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Federal job and internship search

Advising on federal search

  • Some elements of searching for a federal government internship or post-graduation job are the same as doing so in the private sector. Some elements are quite different. We welcome you to seek our advising.
  • We advise both undergraduate and graduate students.
  • To make an advising appointment to meet with a trained federal job search advisor, either:

Trained federal job search advisors in Career and Professional Development:

photo of Leigh Anne Byrd
Leigh Anne Byrd, trained federal job search advisor
Heidi Thuesen Gilbert
Heidi Gilbert, trained federal job search advisor
photo of Jen Heinold
Jen Heinold, trained federal job search advisor
photo of Suzanne Shelburne
Suzanne Shelburne, trained federal job search advisor
photo of Julia Ward
Julia Ward, trained federal job search advisor

Exploring federal internships and careers

Federal jobs by college degree and interests

Federal occupations by college degree []

  • List of federal occupations that are organized by specific college degrees.
  • Each occupation listed also includes a four-digit series code that can be used to search for job opportunities on USAJobs.
  • Search this list of occupations for your degree or codes for career fields of interest.

Career guides. []

  • Explore federal opportunities in a wide variety of career fields.
  • Learn top agencies hiring for different career interests and series codes (4-digit numbers) that can be used to search for jobs on

Best Places to Work in the Federal Government

  • Explore federal agencies rated “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service and Boston Consulting Group.
  • Search by agency size or categories such as pay, support for diversity, and more.

List of General Schedule (GS) Government Job Series [Published by]

  • Non-governmental portal, built by federal employees, that includes job descriptions, agencies, and pay distribution by series code.

Handbook of Occupational Groups and Families [ Office of Personnel Management]

  • Provides a more in-depth glossary of information related to the various types of series codes that correspond to each family and group of occupations found within the federal government.
  • Learn how to use the Handbook of Occupational Groups and Families to identify federal jobs of interest, including a four-digit series code that can be used to search for federal jobs and internships on

U.S. federal agencies

Federal jobs are located across the United States and abroad. In 2022, almost 85% of federal jobs were located outside of the Washington. D.C.. area, and over 50,000 federal employees worked abroad. (Source Partnership for Public Service,

A-Z index of U.S. government departments and agencies on

  • Identify high level information about the different U.S. government departments and agencies.
  • View contact information for U.S. federal agencies and departments including websites, email addresses, and more.

U.S. Intelligence Community Careers Job Exploration Tool

  • Learn about careers in the Intelligence Community that might connect with your experiences and interests.

Legislative branch opportunities

In the United States, the federal government is divided into three branches, legislative, executive, and judicial, as outlined in the U.S. Constitution to ensure a separation of powers. Each branch of the government offers employment opportunities for both students seeking internships and those seeking full-time employment.

The legislative branch consists of Congress, which has two parts, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as agencies and offices that provide support for Congress.

What does the legislative branch do?

  • Drafts proposed laws
  • Confirms or rejects presidential nominations for prestigious positions in the federal government, such as heads of federal agencies, federal judges, and the Supreme Court
  • Holds the power to declare war
  • Learn more about the two parts of Congress:
  • The House Explained (House of Representatives)
  • The Legislative Process Overview

Types of opportunities

Students interested in working in the legislative branch may find opportunities working in congressional offices in Washington, D.C., or the member’s home state, with Congressional committees, or with other internal support offices.

These opportunities are typically hired directly through offices of interest. Learn more about the legislative hiring process in Finding Opportunities, below.

Sources: Branches of the U.S. Government, USA.Gov

Executive branch opportunites

In the United States, the federal government is divided into three branches, legislative, executive, and judicial, as outlined in the U.S. Constitution to ensure a separation of powers. Each branch of the government offers employment opportunities for both students seeking internships and those seeking full-time employment.

The executive branch consists of the president, vice president, the cabinet, executive departments, independent agencies, in addition to a series of boards, commissions and committees.

Fifteen executive departments in the executive branch

Image obtained from the Partnership for Public Service Federal Advisor Certificate Program. Departments are: Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health & Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing & Urban Development. Department of the Interior, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of Transportation, Department of the Treasury, Department of Veterans Affairs.

In total, there are 430 places that employ 2.1 million workers (not including the military) in the executive branch including sub-agencies, bureaus, independent agencies, commissions, boards, committees, and quasi-official agencies. (Source: Partnership for Public Service, June 2023)

Types of opportunities

Students interested in working in the executive branch commonly work within a federal agency that reports to one of the 15 executive departments.

Most jobs and internships within the executive branch will be posted on However, there are some exceptions, such as intelligence agencies, who only post their positions on their agency website. Learn more about the executive branch hiring process in Finding Opportunities, below.

Judicial branch opportunities

In the United States, the federal government is divided into three branches, legislative, executive, and judicial, as outlined in the U.S. Constitution to ensure a separation of powers. Each branch of the government offers employment opportunities for both students seeking internships and those seeking full-time employment.

The Supreme Court and other federal courts make up the Judicial branch. This branch interprets laws, applies laws to individual cases, and decides if laws violate the Constitution.

Source: Branches of the U.S. Government,

Types of opportunities

Students interested in working in the judicial branch can find a variety of positions connected the U.S. Courts. You can find many, but not all, opportunities within the judicial branch listed on Learn more about the judicial branch hiring process in Finding Opportunities, below.

Finding opportunities

Where federal jobs and internships are posted

By law, most federal opportunities are required to be posted on

  • Most federal jobs are required by law to be posted on You might apply directly through USAJobs or be prompted to finish your application on an agency's specific website.

Federal Internship Portal (Component of USAJobs)

  • Federal internship portal is a new component of USAJobs that pulls part-time and full-time internships for current students from the larger into a central hub. The positions are also included on the full, but students can apply directly through this portal.

Partnership for Public Service Federal Internship Finder

  • The Federal Internship Finder compiles publicly available information about opportunities with the federal government for students to help students explore different programs and plan ahead for their applications. It serves as a companion resource for USAJobs, where you can find positions that are live and open.

USAJobs Events

  • Learn about upcoming information sessions, hiring or recruitment events, and resume writing or interview training workshops with federal agencies on USAJobs Events

Excepted Service Positions

Excepted service positions have more flexibility with their hiring and are not required to post positions on USAJobs.

Programs or agencies who hire excepted service positions include:

  • Intelligence positions
  • Foreign service positions
  • Pathways positions
  • The Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF)

Learn more about other excepted services agencies with: Excepted Service Agencies resource from the Partnership for Public Service (pdf).

To find excepted service opportunities, visit the agency’s website directly or speak to recruiters for the agency directly.

The federal hiring process

There may be some variations in the federal hiring process depending on the branch of government, agency, and position. However, the general federal hiring process is outlined below.

  1. The applicant fills out their application and submits it usually on USAJobs.
  2. The application closes, and an HR professional reviews each application.
  3. Highly qualified candidates are sent to the hiring official. Often, the candidates referred to the hiring official MORE than meet the minimum requirements for the position.
  4. The hiring official decides which of the referred applicants they would like to interview.
  5. The applicant participates in the agency’s interview process.
  6. After the interviews are finished, the hiring official offers the position to the top candidate.

Each agency processes applications at a different rate. However, it is not uncommon to not hear anything for three weeks to a month after a position closes. If your application is referred, the wait time starts again before you will set-up your interview. Wait one month between steps before following-up about your application.

More information about the federal hiring process

When to contact the agency contact listed in the job announcement

  • If you have not received a response about your application 15-20 days after the position close date. Confirm your application was received and complete. When reaching out, provide the exact position title and reference number when calling or emailing.
  • If you would like more information about the position or have questions about the application.

You can track your application status through USAJobs or the agency system you use to apply. Check here first before reaching out to the agency contact.

Source: Partnership for Public Service, 2023

Navigating USAJobs

Getting started on USAJobs

Most federal internships or full-time positions are posted on USAJobs. Refer to the resources below as you get started on USAJobs.

Hiring Pathways

  • The federal government offers a variety of hiring pathways to help recruit a diverse workforce. On the USAJobs homepage, you will see the different hiring pathways. Explore each pathway to see if you might qualify.
Hiring pathways on USAJobs: Open to the public, Veterans, National Guard & reserves, Senior executives, Family of overseas employees, PeaceCorps&AmeriCorps Vista, Federal Employees, Military Spouses, Students & recent graduates, Individuals with disabilities, Native Americans, Special authorities

Understanding the General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale

Determining your GS level

The federal government classifies experience levels and pay based on the GS Scale (General Schedule Pay Scale). If you are qualifying for a position based on education alone, use the information below to determine which GS levels you might be most eligible for.

  • GS-5: Bachelor’s degree
  • GS-7: Bachelor’s degree + one of the following
    • Upper third of class (class standing)
    • Cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher OR in-major GPA at or above 3.5
    • Honor society membership
  • GS-9: Master’s degree
  • GS-11 research positions: Master’s degree or equivalent
  • GS-11 non-research positions: Doctoral degree or equivalent

Application tip: Consider applying to positions one level below your level for a competitive advantage, while still applying to positions at your level as well. (Ex. Qualify for GS-7, so apply for both GS-5 and GS-7 positions.)

Source: Partnership for Public Service, 2023

If you are interested in learning more about the federal pay scale and the General Schedule (GS) visit:

How federal agencies recruit Virginia Tech students

Posting jobs and internships on Handshake

  • Many agencies are not able to post federal jobs in Handshake due to federal hiring laws. However, there are some exceptions. If you see a federal job posted on Handshake, and the post does not redirect you to a different site, you can use your private sector resume and do not need to apply with a federal resume format.

On-Campus Interviewing Program

  • See federal agencies scheduling interviews for students on campus (On-Campus Interviewing Program) by logging into Handshake. Under “jobs” select “on-campus” to see employers currently accepting applications through On-Campus Interviewing Program. ("On-campus" does not refer to the job location; it refers to  interviews being held on campus, or virtually, and scheduled through our Career and Professional Development.)

Campus career fairs

  • Throughout the academic year, there are a variety of career fairs hosted by different departments and colleges at Virginia Tech.
  • View list of career fairs sponsored by Virginia Tech colleges, departments, and alumni association chapters. Each fair name is linked to its website with details on employers participating, which could include federal agencies. Some fairs include next-day interviews so that employers can promptly conduct interviews with students they speak with during the fair.
  • Due to hiring laws that federal agencies are required to follow, employers at fairs may require you to apply online to officially be a job candidate. However, having the opportunity to meet and interact directly with recruiter (whether through a virtual fair or in person) is a chance to learn more and stand out from other candidates.
  • When talking with representatives, seek to understand how their agency posts positions, what are the best opportunities for students or recent graduates, what is considered a strong application for their agency, and how you can stay in touch with the contact about your application.

Veterans preference

Veterans’ preference can help eligible veterans elevate their applications for federal jobs. While it does not guarantee a job, it can provide a hiring advantage for qualified veterans. A successful applicant must still demonstrate that they are qualified for the position through their application.


Students with disabilities

Find contact information for representatives (Selective Placement Program Coordinators) across the United States responsible for coordinating agency hiring initiatives for people with disabilities.

In 2010, President Obama issued an Executive Order that directed the federal government to increase their hiring of persons with disabilities for all levels and occupations. As a result, students with disabilities have access to specific programs and hiring authorities that can assist them with securing a job with the federal government. These programs are Schedule A, and Workforce Recruitment Program, described as follows:

Schedule A

The federal job application can process is often lengthy and competitive. However, federal agencies are able to use Schedule A as a process to speed up the hiring of individuals with disabilities. Schedule A does not guarantee you a job with the federal government, and it is your responsibility to ensure the hiring agency knows that you are eligible for Schedule A.

Eligibility for Schedule A

Students asking to be considered under Schedule A must:

  • Be qualified for the job you are applying to.
  • Demonstrate proof of a disability. This is simply a letter stating that you have a disability, and can come from your doctor, a licensed medical professional, a licensed rehabilitation professional, or any entity that issues or provides disability benefits. The letter does NOT need to detail your medical history or your need for accommodations.
Applying with Schedule A

Workforce Recruitment Program

The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) connects federal and private sector employers to eligible students and recent graduates with disabilities and serves as the primary pipeline for bringing new hires into the federal government. Paid summer internships and full-time positions are available.

Eligibility for WRP

Registration for WRP typically opens around the end of August and closes early October. Interviews are typically conducted late fall. After all interviews are complete, the database is sent to federal employers.

After interviewing with WRP, students should continue to apply to other opportunities outside of WRP. Employers will contact candidates directly throughout the year.

For Virginia Tech students and recent graduates who have questions about WRP, you are welcome to email Jen Heinold of Career and Professional Development.


  • By law, agencies are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants and employees with a disability, unless doing so creates an undue hardship to the agency giving all applicants an equal opportunity to compete for the job.
  • Accommodations may include changes to the interview process, responsibilities of the job, workplace access, and more.
  • In order to receive accommodations, the applicant must disclose their disability with appropriate individuals. For federal jobs, this could be the agency’s selective placement coordinator.

The OPM Shared List

  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Bender Consulting Services has a database of positions for individuals with disabilities.
  • Applications are submitted through Bender Consulting Services.
  • Applicants can also email for more information about opportunities.

Federal opportunities for Native Americans

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), within the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Indian Health Service (IHS), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are authorized to use “Indian Preference” to help qualified Native American candidates fill vacancies.

Students utilizing Indian Preference must submit Form BIA4432 Verification of Indian Preference with their application. If there are not candidates who qualify for "Indian Preference," consideration for the position will be given to non-Native American applicants.

Applicants can identify positions that are eligible for “Indian Preference” by selecting the Native Americans filter on USAJobs.

Native students can also connect with the Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE), a 501c non-profit organization that promotes the recruitment, retention, equal treatment, and advancement of American Indian and Alaska Native Federal, Tribal, State, and local government employees.

Additional Resources About Indian Preference

Source: Partnership for Public Service

The Pathways Program

The federal government offers a variety of internships for current students, and career development opportunities for recent graduates.

The Pathways program has three components

  1. Pathways Internship Program
  2. Pathways Recent Graduate Program
  3. Pathways Presidential Management Fellows Program

Third-party internships and fellowships

Some federal agencies hire interns using third-party internship programs. For these programs, the third-party works with federal agencies to identify internship positions. Students apply directly through the third-party internship program. For most programs, students will be able to see available internship positions and apply for specific positions. However, there may be programs where students are only able to view the opportunities once they are admitted into the program.

The third-party internship programs below are free for students to apply. Virginia Tech does not endorse any sites offering fee-based services.

Legislative branch jobs, internships, and other opportunites

Students interested in the legislative branch work many different places including:

Finding legislative branch opportunities

  • Contact offices of interest directly
  • Apply on the Congressional member’s website
  • Search a Congressional member’s name and internships

A few things to consider

  • Many Congressional offices hire one to three months before the start of the internship.
  • Congressional offices prefer to work with students from their state, but you can apply with other offices that align better with your beliefs. Try reaching out to a representative from your home or school district.
  • While opportunities with federal agencies are generally limited for international students, some Congressional offices allow international students to work with them.

Applying to opportunities on the Hill

  • Before applying, remember that most internships on the Hill are either for a Democratic or Republican member of Congress. It is important to be comfortable with the ideology of the specific member before applying.
  • Many congressional offices have expanded access to opportunities by offering stipends or hourly wages for interns.
  • Consider conducting informational interviews with people working in Congressional offices or committees of interest to help you stand out from other applicants and learn more about working on the Hill.
  • Internships can lead to full-time congressional staffer positions. Many congressional staffers started their careers as interns. In most congressional offices, the entry-level position is “staff assistant.”

Executive branch jobs, internships and other opportunities

Most jobs and internships within the executive branch will be posted on However, there are some exceptions, such as intelligence agencies, who only post their positions on their agency website. Agency specific websites include:

Additional opportunities in the executive branch

Judicial branch jobs, internships and other opportunities

You can find many, but not all, opportunities within the judicial branch listed on

Opportunities in the judicial branch

Federal resumes and interviews

Creating your federal resume

Federal resumes are often longer than industry resumes and can include additional information and unique formatting. Not all agencies use the same format, so it can be helpful to speak with a recruiter from a specific agency or pay close attention to the application requirements. Some agencies provide agency-specific resume guides to explain what they expect from an applicant’s resume. These guides can often be found under the “how to apply” section of the agency website.

When creating your federal resume

Tailoring your resume for each position significantly improves your chances of being considered "best qualified," and referred on to a hiring manager. For positions posted on USAJobs, make sure the Duties, How You Will Be Evaluated, and Questionnaire sections are represented on your resume. Because you will be making changes for each position, do not forget to proofread for any errors!

Be sure to quantify your experiences, and include months and years in your dates. Your resume can determine where you fall on the pay scale, and HR professionals cannot assume things about your experience.

Formatting your experience section

Your bullet points allow you to highlight your knowledge, skills, and accomplishments, and help the person reviewing your resume determine if you meet (or surpass) the minimum qualifications. You can use bullet points in other sections as well, such as leadership and activities. There are two formats you can use when describing your experience; both are acceptable.

  • Narrative format: Includes three to five skills with a series of well-written “bullet points” relating to that skill in a small paragraph.
    An example is:
    CUSTOMER SERVICE: Provide fast-paced quality customer service in a high-volume retail store. Sell an average of $1,000 of merchandise per shift.
  • Bullet point format: The foundation of a strong bullet point is the same on any resume, but on federal resumes they are often more detailed. If you choose a bullet point format, make sure to be thorough, quantify as much as possible, and focus on knowledge, skills, and accomplishments.
    An example is:
    • Provide fast-paced quality customer service in a high-volume retail store
    • Sell an average of $1000 of merchandise per shift by providing a positive shopping experience and anticipating customer needs

Should I use the resume builder on USAJobs?

The resume builder can be a helpful tool to ensure you include all required information, which is notated with a star*. You are able to copy and paste your resume builder version into Word to make it easier to make minor adjustments as needed. Occasionally, you will see positions that require you to submit a resume using the resume builder.

Additional resources

Source: Partnership for Public Service, Federal Advisor Certificate Program

Sample federal resumes

The following are a few resume samples from Virginia Tech students who have obtained a federal internship or job, and are published with permission (and without names).

PDF versions will open in a new window.
Docx versions will download.

  • SAMPLE 1: Traditional federal resume format - sample created to highlight many different experiences students may include:
    pdf version
    docx version
  • SAMPLE 2: Hybrid format, undergraduate student hired for full-time position:
    pdf version
    docx version
  • SAMPLE 3: Intelligence agency-focused resume format, undergraduate student hired for full-time position:
    pdf version
    docx version
  • SAMPLE 4: Traditional federal resume format, graduate student hired for full-time position:
    pdf version
    docx version

Questionaires and transcripts


Many positions require you to fill out a questionnaire. Questionnaires are used to validate the information you include in your resume. If your resume does not support your answers on the questionnaire, your “questionnaire score” will be adjusted.

  • Preview the questionnaire while you are updating your resume for a specific position to make sure that you clearly support all of your questionnaire answers.
  • Be honest AND think broadly about experiences that might demonstrate the skills mentioned in the questionnaire.
  • Under-representing your experience can cause you to be “not qualified.”
  • Over-representing your experiences can disqualify you.

For entry level positions, the questions are often straightforward and focus on transferable or foundational skills. As you gain more expertise in your field, the questionnaires often become more field specific or technical in nature.

Additionally, many agencies are currently shifting from a self-select questionnaire to an assessment style approach, which better demonstrates an applicant’s skills.

