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Public Service Careers

Industry Advisor: Andrew MartinDo you have a passion for serving your country and the public? Do you have an interest in making the world a better place? Your influence can be made at the federal, state, or local level as well as with think tanks, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private, for-profit and nonprofit organizations. There are a number of different industries represented in public service such as Administration & Program Management, Biological & Environmental Sciences, Business & Finance, Creative Arts, Education, Engineering, Information Technology & Computer Science, Legal, Mathematics, Medical & Public Health, Security & Protection, Social Sciences, Transportation, and International Development. Public service professionals are considered “change agents” as they make their mark on domestic and/or international issues. Where do you want to make your biggest impact?

Examples of these fields include:

*Note: These links take you to Firsthand career guides. You will need to login with your W&M credentials in order to access the resources for free.

Career Center Resources in Public Service Careers
Public Service Careers Newsletter

The Public Service Careers Newsletter is a bi-monthly publication and a great resource for students who want to make a difference in the world. This newsletter offers articles written by W&M students who are pursuing a public service career, announcements on industry events and programs, resources for students exploring careers in public service, job and internship opportunities, and much more. To sign up to receive this newsletter, log in to TribeCareers. Click on the circle on the top right of the page, then My Account, then Industry Newsletters/Career Interests and update your Industry Newsletters section by checking the box next to all of the newsletters you'd like to receive.

Events & Programs

Public service events and programs are scheduled throughout the fall and spring semesters. You can stay informed of all that is happening in this industry through TribeCareers, the Public Service Careers Industry Newsletter, and/or from your professors. Examples of activities related to this industry include:

  • A Day in DC: Every year, during fall break, the Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement arranges a series of site visits to the workplaces of W&M alumni who are working at federal agencies, think tanks, public sector consulting firms, and nonprofit organizations. This experience is a great way to discover what it is like to work in these organizations and to ask questions about pursuing various career pathways in Washington D.C.
  • Georgetown University's Government, Education and Nonprofit Career Fair: A consortium of career centers at 12 Colleges and Universities helps plan and coordinate the virtual Government, Education, and Nonprofit Career Fair  each year. This fair occurs during the spring semester and includes government, education, and nonprofit employers in northern and mid-Atlantic states. You can connect and network with these employers who are offering full time, part time, and internship opportunities.
  • William & Mary Global Innovation Challenge: WMGIC is the premier intercollegiate hack-a-thon style international and sustainable development case competition aimed at encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration to create innovative solutions to current global issues. Occurring in the spring semester, teams are formed from participating universities and choose among four streams of problem solving: governance, social entrepreneurship, technology, and business consulting. Teams then create interdisciplinary and innovative solutions within their stream. The top four teams are chosen as finalists and give a presentation to be considered for cash prizes.
  • Meet Ups: Meet Ups are informal industry specific career chats with alumni working in various sectors who talk with students and highlight their background, career pathway, industry trends, day in the life, and offer advice for breaking into the field. These chats occur at different times during the fall and spring semesters. Some examples of past Meet Ups have featured alumni in the CIA, Foreign Service, mayorship, journalism, agriculture, and much more.
  • Information Sessions: Information sessions are generally employer-led and provide an overview of the employer’s work, including their recruitment timelines and available roles, internship opportunities, skills they look for in potential candidates, and the overall hiring process. They are scheduled throughout the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Examples of previous information sessions include the Peace Corps, Deloitte, Accenture, Department of Homeland Security, and Central Intelligence Agency. Sign into TribeCareers and click on Events, then Information Sessions to see the current schedule.
  • Panel Discussions: Panel discussions are scheduled throughout the fall and spring semesters and are based on an industry topic from a panel of alumni and other professionals working in the field. These discussions are led by a moderator who may have a list of prepared questions but who also take questions from the participants. Examples of previous panel discussions include Careers in Foreign Service, Careers in Public Policy, Careers in Public Health, and Careers in National Security.
  • Workshops: General workshops are scheduled throughout the fall and spring semesters. These workshops are called Crash Courses. Crash Courses introduce you to a career management topic such as federal resumes, standard resumes and cover letters, job search strategies, networking, and more to build your skills and confidence. From time to time, we deliver workshops in the classroom as they are requested by professors and based on a career development topic.
Internship Opportunities

