Department of State: Internship Applications for Summer 2014


The State Department has opened its application season for internships — domestic and foreign — for Summer 2014.  As I’ve said before, an internship at an embassy abroad is the best way to see if you really do want to work as an FSO.  You will have 10 weeks serving in a various capacities in a foreign mission, frequently in a developing country.

When I was DCM in Uganda, we had excellent interns during my three years there, including some who went on to join the Foreign Service, the Civil Service working in the State Department as well as overseas development NGOs.

In Kampala, we treated the interns as if they were officers, well, because they were officers.  No joke.  We were typically shorthanded over the summer — transfer season and R&R trips — so we relied the interns to fill the vacant positions.  Most served in the political and economic sections, but we did have some in the consular, public diplomacy and management sections.  

We also put the interns up in embassy housing which was open awaiting new officers or those gone for the summer.  This helped to defray the costs for the interns.

Why defray the costs? Because these are unpaid internships for undergraduate and graduate students.  These days, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding unpaid internships, likening them to slavery, but if you’re serious about the Foreign Service or Civil Service you reall should take part in this program, which the Department correctly points out is the only way for an undergraduate or graduate student to work in a U.S. Mission abroad.

About half of those accepted serve in Washington, DC or other cities around the country and the other 50% serve at embassies or consulates overseas.

All travel expenses, e.g., airfare, visa, passport, etc., are borne by the intern.

There are a bunch of requirements — at least a 2.5 GPA, for instance — and you can find instructions here.

You must complete the online application on the USAJOBS website and in addition to your biographical and education data complete the following:

• Select up to two (2) bureaus or posts abroad
• Specify a country or countries
• Include a well-written Statement of Interest
• Provide all required documents

NOTE: A couple of words of advice

— if you want to go overseas as an intern, pick a larger post abroad so you can be sure they’ll have empty slots to fill (Not all missions host interns every year).  In Africa, for instance, I’d recommend picking Ghana or Senegal over Togo, Kenya or Uganda over Burundi.

— if you speak or are studying a foreign language, put it on your application.  If you have an interest in a country or region, put it on your application and weave it into your statement of interest.  (On writing, remember no boring, stuffy academic writing in your statement, go for active voice, power verbs, clarity and succinctness.)

FINALLY AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, file for your security clearance ASAP.  too many students get tripped up here.  You need a security clearance and that process takes months.  You need to be able to handle documents and information classified at the SECRET and CONFIDENTIAL levels.

Good luck, and as always let me know if you have any questions in the comment box.

















  1. I did a summer internship at the State Department this past summer and it was an amazing experience. I worked at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in the Consular Training Office. My supervisors are current FSO’s so it was great being able to pick their brain about the Service.

    A down-side of the internship is that it’s unpaid and you are responsible for your expenses but the experience is invaluable. So if you know you want to apply for an internship ahead of time, start saving so that surviving 10 weeks without pay is possible.

    • Tatiana–

      I agree that an internship at Main State is invaluable, if you have a desire to work on foreign affairs for the USG — either as an FSO or a Civil Service Foreign Area Officer. But the Washington area is not cheap. Look into sharing a place for the time you’re working at State and stock up on the Ramen Noodles… Seriously, an unpaid (or a paid) internship will help you decide whether the State Department is a good career move for you. If it is, the internship will help you prepare for the Foreign Service Exam as well as put you in a great position to snag any civil service jobs that come up. Regardless of how you want to work at State, start developing a network of contacts — Foreign Service and Civil Service. It’ll pay off regardless of the route you choose.

      Good luck,


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