Unofficial transcripts

Most federal positions will ask for an unofficial transcript. Make sure to read what needs to be included on the unofficial transcript you submit. If the position requires your uploaded transcript to include the University name, you will need to request an official transcript to upload instead. At this time, our unofficial transcripts do not say Virginia Tech. If in doubt and time allows, we recommend uploading a copy of your official transcript.

For more information about Virginia Tech official and unofficial transcripts visit Virginia Tech Transcript Requests.

Source: Partnership for Public Service, 2023

Preparing for federal interviews

There are many similarities between a good federal interview and a good industry interview. Visit our interviewing section of Career Quick Start to build your interviewing skills.

Resources to prepare for federal interviews

Disclosing a disability

Disclosing a disability is a personal decision that the applicant must make for themselves. It is illegal for an interviewer to ask questions about their disability, even if they have applied through Schedule A. The interviewer will ask questions about a candidate’s qualifications and how they can perform the essential functions of the job. (Partnership for Public Service)

Learn more about federal opportunities for students with disabilities within the Finding Opportunities section, above.

Security clearances and job offer negotiation

Security clearances

What is a security clearance?

  • Many jobs in the federal government require some sort of security clearance for employees once they are hired.
  • A security clearance is a license issued by the government to authorize an employee to handle classified or top secret information that relates to national security.

How long does the security clearance process take?

  • The entire security clearance process can take from a number of months to longer than one year, depending on the level of clearance and other factors.

Initiating a security clearance process

  • You can only get a security clearance by being hired by the government, hired by the military, or hired by a government contractor. A student cannot initiate this process in advance.
  • Once hired, the employer will begin the clearance process by submitting paperwork to the Defense Security Service where a background check is initiated on the employee.

Security clearance process overview

  • After you submit your security clearance paperwork, the federal government will verify all information provided. The security clearance process might also include
    • Citizenship verification
    • Fingerprinting
    • A National Security Questionnaire
    • Credit checks
    • Medical record checks
    • Investigation to check for illegal drug use
    • Conversations with family and friends with the possibility for additional questions for those who have relationships with foreign citizens.
    • Interview with prospective employee
    • Polygraph (for very high level clearances)
  • Upon completion of the investigation process, a clearance is either granted or denied.

Preparing for the security clearance process

At the beginning of a security clearance process, you will complete a long document called Standard Form 86 (SF 86). If you are looking at positions that might require a security clearance, preview the document and maintain a record of key information as you go, including:

  • Addresses for all places you have lived the past 10 years, dates you lived there, and the name and contact information for someone who can verify your residency. This can be a landlord, neighbor, friend, etc. It is important to stay in touch with this contact so you maintain updated information even after you move.
  • Contact information for individuals who knew you personally during your time at every school you attended (after the age of 18). This could be advisors, faculty members, friends who also attend that school, etc. These people should be able to speak to your character and your time at that particular school. (Note this is not the same as verifying your enrollment dates; for Virginia Tech, this done through the office of the University Registrar; see enrollment certifications.)
  • Ten years of employment information, including the contact information for your supervisor. Stay in touch with your supervisors so you have quick access to current information in case they change jobs.
  • Information about any travel outside of the U.S. in the past seven years.

Courtesy and professionalism action

  • Before giving the name of any individual to be contacted to speak about you (for security clearance or any other job search purpose), contact those individuals and seek permission first.

Learn more about the security clearance process

Negotiating federal salaries

Can I negotiate my federal offer?

Similar to other places of employment, you may be able to negotiate. There are differences in the negotiation process for federal positions due to the way federal salaries are determined.

For positions with delayed start dates (due to a long security clearance process), the agency may be able to re-evaluate your grade and step to account for any experience gained between your offer and actual state date.

Some agencies might request an updated resume and/or transcript at the end of the hiring process to determine your starting grade and step. However, you should ensure that all materials submitted at every point of the process are current in case you cannot resubmit.

When starting a new position, anything above step one is considered “superior qualifications.” To increase your step, you will need to demonstrate why you have more experience, etc.. to merit that increase. (Partnership for Public Service)

What can I negotiate and how?

See these resources: