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- Roles and Work Environment
- Skills and Training
- Industry Timeline
- Find Opportunities
- Applying and Interviewing
- Additional Industry Resources
Roles and Work Environment
Federal, State and Local Government or the public sector, as it is often referred to, offer a variety of jobs and opportunities. Roles in government are similar to the nonprofit and private sector in that many job titles that exist in these sectors also exist in government. What differentiates the public sector is that some positions within government are elected or appointment by someone in a leadership role. Below is a sampling of roles you might find:
Examples of Federal, State and Local Government Jobs:
- Administration and Program Management Specialist
- Budget Technician
- City Manager
- Contract Specialist
- Environmental Engineer
- Health Educator
- Human Resources Assistant
- Public Affairs Specialist
- Recreation Center Manager
- Safety and Occupational Health Specialist
- Volunteer Administrator
Want information about working on Capitol Hill or campaigns? Check out Politics, Policy and Lobbying.
Below is a list of a few departments and agencies where you might find opportunities. For a more extended list, check out our resources section below.
Examples of Federal Departments and Agencies:
- Bureau of the Census
- Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- Justice Department (DOJ)
- U.S. Commision of Fine Arts
- Check out USA.gov’s searchable database of all Federal Departments and Agencies or GoGovernment.org which houses career guides by fields within the federal government.
Examples of State Departments and Agencies in Virginia:
- Department of Education
- Department of Emergency Management
- Secretary of Health and Human Resources
- State Board of Elections
- Check out USA.gov’s searchable database of all State Agencies. Type in the name of a state and learn more!
Examples of Local Departments and Agencies:
- Community Development
- Economic Development and Tourism
- Facilities and Environmental Services
- Parks and Recreation
- Check out USA.gov’s searchable database of all Local Governments. Select a state and learn more!
Skills and Training
Because of the diversity of roles that exist in government, it is important to think not only about why you wish to work in government but also what you hope your function or role to be in government as it will help you to identify what kinds of training to pursue or skills to develop. Employees in government represent a wide variety of disciplines from an even broader mix of academic backgrounds and experience. Therefore, we do not recommend one academic track over another in general. Overall, organizations advise that you do your best in all your academic pursuits.
Examples of coursework relevant to a career in government:
- Politics and Policy
- Data Science
- Computer Science
- Public Health
- Foreign Languages
- Courses that emphasize writing like Philosophy or English
Examples of places to develop your skills or research graduate programs for government jobs:
- GoGovernment.org has career guides which serve as an excellent tool to explore careers in federal government by field.
- GovLoop is a great resource and information sharing social network for and about government. It provides opportunities to learn about career opportunities, trainings, and resources to help you explore and see innovations in the public sector at all levels.
- Master’s degrees are not required for entry-level jobs in government, but it may be something you want to pursue later in your career. Some programs you might consider include Public Policy, Public Affairs and Public Administration.
Many opportunities in the federal government that require a security clearance and background check will recruit in the fall or sometimes for full-time, a full year in advance. Timelines vary for state and local government opportunities, but overall most federal, state and local governments normally hire interns and full-time employees based on immediate needs. The average length of time from application to offer for federal positions that do not require a security clearance is between 90-100 days. Thus, for May graduates many positions may become available in late spring/early summer, so you should continue to look for opportunities throughout the academic year and beyond. Review the Public Service and Government Community page for examples of recruiting timelines of PSG industries.
Background Checks & Security Clearances
Background checks and security clearances are required for some government positions. Making yourself aware of the specifics that go into clearing these checks, and the various levels of clearance required, is important to help you as progress through your educational career and plan to embark on one of these careers.
- Background Checks & Security Clearances for Federal Jobs
- General Security Clearance Facts
- Intelligence Community
- Military and Civilian Positions with Military
- U.S. Department of State
These are great resources to serve as a broad overview of the background check and security clearance process. Researching the specific criteria or requirements for any position early is vital to ensure that you are prepared and qualified to pass the background check and security clearance processes - you don't want to miss out on an amazing opportunity because you started too late or can't get the right kind of clearance.
One of the best ways to gain experience in this industry is through volunteer work in the community, exploring service learning opportunities in the classroom, and involvement through student organizations. Below are some ideas for how to find these opportunities on Grounds and within the Charlottesville community:
- Public Service at UVA - Learning in Action: Get connected to the “front door to public service” at the University to find ways to integrate your classroom experience with your interest in service, search UVA student organizations by issues of interest, find volunteer opportunities, and learn the timeline of when major PSG events and programs happen at UVA. You can also sign-up for a monthly newsletter.