There are hundreds of internship opportunities for students interested in Public Service. The Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement has an internship blackboard site for students that includes a list of employers where students from William & Mary have interned before, industry specific internship resources, and a list of current opportunities. Email [[lrandolph,Lisa Randolph]] if you would like to be added to the Blackboard site. There is also a list of internship databases where you can search for opportunities on external sites. TribeCareers is another great place to search for existing opportunities. You will want to pay close attention to all deadlines and eligibility requirements. Many opportunities in this industry are available during the summer, fall, and spring semesters.

Potential Majors

Many public service sectors recruit college graduates from all types of majors and backgrounds. Some majors that students pursue who have an interest in working in public service include:

What Can I Do With This Major?: Use this resource to see how a major can connect to different career paths.

Special Topics
  • Federal Resume: If you plan to apply for a job or internship with the federal government, you will need to have a federal resume. A federal resume is different than a standard resume, as it contains required experience details and is between three to five pages in length. The Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement offers a Federal Resume Crash Course several times during the academic year. You can RSVP to the next offered Federal Resume Crash Course by logging into Tribe Careers and looking under Events, then Workshops, or you can watch a short video clinic on federal resumes. Check out our Federal Resume Checklist and sample resume. Another option is to use the resume builder found in the USAJOBS application portal.
  • USAJOBS: USAJOBS is the United States Government online job board where over 150 federal departments and agencies post civil service job and internship opportunities. As a part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), USAJOBS helps recruit and retain a federal workforce.
  • Security Clearance: A security clearance is a status that is granted to specific positions that work as federal and contract employees. These clearances allow employees to have access to classified information and/or to restricted areas. There are three types of security clearances given to certain positions: Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret. It may take a minimum of 90 days to one year to receive a security clearance, depending on your role and type of clearance you need. Examples of agencies that may require higher levels of clearance are:
    • Intelligence community (e.g., Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency)
    • Federal law enforcement agencies (e.g., Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Naval Criminal Investigative Services)
    • Diplomatic agencies (e.g., State Department, United States Agency for International Development)
    • Civilian military agencies (e.g., Defense Intelligence Agency, Defense Security Service)
  • Green Careers: A green career is any position that attempts to make the world more sustainable. Backgrounds in sustainability and the environment may foster economic success in the future. This passion can be applied through a variety of sectors including nonprofit, government, and private industry. The green careers field is growing in an effort to continue to make the world a safe place.
Recruiting Timelines & Breaking into Professional Roles

Many employment opportunities with the federal, state, and local government, think tanks, NGOs, and nonprofit organizations hire full-time employees based on their immediate needs year-round. However, there are a few sectors such as intelligence, national security, and the Foreign Service that require a security clearance and begin their recruitment timeline 10 to 12 months before they expect to make a job offer. For these positions you will want to start your job search 10 to 15 months in advance. For sectors that do not require a security clearance or require a lower security clearance status, the average length of time from application to hire is 90-100 days.

For the private sector, most employers hire based on their immediate needs. Some opportunities may become available in early spring/summer, so you may want to look for opportunities throughout the year.

It can be very important to utilize networking in your job search as well, as many positions are competitive in nature. Keep in mind that it’s best to cultivate your network before you need it. Check out our networking page for more information on networking strategies.

W&M Clubs & Organizations

There are several clubs and student organizations at William & Mary that you can pursue related to the government and nonprofit sectors. Joining a student club/organization is a great way to further develop your leadership and professional skills. 

Log into TribeLink to find a full list of organizations, learn more and sign up for a club/organization that interests you. Here are just a few of the clubs and organizations you may want to explore: