Public Service & Government

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” -Mahatma Gandhi


One-on-One Counseling: Select "Public Service & Government" from the Handshake appointment options.

Drop-In Hours: 1-4:30PM, Wednesdays, Clemons Library, 2nd floor 

Ready to explore careers for the common good? Use this space to get information and inspiration about industries like Nonprofits, Government (Local, State, and Federal), Lobbying, Policy, International Development, Humanitarian, Diplomacy, Intelligence and Security, Public Health and more!

Types of Organizations

Public Service and Government can cover a number of different career options, but many of the types of work associated with this career community tend to have overlapping themes. Here are types of organizations where you might conduct work in the field of Public Service and Government:

  • Nonprofits
  • NGOs
  • Think Tanks
  • Capitol Hill/Congress
  • Federal Agencies
  • Local and State Governments
  • Lobbying Firms
  • Research Institutes
  • Bridge Year Programs 

Industry Basics 

People who find themselves drawn to this field are typically motivated by a desire to give back to society and often value helping people and solving social problems.  Skills and interests that are valued in this field include

  • Serving, helping, enlightening or empowering people
  • Solving social problems
  • Advocating for others
  • Knowledge of particular social issues
  • Content knowledge of a region of the world
  • Mastery of a foreign language
  • Experience working with diverse communities
  • Work that is driven by a particular cause

If this sounds like you, one concern you might have about working in a field in Public Service and Government is your ability to make a living. Many people spend their entire career in public service and live comfortably. As with any field, though, it is important to conduct thorough research to understand salaries and benefits and to be realistic about earning potential.  Additionally, take some time to hear from UVA alumni who have committed their careers to service:

Check out these online assessment and reflection tools to better understand the kinds of roles you might play in Public Service and Government as well as the types of organizations you may want to explore. Bring your results to community drop-in hours to further discuss your ideas!

Hiring timelines for both jobs and internships vary by industry, so it’s important to get to know the timeline for your target industry.  In general, large organizations or those with more competitive opportunities will hire earlier in the academic year.  Additionally, positions that require a security clearance will recruit in the fall semester for full-time hires.  Know that for most nonprofit and public sector organizations hire internship and full-time opportunities based on immediate need. Some positions may become available in late spring/early summer, so you should continue to look for opportunities throughout the academic year and beyond. See the table below for some examples of recruiting timelines and target industries, but again, note that these are general guidelines. While it's important to start early and be aware of deadlines, your job search will and should follow its own path.

(August - November)
8 – 10 months in advance

  • Some Bridge Year Programs (e.g.Fulbright)
  • Some International Organizations
  • Intelligence and Security 
  • Other Federal Government Positions that require a Security Clearance (e.g. State Department Internship)

(December - July)
4 – 6 months in advance

  • Nonprofit Organizations
  • Research Institutes/Think Tanks
  • Federal, State and Local Governments
  • Capitol Hill 
  • Bridge Year Programs, especially those with rolling or multiple deadlines

Handshake Quick Search Links*

Discover internships and jobs recently posted by recruiters in Handshake through the links below.  *Please note that you will need to be logged into Handshake for these links to work properly. 

Get Connected

Networking is one of the most successful ways to develop your career path. Connecting with those that you admire, know, and trust can open your eyes to trends, perspectives, and opportunities in your desired career field. Some of the ways you can network include:

Virginia Alumni Mentoring Program (VAM)

Virginia Alumni Mentoring is a program that connects UVA students with alumni who have volunteered to provide insights about the process of choosing and starting a career in their field.  The program provides students and their alumni mentors a structured means of initiating a professional relationship to discuss career interests and professional preparation. Together, they develop goals for their regular meetings, during which the alumni mentors offer insights about their own undergraduate experiences, career progression, and current work, in order to support mentees in navigating their own chosen career paths.

Hannah Boehlert, Foreign Affairs and Spanish ’20

"I have used VAM throughout my time at UVA, and I have had nothing but positive experiences in which I was able to learn so much about a variety of industries. Most recently, I connected with an employee of a company of which I was in the application process. He helped me prepare for my interviews, and using his tangible advice, I was able to land the job offer — we’ll be colleagues in August, all thanks to VAM!"

Elizabeth Chung, Economics ’20, Master’s of Public Policy ’21

"After I accepted my summer internship offer, my contact on VAM made me feel so much more confident about my decision. I asked her a lot about company culture and their recent merger, as well as more personal questions — she was the greatest! I also used VAM later to see if I wanted to apply to the Master’s of Public Policy program at UVA by reaching out to alumni."


    LinkedIn is an online networking tool.  Beyond connecting to other professionals in similar fields, LinkedIn is an invaluable tool for conducting research about specific occupations or industries.  You can also use LinkedIn to learn about UVA alumni and their destinations after graduation.  

    Alumni Spotlight: Nonprofit Director

    Tamara is the Executive Director of The African American Teaching Fellows Program, a Charlottesville-based nonprofit organization focused on increasing the number of teachers of color in Charlottesville and Albemarle County schools. Tamara tells us she truly wears all the hats, from writing major grants and educating members to trips to craft stores for last-minute supplies.

    Major: Spanish (Bachelor), Teaching (Masters)
    College: University of Virginia
    City: Charlottesville
    State: Virginia

    Explore More Career Pathways 

    Watch more UVA Alumni videos on the Candid Career platform. You can also view thousands of informational video interviews featuring industry professionals from around the country working in a variety of industries.  

    Inspirational Alumni Stories: 

    More to Explore

    Drop-In Hours: Wednesday, 1:00-4:30pm

    One-on-One Counseling: Select "Public Service & Government" from the Handshake appointment...

    Connect with alumni for insights about the process of choosing and starting a career in their specific field. 

    Schedule an appointment through Handshake, or by calling the UVA Career Center at 434-924-8900 M-F from 8 am-5 pm.