Finding an Internship

finding an internship

Washington, D.C. hosts hundreds of interns every year. UC Davis students have interned at over 1,000 organizations throughout the D.C. metro area, and they’re not just on Capitol Hill. Students have interned at international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scientific and medical institutions, museums, regulatory agencies – and the list goes on. The Washington Program can help you find an internship that is of value to you, no matter what your major is. 

The most important part of the internship search process is to start strong. Make sure you know what you want to do, where you can look for positions in your field of interest, and get your experiences aligned with your interests. The following sections will detail common brainstorming tactics as well as tips on how to find the internship of your dreams. 

Steps for Finding an Internship


The internship search starts with YOU!

In order to effectively conduct an internship search, you need to first think broadly about what career fields interest you and what you hope to achieve during your time in Washington D.C.

  • Start by listing up to 5 broad career fields you are intrigued by.
  • Next, compile a list of skills that you are hoping to practice or develop in your internship.
  • Lastly, consider what type of organizations would you consider working for.
Know Your Responsibilities and Expectations as an Intern

Internship Responsibilities

Interns carry a variety of responsibilities, including researching, writing, attending, and reporting on congressional hearings. Furthermore, students may be responsible for general office organization and upkeep, database management, meeting attendance and note taking, and much more. The most successful interns are competent at working individually or in group settings, and are committed to learning as much as possible from the experience.


Students working for academic credit typically work three to four days a week (24-32 hours) during the school year, and 4 to 5 days a week (32-40 hours) during the Summer session. Students interning during the Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters are expected to complete academic and research obligations in the form of the required 4 credit research seminar. Summer students are not obligated to take courses or receive academic credit for their internships.

Most internships are unpaid. Any stipend or other financial agreements are the responsibility of the student to negotiate with the internship supervisor.

Beginning Your Search

Finding Potential Internships

  1. What internships are available in your field of interest? 
  2. What are your goals after graduation and what type of internship will give you valuable experience in that field?
  3. If you do not know exactly what you want to do after you graduate, think about a career path that you would like to "test drive" as an internship experience.
  4. How competitive are the internship positions you are interested in, based on their popularity and application restrictions?
  5. Check out where people with your major/interests have interned or check out our Programs by Major page.
  6. Check for eligibility requirements and early deadlines. Some government offices require US citizenship (e.g. White House, State Department, Congress, U.S. Attorney's Office, etc.)


  • Start searching early. Some internship deadlines may be early in the quarter, keep an eye out if these interest you.
  • Look at the language of your “favorite” organization/internship descriptions; are there any key words that you can use to help you search for similar opportunities?
  • Apply to a variety of internships including smaller organizations, often times they can provide a more engaging internship experience.
  • Search in the metro area beyond DC.
  • Do not be discouraged if they do not list an internship for quarter students or an internship for the quarter you are going to DC. You should email them, using our email templates in professional correspondence, to see whether they would be interested in an intern for the time you are in DC.
  • Come into drop-in advising or make an appointment for personalized guidance with your internship search.
  • Keep your advisor updated with interview offers, special requirements, denials and your application status. Fill out this form weekly to keep us in the loop.

Internships with Early Deadlines

Because of criteria such as security clearance and background checks, some internship deadlines occur before the Washington Program deadlines. These organizations include the Department of State, Department of Defense, and the White House.

Search Engines

Most research can be completed using Google, internship search engines, and organization websites, though you may have to call or email the organization to learn more about the internship.

Other Campus Databases
Applying to Internships

Documenting the Process

Keeping track of where and when you are applying will make your internship application experience much easier to manage. Make sure to keep a detailed list of positions, organizations, deadlines, materials needed, and date submitted to make corresponding with multiple organizations more organized. You can use our internship search log to help document your experience over time. 

Compiling Your Application

Brief Instructions

    1. Save all of your documents in PDF format. It is unprofessional to send an editable document.
    2. Your name should always be in the document title. This makes it easy for the reviewer to find your materials.
      1. An example: Last, First – Resume UCDC
    3. Email is always the preferred way to send applications. When attaching your internship application document to an email, use our template

For more details, refer to the Compiling Your Application page.

Professional Correspondence

It is extremely important to remain professional throughout your communications with all organizations. For more details and email templates, refer to the Professional Correspondence page.


Most organizations will desire to have a phone interview with potential candidates for the internship position. For tips and possible situations, refer to the Interview Skills page.

Securing Your Internship

Thank the Organization

Do not forget to thank the organization that has accepted you to be their intern. It is important to communicate with the internship coordinator as to the days you can work, take into consideration what day your class is on. Also, do not forget to ask about office hours and dress code