- Consider volunteering in the community with a local government office or political party.
- Student councils are a great place learn what it is like to represent the needs and interests of fellow students, strengthen college identity, plan a variety of events, foster faculty-student relations, and connect with alumni. Explore the options below and consider running for office:
- These are institutes that seek to expand understanding of the presidency, policy, and political history, providing critical insights for the nation’s governance challenges. These centers regularly sponsor conferences on important issues, and host public debate series to present substantive policy discussions to educate and help elevate public discussion. Many also offer internships for undergraduate students.
- AvueCentral (Commercial site that manages recruitment, resumes and announcements for 14 government agencies)
- Brad Traverse Jobs and Internships (DC focused opportunities; $10 registration and $5/month fee)
- Careers in Government
- Government Jobs
- Federal Jobs Digest
- Opportunities in Public Affairs (Access through your Handshake account)
- The White House Internship Program
- Tom Mantos Jobs
- Virginia State Government Career Opportunities and Internships
- Daybook: Jobs and internship opportunities in Public Policy, Government Relations, Public Affairs, Political Campaigns, Non-Profit, Law, Communications, and Foreign Affairs. Once registered for a free account, you will be able to view current opportunities and apply directly through the site.
Applying and Interviewing
Resumes and Cover Letters
First impressions are critical in the job search. Developing and executing the best documents possible will help to ensure that you put your best foot forward and increase the likelihood of progressing to an interview. Make sure to check out the Resumes and Cover Letters sections of the website for helpful advice and sample resumes and cover letters.
The Federal Resume is required for many positions in the federal government. Many government agencies utilize the platform usajobs.gov to post their opportunities. This website will allow you to create an account and within your account you can utilize their resume building tool to create your federal resume. For specific information on how to write federal resumes, check out the resources below.
- What should you include in your Federal Resume?
- Make Your Volunteer Experience Count on Your Resume and other Videos!
- Creating Your Federal Resume and Samples
- Federal Resume Guide
- Sample Federal Resume (look for the resume titled "Ellen Oscar")
The Insiders Guide to the Federal Resume & USAJobs.gov
Pro tip: Additionally, use the resume building tool within your usajobs.gov account to create a resume. Then print a copy of this resume and bring it to the Career Center to be reviewed by a counselor.
If you have never interviewed before, make sure to check out the Interviewing section of our website. Interviewing with the federal government has a lot of similarities to interviewing with any industry, but there are some unique aspects that you want to make sure to expect. You can also conduct a mock interview with a career counselor for practice. Most interviews will contain some mixture of questions about your past experiences (resume-based) and your ability to handle typical workplace situations (behavioral). For full-time positions, depending on the size of the organization, you should expect to start with a 20-30 minute phone or virtual (e.g., Skype, Google Hangout) screening interview, then a longer virtual or in-person final interview. A thank you letter should be written after every interview with an employer. Send the note by email within 24 hours after the interview.
Many federal, state and local government opportunities will also post hiring ranges which will give you a sense of what to expect:
- Federal Government Pay & Leave Information
- Foreign Service Pay Chart
- Virginia State Government Salary Structure
Additional Industry Resources
Blogs and Industry Research
- Check out the VAULT Guides (accessible through Handshake) for detailed information on specific industries. The following guides may be of interest to you:
- Vault Career Guide to Government Agency Careers
- Vault Career Guide to Park and Public Land Jobs
- Vault Career Guide to Defense Jobs
- Vault Career Guide to Government Jobs
- Vault Career Guide to U.S. Military Careers
- A Guide to Acing Your Internship on Capitol Hill
- Federal News Radio
- Indian Affairs (U.S. Department of Interior)
- Partnership for Public Service
- Roll Call: The Source for News on Capitol Hill
- USA.gov (All Federal Agencies)
- US State Governments
- US Local Governments
- Diversity & Inclusion Resources - Federal Government
- Diversity & Inclusion - U.S. Department of State
- American Federation of Government Employees
- American Society for Public Administration
- Council of State Governments
- International City/County Management Association
- National Association of Counties
- National Conference of State Legislatures
- National Congress of American Indians
- National Governors Association
- National League of Cities
- State and Local Government on the Net
- Young Government Leaders