Defining and finding federal internships

Are you a current student looking for some work experience in the federal government? If so, the information in this post could save you a lot of time when searching for a federal internship.

Federal internships: two important acronyms

Before we talk about ways to find student employment, we need to define the federal internships that are available to you. There are two major internship programs for current students found across federal agencies:

  • Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP): STEP internships are great for students looking to get some work experience in a professional office setting. These internships can last as little as one summer or as long as the duration of your college career. The work does not have to be related to your field of study. STEP positions are almost always paid.
  • Student Career Experience Program (SCEP): For students wanting more exposure to their desired professional field, SCEP positions are a perfect option. These internships allow you to gain experience working for the government in a job related to your field of study. Most positions are paid and some also provide academic credit towards your degree.

And, if you have the ability to work for free and would like to get some experience working in a federal agency, you might consider doing a volunteer internship. Given their limited budgets, agencies are almost always willing to bring on volunteers to assist with their programs.

Now that we know what positions to look for, let’s talk about where to find internships in federal agencies.


Your first step in finding student positions in federal agencies might be to visit the student page on USAJobs. This website offers some additional information about STEP, SCEP and volunteer positions and also allows you to do a search for internships. Student opportunities that are currently available will appear in your search.

If you find internships of interest to you on USAJobs, follow the “How to Apply” instructions in the announcement to ensure that you submit all of your materials properly.

Agency websites

USAJobs might be the first place you look, but it shouldn’t be the only one. Agency websites are also a great resource to find even more student employment opportunities. Information about available internships is most often found on the agency’s Careers page.

The key to successfully finding internships on agency websites is to narrow your focus. This means that you’ll need to come up with a short list of 5-10 agencies that you would want to work for. To do this, visit and read through the list of Executive Branch agencies, taking note of those that interest you. Once your short list of agencies has been created, focus on visiting those websites to see what is available and how to apply. You can also contact the agency’s Human Resources office to see if internships are currently being offered.

Interested in learning more?

You can start by attending the “Your Path to Student Employment” panel discussion on Tuesday, October 26 at 4:45pm here at AU. And of course, make an appointment with your Career Advisor to talk about finding and applying for specific positions.