is not a comprehensive list)
- Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
- The White House
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Third Way – A centrist think tank
- NC Governor's Office
- NC Justice Cent
TIP: Head to LinkedIn and check out the “Connections” tab, and select “Find Alumni.” You’ll get a visual representation of all Duke alumni on LinkedIn sorted by what they studied, where they work, and what they do now!